Through my experiences and readings that I will mention in this article, I understood the importance of learning a new language and a new culture to be a successful leader.
No matter what your goal is as a businessman, learning how to speak a foreign language makes you more accepting and respecting of other cultures and traditions.
Benefits of learning new languages for organizations
Language can be a source of competitive advantage.
Harvard Business School Associate Professor Tsedal Neeley argues that multinational organizations operating in a global marketplace need to have clear language strategies.
Being able to communicate with customers in their native language will demonstrate how much you respect them.
Language is inevitably linked to global companies’ talent management strategy.
Modern recruiters are not limited to hiring people from their own country.Instead, they can access talent from any part of the world. Your foreign employees will undoubtedly work hard to speak your language. But if your company also worked hard to speak their language, the employees would feel more appreciated and valued.
Additionally, allowing your employees to learn their international colleagues’ language will open up their minds to new cultures and improve collaboration.
Benefits of learning new languages for managers
Learning a new language opens you up to a completely new world, as it allows you to think in another language and with different thoughts. Your perception and view of the world will change as you open up to new possibilities and perspectives.
Learning a language helps you to better understand the customs of the culture that are attached to it.
Research shows that knowing multiple languages is associated with “improved metalinguistic awareness (the ability to recognize language as a system that can be manipulated and explored), as well as with better memory, visual-spatial skills, and even creativity.”
Learning a new language is also associated with improved decision-making and multitasking skills.
Being able to speak multiple languages allows you to better explore another culture and talk to people with whom you couldn’t communicate otherwise.
By managing language and culture carefully, companies and managers can acquire and develop top employees, and make native and nonnative speakers collaborate to meet strategic goals, and strengthen the company’s grip in local markets.
As Tsedal Neeley and Robert Steven Kaplan discussed in an article for Harvard Business Review, language training is an important investment a company can make in its employees, but it’s not the only requirement to succeed in a global environment. Language fluency does not equal cultural fluency. Global leaders often fail to adapt their management styles and practices to fit a multicultural environment.
Knowing a language is an important skill for global managers. But it is just as important to understand the cultural background of employees and customers.
Even when team members all speak the same language, a lack of cultural awareness can cause misunderstandings and disagreements. To prevent this, cross-cultural learning must be part of language learning.