Do you have a language strategy?
Last week some on social media commented that several languages should be used for internal communication regarding my article about a multicultural group spread around the world. My experience however, is that you get far better result if you select one language to communicate in internally. Watch Tsedal Neeley, Harvard Business School assistant professor, explaining why every company needs a language strategy:
It’s not for nothing the majority of multinational companies, regardless of origin, have selected English as their main language.Presumably most of us agree that it’s important for a company to have one main language that it communicates in? Naturally employees in different countries don’t have to use it between themselves. But when communicating with other offices or in a project with team members in different branches all over the world, strategic management is very much facilitated by using one language only. Communicating through interpreters is, in my opinion, a complicated way of working. Have thankfully only needed to do so in a handful of situations.
Are languages human rights?
Don’t understand what companies communicating internally in one language has to do with human rights? In my opinion businesses should not have to take language endangerment and preservation into account. And certainly not be considered to violate human rights by using one language for internal communication. Language may have a role to play in human rights when it comes to asylum seekers and refugees. But to include businesses is really going to far. That’s not to say that businesses have a right to violate human rights in other ways.
Native speakers of the company language however, need to use easy language, slow down and help co-workers improve their skills, in say, English. And managers have to make sure that happens. Provided that part is carried out very well, a language strategy will benefit non English speakers by enabling them to learn a new skill.
Should companies have a language strategy? Do you agree with Tsedal Neeley and myself that, at the moment, English is the logical choice but that Mandarin may be selected in the future? Or do you have another suggestion? Are you of the opinion that without a shared or common language efficiency in a company will suffer? Or do you agree with those who are of the opinion that it’s against human rights to make employees communicate in a language that’s not their native one? If so, should we use a multitude of languages and interpreters for internal communication?
(Video: HarvardBusiness – You Tube, Picture: World Economic Forum)