How multilingualism can help you in the workplace
Companies are often looking for individuals decorated with multiple talents. Today, not only must you have paper qualifications, background experience, right attributes, and willingness to learn, being bilingual or multilingual adds brownie points in scoring that offer.
Are you regretting the way you used to sleep through your Mandarin or Malay lessons back in secondary school? It’s not too late for redemption – and if you’re still not convinced why being fluent in another language apart from English is important, allow us to explain why learning a new language is the way forward.
Why is multilingualism important in the workplace?
Speak better, bond better
Various studies (and probably based on your own experience) have shown that multilingualism in the workplace is becoming more common1 as people from all over the world come together and collaborate.
While multilingualism is a long-standing tradition in some European countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland, it is still a relatively new concept for Singapore as our corporate language is English. But our jobs are not just about the work we need to do – it is also about social interaction and bonding.
There are a few things that bond us together at the workplace, such as:
- A common interest
While the former three are more difficult to emulate, a common language is easier to attain. Speaking the language of another is a sign of appreciation, respect, and recognition towards other cultures2 – this ultimately helps us bond with a colleague or associate on a professional and personal level.
Don’t get lost in translation
Because every language is unique, the types of words used in a certain language may not be easily or accurately translated into English, resulting in miscommunication or what we call ‘lost in translation’.
Furthermore, a great number of people possess knowledge which can only be accessible through particular languages3. For example, try coming up with a word or phrase better than the Singlish words “shiok” or “yaya papaya” – I don’t think any word in the English language even comes close in accuracy or satisfaction.
What are the benefits of learning a new language?
Other than looking smooth and cool as you waltz into a meeting armed with a plethora of languages (think James Bond), there are other more serious benefits of learning a new language. These include:
We often bond with our colleagues while we take a break in the pantry and chat over coffee. This bonding enables us to work better together in and out of the workplace as we learn about each other’s personalities and work dynamics.
As we chat informally, we learn how to adapt to each other which in turn bolsters our business relationships. The same can be said with regards to external clients; being fluent in their language will help encourage better business relationships.
Get an edge in today’s job market
It has been drilled into us that we must constantly upskill and improve; and one of the easiest ways to do so is to master a new language. As a language school with a clientele of mostly working adults, we’ve seen how being multilingual can give you an edge over competitors and open doors to new opportunities.
Browse through any job listing today and you will notice several of them with a “must speak Mandarin” or “must speak French” requirement. Hitting this criteria already gives you an advantage.
What new language should I learn?
The choice of your new language is dependent on various factors, such as the company you’re applying for, or simply the language you’re required to learn.
But if you’re learning a new language out of your own good will, we recommend something that you are interested in and can stick to.
Learning a new language is harder as an adult – and it is this vested interest that will keep you going.
Globally, here are the top 7 most useful languages to learn:
If the above overwhelms you and you don’t wish to learn a new language from scratch, consider improving or picking up Mandarin or Malay. A healthy percentage of our students join us to brush up on their mother tongue.
P.S. Lessons are more fun in groups.
If you’re still unsure about what language you should learn, we are here to guide you.
Contact us to let us know what you’re looking for and us folks from Lingo School of Knowledge will be in touch as soon as possible.
- Hua, Z. (2014). Piecing together the 'workplace multilinguilism' jigsaw puzzle. Multilingua, 233-242.
- Stillman Translations. (2021). Stillman Translations. Retrieved from Language as a way of bonding and peace making: https://www.stillmantranslations.com/language-as-a-way-of-bonding-and-peace-making/
- Okal, B. O. (2014). Benefits of multilingualism in Education. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 223-229.
- Jonathan Newton, E. K. (2011). Teaching second languages for the workplace. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics.