The Lingo Ledger

How Much Does a Monolingual Employee Cost You? Part 2: Missed Connections

This is the second installment of a three-part series detailing the impact of corporate language training on the bottom line of multinational companies. According to a study from Ernst & Young, 70 percent of world economic growth over the next few years will come from emerging markets. The ability for a company's workforce to speak multiple languages is as imperative as ever for global expansion.

Annual Meeting of the New Champions Tianjin 2008 A session at the World Economic Forum. Image: Natalie Behring/Flickr

As a company grows beyond its national borders, investing in language training helps to create a more global corporate culture. Employees that can effectively communicate with their counterparts and customers, recognize opportunities that may be overlooked by those who can't speak the same language.

In a survey commissioned by Education First (EF) in partnership with the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), of nearly 600 executives from across the world, almost half (49%) admitted that communication misunderstandings have stood in the way of major international business deals and therefore resulted in significant losses for their company.

"By increasing my fluency in English, I am able to work on a wide range of projects. I’ve realized I have more mobility in the work that I do, and I can connect with my counterparts from other offices. My ability to establish these relationships helps me succeed at my company," says Eric, corporate language student at Lingo Live.

Yet many companies fail to take a proactive approach to providing language training to their employees as part of their global expansion strategy. A global company may spend a lot of time implementing logistics for their expansion in Brazil, but may easily overlook how management would interact or communicate with employees at that office. Such oversight can create a work environment full of missed opportunities for cross collaboration. In fact, a report from the Committee for Economic Development estimated that U.S. corporations lose $2 billion annually due to misunderstandings arising from language and communication difficulties.

"I was in Brazil for a retail event with our global strategy leader. His presentation was in English while the rest were all in Portuguese. After the presentation, our global strategy leader couldn’t really engage with the Brazilians and they couldn’t engage with him," says Diane, corporate language student at Lingo Live.

Business risks and missed opportunities associated with language barriers will continue to exist without the implementation of an appropriate language strategy. It's not enough to give employees access to a self-paced program and assume they will learn on their own, rather it's important to give employees ample time and the appropriate tools to achieve the desired level of language proficiency.

We've found that students at Lingo Live are twice as likely to progress in their language learning when:

  1. One-on-one training is provided
  2. Dedicated time is set aside in their schedules each week for learning
  3. Training is personalized to their jobs
  4. Progress is tracked by the employer to provide ongoing engagement
  5. Ample opportunities are provided to use the new language daily

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.