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The Benefits of Multilingualism in the Workplace

New advancements in technology and ever-evolving channels of communication are making the world a smaller, more connected place. One click of a button and a few seconds later, you can instantly connect with someone on the other side of the globe. With this increased international reach comes the necessity for multilingualism, especially when it comes to the business world.

The many languages spoken by the Scientist.com team.

Here at Scientist.com, we work with a myriad of international partners from a host of different countries, including the United Kingdom, Japan, and Belgium to name a few. Our customer success team works directly with teams from around the world and assists them by speaking mulitple languages. We value diversity of language and culture in the workplace and understand the importance of multilingualism to facilitate these international partnerships. Our own team spans across 7 countries and facilitates communication in 15 different languages.

Speaking multiple languages in the workplace has many benefits for company culture as well as business expansion. Read on to learn more about how multilingualism can be extremely beneficial for your personal and professional life.

Executive Function

One of the main benefits of bilingualism is that it greatly improves the executive function of the brain.1 Executive function is crucial in everyday life, playing a pivotal role in many of our daily tasks, such as planning, controlling/directing attention, regulating emotions, etc. Speaking a foreign language, whether it be your second or third language, requires the brain to work extra hard, strengthening this executive function as a result. Balancing two, three or more languages in your brain simultaneously is no easy feat, especially since these languages are being activated subconsciously whenever you speak. Speaking one language while preventing the interference of the others strengthens the part of your brain that is also responsible for ignoring distractions when performing a task, one of the many areas controlled by your brain’s executive function.1

The parts of the brain responsible for executive function — the prefrontal cortex, the bilateral supramarginal gyri and the anterior cingulate — are modified as a result of bilingualism.1 For example, gray matter is increased, meaning there are more cells in the brain, and white matter is strengthened, which provides for optimal communication between nerves and your brain.1

More analytical, less emotional decision making

Whether you’re taking an exam for school or engaging in a high-stake business decision, if doing so in your non-native language, you will likely approach the situation more analytically.2 What contributes to this increased analytical thinking is cognitive strain, according to psychologist Daniel Kahneman.2 Employing our non-native tongue requires a great deal of brainpower, which in turn leads to a heightened analytical thought process. Also, when we are speaking in a less familiar language, we are more emotionally removed from it, thus, we can approach problem solving with less emotional influence and more objective analysis.2

Similarly, negotiating can produce more fruitful results if conducted in a non-native language.2 It is common for intense negotiations to become very emotionally charged, thus clouding our judgement and reasoning. However, if you are more emotionally distanced while communicating, you can conduct a more efficient negotiation since you are less likely to give into emotion or biases.

Fostering intercultural connections

“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” -Rita Mae Brown

Language barriers are the biggest obstacle to fully immersing and appreciating other cultures. When building international relationships, it is important to gain an understanding of others’ cultures, as it can help you to be more aware of and respectful towards cultural differences. It also helps the relationship to grow deeper than surface level. If foreign employees feel as though their company is taking the time to understand their background and the cultural influences that shaped them, they will feel more comfortable in the workplace; company morale and productivity might be boosted as a result. Multilingualism in the workplace is also beneficial to increasing your client base because not only will you be able to reach more clients from across the globe, but approaching them in their native tongue will increase familiarity and make them more confident in the partnership.3

As globalization continues to gain momentum, multilingualism in the workplace will become increasingly more common as well. Not only does speaking a foreign language have a positive impact on one’s personal growth by improving executive function, fostering better interpersonal skills and promoting analytical approaches to problem solving, but it also greatly impacts the long term success of your international business. By fostering deeper connections with international clients and business partners, you can expand your business’s global influence and promote diversity and cultural sensitivity as you do so.

Here at Scientist.com we are proud of the global network of employees, clients and partners that we have built over the years. Though our team is diverse and spread out across the globe, spanning 7 countries and communicating in 15 languages, we are all united under the same goal: to make it possible to cure all human disease by 2050.

We are grateful to be working with a global network of suppliers as well. If you would like to see where our suppliers are located around the world, check out our interactive Contract Research Map.


Sources:
1 ANTONIOU, M. November 2018. How a second language can boost the brain. [online]. Knowable Magazine. Available from: https://knowablemagazine.org/article/mind/2018/how-second-language-can-boost-brain [Accessed 2 September 2021].

2 PENARREDONDA, J. May 2018. The huge benefits of working in your second language. [online]. BBC. Available from: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20180525-why-using-a-foreign-language-could-make-you-better-at-work [Accessed 2 September 2021].

3 PIPPLET. March 2020. 10 reasons multilingualism can benefit your employees and help your businesses. [online]. Pipplet. Available from: https://www.pipplet.com/the-benefits-of-language-diversity [Accessed 2 September 2021].