With about 96% of the world's consumers living outside the United States, it's easy to see why businesses are jumping on the wealth of opportunities in foreign markets. But as offices embrace a more global perspective, improving workplace communication is an issue that continues to grow. In order to maintain a unified company culture, special attention must be given to the development of your international team members' English skills.
Why Language Acquisition Is More Important Than You Think
Employees want to know that their contributions matter, and they only begin to feel like a valued member of an organization when their accomplishments are recognized. If an individual is unable to comfortably express themselves in English, it hinders their ability to participate. Even if they have a brilliant idea, they're less likely to be noticed if they can't share their thoughts effectively. On top of that, the prospects of advancing to a higher level position become almost unattainable. No matter how you look at it, it's tough to hold onto talented workers if they feel there's little room for growth.
Developing a plan to assist your employees in their language acquisition does more than benefit the individual; it creates a cohesive environment for all. When linguistic and cultural barriers are left unchecked, it divides the workplace. Cliques form around a common language, and beyond functions like meetings, there could be little to no quality interaction between the groups. This translates to a diminished sense of connectivity, which impedes collaboration. The inspiration for solutions can strike at any time: over lunch, in the break room, bumping into a coworker in the elevator. So, even the value of casual conversation cannot be underestimated.
There's no easy way to establish a common language throughout your company, but the following suggestions can serve as a good launching point.
Create a List of Essential Vocabulary
Every professional in tech has a broad knowledge of vocabulary specific to their field; the only problem is that some of those specialized terms are unique to their native language. There are literally thousands of words being thrown at your international team members, and as a result, it's difficult for them to decipher which are the most important. Providing a list of key terminology will go a long way in helping non-native speakers to sift through the noise.
Be sure to include explanations both in their mother tongue and English. The meaning of a word can change depending on context, and direct translations sometimes fail to take this into account. Also, offer a variety of interactive examples that allow you to test comprehension, and don't be afraid to use visual aids.
Provide Lessons and Opportunities for Practice
There's no better place to learn and practice work-related terminology than the workplace. Employees have a chance to immediately apply what they've learned, and they can lean on their coworkers for added support. Keep in mind, going to class or coordinating schedules with tutors can be a headache for busy professionals. Fortunately, there are a number of tools and services that have the flexibility to keep up with your employees' ever-changing needs. For example, Lingo Live offers one-on-one coaching online so employees can take lessons whenever and whereever is most convenient.
Don't Forget to Factor Fun into the Equation
Tutors are a great resource, but lessons alone will only take a learner so far. Language comprehension is just as much about culture as it is grammar or vocabulary. To get a real feel for a place and its people, you have to dive into social situations away from work. Although, this isn't to say that you can't include a bit of the office in cultural exploration.
Consider organizing a company outing from time to time. It gives everyone a chance to connect on a personal level, and it reminds non-native speakers that studying a language doesn't have to be a chore. After all, there's plenty of fun to have when getting to know other like-minded individuals.
The Bottom Line
In this global age, improving workplace communication is pivotal in ensuring employee satisfaction. It's an old cliché, but language really is power. Refining your workers' English proficiency increases their productivity, strengthens their bond with the organization, and fills them with the confidence needed to reach their potential.
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