Regional Director, Europe Rosetta Stone
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The four reasons why language skills are good for your career

9th Aug 2016
Regional Director, Europe Rosetta Stone
Blogger
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Speaking more than one language can not only improve a person’s job prospects but can also have other career-related benefits. A growing number of studies have looked into the cognitive effects of bi- or multilingualism. Some findings suggest that speaking more than one language can benefit people’s general business skills.

Improved decision-making

At the University of Chicago, research from psychologists suggests that people make more logical decisions when using their second, non-native language. The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest reports that it’s uncertain why this may be the case – why people should think more rationally in a foreign language – but it’s thought to have something to do with the idea of “psychological distance.” Using a non-native language may lead the speaker to be “systematic rather than automatic” in their decision-making.   

More perceptive

Bilingual children, according to recent research by the University of Chicago, may be better able to see another person’s perspective than those who speak only one language. This could result in improved perception, an important skill in the business world. This attribute could help people relate to each other and to negotiate more successfully.

Stronger relationships

Speakers with language skills are also exposed to different cultures and patterns of behaviour. This is particularly useful for global businesses that deal with clients, suppliers and employees around the globe. Multilingualism bridges gaps between cultures and fosters stronger personal relationships, on which great business relationships rely.

Multi-tasking masters

People that speak more than one language make better multi-taskers, according to a Pennsylvania State University study. The study suggests that this may be because switching between languages is a form of ‘mental exercise’ that equips the speaker with mental ‘juggling’ skills.

Multi-tasking is a valued skill in business, where modern-day knowledge workers switch between projects constantly throughout the day and have to prioritise and re-prioritise regularly to keep all the ‘plates spinning’.

The importance of languages goes deeper in the business world, though ‘business brain’ attributes help employers and employees alike. Within multinational companies, inter-cultural and virtual teams are becoming the norm, and communication issues can often be an obstacle to employees and team productivity. Having in-house language skills can help employees communicate effectively, thus reducing stress and helping drive optimal output.

Language skills for client-facing workers are critical, especially for companies selling to customers and partners in differing international markets. Workers who gain the necessary language skills can help the company cut costs by reducing reliance on translators, and result in more efficient, higher-quality negotiations.

In fact, a recent survey of more than 500 business leaders working for global companies and responsible for language training in large enterprises across Britain and Germany, found that 72 per cent believe language skills help increase sales opportunities. Employees who can speak to customers in their own language will be able to build relationships and trust and increase customer loyalty much more effectively. In fact, 79 per cent of respondents told us language skills help improve relationships with customers. 

The UK has a reputation of having limited linguistic skills, and this is a drawback for businesses with an international focus. By not investing in language learning education and recognising its importance and relevance to one’s workforce, we are cheating ourselves out of optimising our talent and growth potential. Given today’s global economy, it is vital to have a grasp of languages for international companies to grow and prosper. Companies who do not do so will be left behind.

 

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