The Business Case for Learning a New Language
You may have contemplated learning a language for business purposes before – as many of us have. But if you’re the same as most people, you’ve probably put it off as being “non priority”.
Certainly, with English being known as “the world’s lingua franca”, you may have decided there’s no real point learning another language as everyone you come into contact with will speak English anyway.
Well here’s some thoughts and facts that might make you think again, if you’re wondering what the business case might be for learning a new language this year.
Open Up Your Network
People simply trust us more if we can speak their language. To reinforce this, for English speakers to have gone to that trouble, it will make you stand out from the competition. The people you’re dealing with will feel that – as you’ve taken the pains to learn their language – you’ll almost certainly go to additional efforts to look after them as a client.
And once you’ve gained their trust in this way, it obviously also helps you get introduced to other people who speak the other language – with non-English speakers being unlikely to be introduced to people who only speak English.
And you’ll obviously have more possibilities for doing business in the first place if you can understand what your potential clients are saying.
4 Million People in the UK
And this is not just true for you if you want to deal internationally. There are over four million people in the UK who have a different first language from English (around 8% of the population). So you could certainly open up a whole range of new markets within the UK if you take the trouble to learn a new language – gaining the trust and respect of a whole new marketplace you previously may not have been able to tap into.
A surprising benefit of learning a new language is the ability to think differently. When you start to express your thoughts in a different language from your native one, you actually start to see things from a different perspective.
On top of this, expressing yourself in words that only exist in the other language can help clarify your thoughts about what it is you’re actually trying to say, as well as open up new trains of thought you probably wouldn’t have uncovered otherwise.
Access to Information
Once you have a certain level of proficiency, you’ll be able to read up on things that have been written regarding your field of expertise in the other language. This potentially doubles the amount of information you have access to and thus gives you a competitive edge. Plus you’ll be able to understand the cutting edge research and thinking that previously you (and your competitors) would have remained unaware of.
Improve Your Memory and Perceived Intelligence
Learning a new language is an activity that comes highly recommended for staving off aging diseases of the brain. And it helps hone and train your memory, which will be beneficial for remembering things in your own language, too.
People with fluency in more than one language are generally perceived to be more intelligent, meaning people are more likely to trust your opinions if you can express them in a language which is not your own.
Your Business at the Front of the Queue
If you wish to trade in overseas markets, foreign companies are far more likely to want to deal with someone whom they know can converse with them in their own language – putting you first in line in comparison with your competition.
Gateway to Cultural Understanding
Being able to pick up on otherwise unknowable cultural references gives you a foot up the ladder when it comes to understanding how people from other culture’s think. Learning the language is an essential element of this process, which then gives you a much greater opportunity for being able to translate your message into something they will understand and empathise with.
Pepsi Cultural Mistake
As well as helping you with general understanding, cultural knowledge also prevents you making terrible mistakes when it comes to promoting your business. Knowing the sort of colloquial phrases the other country would say, rather than going for a direct translation, can help you avoid the type of embarrassing advertising mistake that befell Pepsi in China – where their slogan “Come alive with Pepsi!” was translated as “Pepsi bring your ancestors back from the dead!”
Understand Local Regulations
Being able to understand the various regulations and nuances of the law in specific countries will help you trade successfully with their native businesses. Not being able to read the small print in legal documents can put you at a serious disadvantage and be detrimental to your future trading relationships.
The Future of English
It may surprise you learn that, despite English being regarded as the “lingua franca” of the world’s business, 70% of the population of the world do not speak any English at all. You can obviously see from this statistic that limiting yourself to only speaking your native language closes you off from the vast majority of the world’s businesses.
As well as this, it’s estimated that 60%+ of the population of the world are bilingual. With only around 25% of adults in the UK knowing more than 1 language, it means Britain is rapidly being left behind in comparison with the rest of the world – a situation you can help to rectify by learning another language and putting yourself ahead of three quarters of the population of the country.
English in the USA
The United States is set to become the biggest Spanish-speaking nation on Earth by 2050, with more people in America speaking Spanish than there are in Spain or Argentina. As things stand today, only speaking English can help you get by when trading with the US, but with that sort of eventuality on the horizon, it only makes more and more sense to learn one of the world’s other global languages – Spanish in this case – if you want to succeed well into the future.
The Business Case for Learning a New Language
As we’ve seen above, there’s never been a better time to learn a new language for business purposes. So don’t simply put off the idea as being “non priority” or something you’ll “get round to”, as you can be sure your competitors are contemplating the same thing (and maybe even reading this article).
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A specialist B2B advisor. Ross fully understands the difficulties involved in learning a new language for business.
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