Multinational corporations operate in more than one country and have a lot of employees belonging to different cultures. This diversity in the workforce creates language barriers that can hinder or slow down corporate operations.
What Is a Language Barrier?
Before further discussion, let’s first understand what a language barrier is and what types of language barriers are encountered within a corporation. A language barrier can be defined as any linguistic limitation or simply the difficulty in communication between people who don’t speak a common language.
When it comes to the type of linguistic limitations, they can be of the following types that prove to be barriers to communication.
Dialects can be a real problem that makes it difficult for non-native people to learn words and their correct usage. For instance, a person might know the popular or most-spoken language of a region but learning dialects can be cumbersome.
The technical aspect of a field or subject can be another language barrier that makes communication difficult. Jargons are difficult to learn and remember which is why it can get in the way of effective communication.
People with speech impairments might have the ability to carry out different activities at their workplace or institute. However, communicating with colleagues or other people around them is something that can be a real problem for them.
Written words can create a little problem with understanding a concept because there can be more than one interpretation of a statement. However, this might not be considered a major problem or a bigger barrier.
If there is a company-specific language, new recruits may find it difficult to understand and communicate using it.
What Is the Impact Of a Language Barrier on a Multinational Corporation?
Language can impact the overall performance of a corporation since the large organizational structure is always diverse. There are people from different cultures who may prefer to communicate in the official language of their country. For instance, a company’s office working in France will have team members communicating in French. Also, it will have team members from the state where it’s headquartered working in different tiers of the organization.
There might be a lot of corporate strategies pursued by the multinational corporation and every member is capable of carrying them out. The only constraint can be the loss of effective communication making them unable to comprehend and adopt a strategy.
This way, language barriers can result in miscommunication, giving rise to uncertainty, and finally getting in the way of growth and productivity.
Are There Ways to Overcome Language Barriers?
Language barriers can be overcome and it’s evident as so many multinational corporations are running successfully around the globe. They speak of the best organizational operations, teamwork, and revenue generation.
There are the following ways to overcome the limitations posed by language barriers.
As a head of a corporation, implementing professional language training programs is the best thing you can do for your employees. First, you have to assess the linguistic needs of employees working in different departments and then train them accordingly.
Moreover, people with disabilities should also be trained according to their impairments.
Hiring Bilingual/Multilingual Employees
This process can be longer and a bit challenging but it is the most suitable and successful method. Hiring a multilingual workforce ensures all the inter-organizational tasks, corporate strategies, and collaborative efforts are smoothly carried out.
Language experts or interpreters can be hired to make the process within multinational corporations go smoothly and efficiently. Interpreters make it easy to understand the meaning and context of the words as well as technical jargon.
Using Plain Language
If the corporate workforce is encouraged to use plain language, it will be easy for everyone to communicate. It can work well if you keep English as the lingua franca and allow staff to communicate without using technical or florid words.
This technique works more for people who are bilingual or switch between two dialects. It is the process of communication in which you combine two languages or dialects to express yourself more clearly by being more precise.
Allowing code-switching, in the corporate environment, can be an effective way for the co-workers to speak comfortably.
Language barriers can be a challenge to multinational corporations but overcoming them can prove to be highly profitable. If left unaddressed, they can result in losses in terms of revenues, collaborations, and inter-organizational relationships. Overcoming these barriers may consume time but planning ahead of time is a proactive approach to handle them.