Language is essential for any kind of communication. Even people with speech, hearing or sight impairments communicate with sign language and braille. But communication becomes difficult in situations where people don’t understand each other’s language. This is known as a language barrier. For businesses hoping to trade internationally, the language barrier is the single greatest obstacle to overcome. It makes sense – there are around 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, with 200 of those spoken by over 3 million people. So how can a business possibly hope to overcome the language barrier and trade internationally?
Language Barriers Are Bad For Business
Did you know that 70% of the world doesn’t speak English? Or that over two-thirds of the UK population don’t speak a foreign language? It’s a miracle the English can communicate with anyone outside the UK at all. The problem is that many people assume that because English is the international language, everyone will know how to speak it. But in many cases, that just isn’t true. And while English is the ‘international’ language, the most dominant language in the world in terms of the sheer number of speakers is actually Mandarin Chinese (there are 1,213,000,000 people who speak it).
Really, English is only internationally understood on a basic level, so anything too complex causes a language barrier. Language barriers and poor communication cost businesses a lot of money, and can even prevent big international deals from happening. They can also be responsible for poor employee satisfaction, bad customer service and significant problems with orders and service delivery. All of this not only damages your bottom line, it damages your reputation in the international business community too. That’s what one of our clients discovered the hard way.
What Can Happen
Let’s look at a real-world example. We recently worked with a gentleman who wanted to learn Italian, so that he could do his job better. We had actually been speaking with this gentleman for over a year about learning Italian, but he hadn’t been able to convince his bosses that it was important. But then they started to have problems, and they finally brought us in to help.
This company (let’s call them Company N) works in the manufacturing trade, creating parts that are shipped worldwide. While the headquarters is in the Germany, they have a main base in the UK and 3 big factories in Italy, which the UK staff are expected to work very closely with. Staff members are required to communicate with the Italian factories on a daily basis to process orders, and customers are often in contact with the Italian factories about orders they have placed as well. There was just one problem.
No one in the UK branch spoke any Italian, and the Italian team’s English was extremely limited.
This meant that both the UK and the Italian teams were having severe communication problems that were negatively impacting the business. Deliveries were being delayed, the wrong items were being shipped, and customers were unable to communicate with their customer service representatives because they couldn’t speak the same language. Ultimately, they were losing a lot of money in mismanaged orders and throwing a lot of money away on customer service reps who couldn’t speak the language of their customers, all while losing customers.
The Vici Effect
Since the business first opened factories in Italy a year ago, one of their customer service managers had been in touch with us because he thought it would be nice to be able to look after his Italian customers in Italian. However, he couldn’t get his managers to see the value in language training, so he carried on struggling to communicate. After a year of problems and barriers causing problems for the business, Vici was brought in to help English staff learn some basic Italian. Using a programme of structured training and bespoke personal language development plans, we helped several of their customer service managers communicate with their customers more effectively. The managers could learn in their own time using our online learning portals, spend time with language tutors via Skype and video call, and they could even opt for group coaching to support each other and learn together. Working with Vici, Company N were able to provide their clients with customer service managers who could communicate with them in their own language, resolve problems and provide a smooth service at every stage. Their communication issues with the Italian factories were also resolved, thanks to staff who were able to understand and communicate complex orders in the factory workers’ native language.
At Vici, we teach 12 different languages, helping businesses communicate with their clients across the world. We also specialise in teaching English for foreign staff, particularly in the hotel and service industries. By investing in language training, businesses can put themselves ahead of the competition and expand internationally without problems. Research has suggested that by improving international communication standards, businesses can see an 89% increase in revenue and profits. So, if you would like to start your journey and break down the language barriers that are holding your business back, just get in touch with us today.