It has long been accepted that the ability to speak another language can provide real benefits for your brain; but new research suggests it could also increase your chances of promotion.
These days, forward-thinking companies are seeking those with a breadth and depth of experience and learning, who thrive on change and are comfortable with ambiguity. Given the latest research into the cognitive benefits of multilingualism, it could well be the case that the ability to speak and write a foreign language is one hidden signpost that points towards the future stars of business.
Multinational companies have long recognised the benefits of multilingualism as a method of bridging the chasm that exists between business cultures. But could the ability to communicate in more than one language really increase your chances of promotion?
The research’s findings
The headline finding of Born Global, a recent study carried out by the British Academy, is that:
‘There are two disadvantages in global language arrangements: one is not knowing English; the other is only knowing English’.
Multinational companies recognise language skills as an advantage, particularly if they have been developed through international experience and academic study or training. As such, employers seeking culturally intelligent workers with a global mind-set will often look to recruit and promote those who can speak two or more languages.
Those who have studied foreign languages are perceived as having a more refined cognitive framework in which to make decisions and solve problems. It is not the ability to speak a foreign language fluently that makes an individual more employable; it’s the more subtle ability to recognise, understand and interpret cultural differences. This is particularly relevant in management and leadership positions.
Improvements in decision making
Researchers at a Barcelona University found that people tend to make more rational decisions in their second language, which is due to the added distance this puts between them and the decision. Second language learners can be more able negotiators, as they can see other people’s perspectives more clearly. There’s also an enhanced capacity to switch between tasks, and a greater ability to set priorities.
The researchers found that it didn’t matter whether the second language the employees spoke was French or Arabic, or even a less popular language such as Welsh. The enhanced ability remained the same.
The importance of diversity in leadership and management roles
The ability to speak at least one other language and relate to customers, clients and suppliers in other parts of the world is a distinct advantage in leadership and management roles. Knowledge of the local language adds value, and can play a significant role in oiling the wheels of commerce. Ultimately, it is these benefits that improve the promotion prospects of second language speakers.
How can we help?
If you speak English and have a second language fluency, we can help you find a rewarding and well paid career on the South Coast. For more information, please take a look at our latest vacancies or send us your CV today.