Advancements in technology have paved the way for a great deal of change in the business world. What’s required of small businesses to be successful is different now to how it’s been in the past. Technology allows the world to be more accessible, and this ‘shrinking, globalized world’ means it’s becoming increasingly important to cater to a multicultural audience.

 

The ‘shrinking world’ refers to the idea that technological advancements made in travel and communication are making the world smaller for businesses accessing markets overseas. A 2013 study from the UN supports this theme. It confirmed that more people were living abroad than ever before, with 3% of the world’s population living outside of the country they were born.

 

It’s becoming essential for small businesses to use tactics such as 1800 numbers to communicate across different countries. But as the market becomes increasingly competitive, this communication needs to be as effective as possible. We carried out research and spoke with experts within the industry to give a further understanding of why small businesses should be prioritizing being multilingual.

 

Effects of Globalization

As mentioned before, more and more people are choosing to live and work abroad than ever before. So, even if you don’t have a global market, due to the amount of travel and people moving to work in foreign countries, you may need to consider adapting to different cultures.

 

Therefore, it is important to have multilingual speakers offering the best possible customer service to all your customers. Not only will this help communication, but it will also help you market your product to people from other countries.

 

A globe showing a variety of people working together across different countries

 

Keith McNiven, Founder of Right Path Fitness supports this through his personal experience of running a business:

 

“At Right Path Fitness we are just in the process of opening our first private studio on Liverpool Road in London. We have been extremely lucky to find a new receptionist who speaks Spanish, English and Romanian. Having multilingual staff means we are better able to cater to the huge diversity that London offers.”

 

Lindsay Williams, Founder of Linsday Does Languages, also believes that hiring multilingual workers will reflect positively on your brand. Showing care for providing the best possible experience for all your customers. She said:

 

“A reliance on others speaking English can come across as not making an effort and gives others the upper hand. Even just a basic level of other languages can help to make a firmer connection with others.”

 

Having multilingual employees within your business will stop you from isolating yourself from potential customers, and help preserve a positive brand image.

 

Expanding Your Market

If you’re looking to have success expanding your business internationally, you should prioritize being multilingual. If you’re looking to sell to a specific country, you cannot afford to let language become a barrier.

 

Keith McNiven said: “Being multilingual is essential for modern businesses, particularly those servicing international markets. Recruitment is all about building relationships and trust, and we find this is far easier to do with fluent language speakers, where communication is no longer a barrier.”

 

Stores being placed in different continents around the world

 

Being comfortable speaking the language will also mean your employee will be more confident going into meetings such as sales pitches. Without the worry of potential communication issues, it’s likely you’ll be more successful in such meetings.

 

Kalina Halatcheva, Managing Director at nouri agrees:

 

“Face-to-face contact will never diminish in importance. You may write a business email or message in English, but the meaningful way you can connect to another person in the local language can never be substituted.”

 

Hiring people from different backgrounds could also expand your list of contacts in that region. They might come armed with some pre-existing contacts that could support you in your venture. Or if you already reach a global market, it could help you improve your network.

 

Cultural Understanding

It can’t be understated how important it is to communicate effectively with potential business prospects. Small businesses should also be prioritizing being multilingual because it will provide a better understanding of different people and their cultures.

 

KFC’s expansion to China is the perfect example. When they launched an advertising campaign in the late 1980s, their well-known slogan ‘finger-licking good’ was initially translated as ‘eat your fingers off’. This is a classic marketing error and could have been easily avoided if they had a Chinese-speaking employee look over this before it launched.

 

People holding hands from different cultures around the world

 

Making sure everything is translated correctly and is sensitive towards people and their cultures. This can be critical for businesses who are going international.

 

Lindsay Williams agrees that small businesses should be looking at all the benefits being multilingual can bring them:

 

“Speaking another language isn’t just about knowing words and how to put them in the right order. Being multilingual gives you different perspectives on the world, encouraging a wider understanding and acceptance of cultural differences. When we understand that, businesses can more successfully branch out into international markets.”

 

As well as picking up on translation errors and being aware of cultural sensitivities, multilingual employees will also have a good knowledge of what it takes to be successful in their country. You can apply this targeted marketing campaigns, and pitching to clients in business meetings, making them a valuable asset to businesses.

Nedelina Payaneva, Digital Marketing Specialist at Asian Absolute offers an example of how multilingual employees could benefit marketing strategies:

 

“Those who have grown up speaking two or more languages understand how complicated communication between two cultures can be, including knowing which areas require sensitivity and which call for being stern.

 

“When it comes to generating content that is consumer-facing, multilingual employees can help pinpoint which regions are more likely to interact with geotargeted posts and graphics.”

 

Valuable Employees

Besides the more obvious benefits of having multilingual speakers in your workforce, they also bring value through transferrable skills and adaptability. They have increased mental flexibility and metalinguistic abilities, improved executive function and are more capable of learning a third language.

 

One employee weighing more on a scale than multiple employees

 

These skills can be adaptable as learning another language can lead to expanded vocabulary and better listening and problem-solving skills. Having multilingual employees means you can train them in-house to cater for what international requirements you may have. Hiring a translator every time would be much costlier.

 

Nedelina Payaneya said: “Bilingual employees often bring new perspectives and strong problem-solving skills. They tend to possess excellent communication skills and a great understanding of other cultures. In an increasingly globalized world, they truly are an essential component of business growth and expansion.”

 

 

In a business world where building successful international relationships is becoming invaluable, having multilingual speakers in your workforce is something all small businesses should be looking to prioritize. Improving communication, marketing, and brand image will save you money and help promote your business to a wider audience.