The Lingo Ledger

How Much Does a Monolingual Employee Cost You? Part 1: The Cost of the "Quick Fix"

This is the first installment of a three-part series detailing the impact of corporate language training on the bottom line of multinational companies. At Lingo Live, we teach employees of multinational companies language skills through one-on-one lessons with native instructors through video chat. Through our work with some of the largest companies in the world, we’ve seen how managers and employees are still implementing “quick fixes” to solve the much larger problem of ineffective communication.

Nothing is ever free

Renata S., an account manager in the Brazil office of a renowned tech company, spends about 3-4 hours a day communicating with her clients across several regions in Latin America. Since Renata is not a native Spanish speaker, she spends about 30 minutes each day translating her emails using Google Translate. We call this the “Quick Fix”.

At first glance, the cost of using a free tool may seem nominal, but once multiplied across the entire organization, the company is losing an upwards of $100,000 per year.


In addition, services like Google Translate are notoriously unreliable, even though machine translation has evolved significantly. There are several examples floating on the internet detailing translations gone wrong. These mishaps cut the professionalism of the organization and ultimately hurt client relationships.


Talking about Talking

Another common “Quick Fix” that often gets overlooked by management is when employees start relying on other employees for help. For example, when Renata needs help translating a small sentence, she often seeks advice from her colleagues who are fluent in Spanish. Although this may seem collaborative, it is actually a detriment to overall productivity.

Instead of accomplishing specialized tasks efficiently, team members have to divert their expertise to compensate another employee’s lack of language proficiency. A study conducted by James Foreman-Peck of the Cardiff Business School, estimates that lack of foreign-language proficiency in Britain costs the economy $80 billion USD, or 3.5% of GDP each year.

Avoiding the Cost of the “Quick Fix”

The oversight of using a “Quick Fix” remedy reduces the productivity of employees, creates confusion, and can potentially jeopardize client relationships. We checked back in with Renata after 4 months of lessons with Lingo Live:

“Before I started taking Spanish lessons, I had to check all of my emails using Google Translate. Now I grow my relationships with clients faster… and they have more confidence in me.”

Are you utilizing “Quick Fix” remedies in your organization? Here are three takeaways multinational companies should consider when evaluating the need for language training:

  1. Be proactive: Recognize when your employees are relying on “quick fixes” to solve the larger problem of ineffective communication.
  2. Implement a long-term solution: Focus on a language training solution that is highly customizable. This ensures that your employees learn what they need for their roles within the company.
  3. Make it a priority: Don't just make this a "nice to have". Utilize a framework that pushes employees to make progress in their language learning. The most effective way we've seen is to tie learning goals with performance metrics.

About Lingo Live

Lingo Live trains employees of multinational companies to gain the foreign language skills they need to do their jobs. Students progress through our globally-recognized curriculum anytime and anywhere through live, customized lessons over video conference. Lingo Live has taught thousands of students across the globe at some of the world’s largest multinational companies.