Global village, especially its younger and well-educated population, speaks a global language. This is a fact that cannot be ignored.
The communicative knowledge of English, still global language number 1, is more and more frequently considered insufficient. Recruitment sites show many job advertisements where good command of minimum two foreign languages is required. With open borders, advanced technology and constantly decreasing travel costs, the inability to communicate in a foreign language is the only barrier to knowledge exchange and expanding one’s horizons. In order to get unique know-how, establish new business contacts or gain the upper hand on the market, Poles are already learning less popular languages, such as Portuguese, Arabic or Korean.
Adult learners usually want to develop their language skills for professional reasons. Therefore, in-company language learning should be considered as a springboard to enhanced performance at work. In this context, employees are usually driven by prospects of landing an interesting and well-paid job, getting a promotion or moving to a company’s subsidiary abroad. Employers, on their part, invest in staff’s language skills when they see a direct business need, e.g. international negotiations or customer service, or day-to-day handling of documents written in a foreign language.
From our experience, direct benefits for the employee, and indirect ones for the organization, are even more numerous. Creating proper learning environment, based on a thorough needs analysis, boosts learners’ confidence and their readiness to experience the new, which, in turn, prevents burnout or learned helplessness. Learners have often shared their opinion that participation in an in-company language course helped them to relax and temporarily forget about their professional and personal obligations. Positive approach, good spirits and awareness of one’s abilities contribute to better performance at work and results in mutual benefits. Moreover, well-taught language sessions promote more bonding and cooperation among employees. They also boost general communication skills – speaking in public, asking questions and accepting feedback – and thus support staff in their every-day tasks.
Moreover, fostering language skills development among employees falls into the category of employer branding. This kind of investment does justice to the company’s image as an organization that accepts challenges and understands the importance of human capital, which is nowadays a prerequisite for entrepreneurial success. It is also a huge advantage from the perspective of new generations entering the labour market. Both Gen Y and Gen Z highly value development-oriented environment, especially when it includes language learning opportunities which directly translate into the ability to accumulate knowledge and network of international contacts. As in-company language courses play a huge role in acquiring employees and keeping them loyal, it is worth informing candidates that they will have such opportunity within our organization.
Of course, in order to master a foreign language, learners need to go well beyond simple vocabulary and grammar cramming. Studying the culture of the country of origin cannot be overrated – it promotes positive relations and helps to avoid cultural blunders, which is crucial in business environment where strict rules and behavior standards apply. The cultural insight feeds into the exchange of experience, knowledge and best practice. In the society based on quick information access, this is the key not only to raising employees’ qualifications and skills, but also organizational competitiveness and profits. For instance, significant amount of business information on B2B market may be obtained from foreign industry reports, consumer surveys and social networking sites. In order to access this information, we need to be able to understand texts written in foreign languages. Additionally, companies which want to maintain their spirit of innovation must constantly develop their knowledge base and look for inspiration globally, without being limited to local sources.
We truly hope that we have shed some new light on various aspects of language learning in organizations and proved that it can benefit both: the employer and the employee.