Since many companies are now conducting business internationally, they are beginning to offer foreign-language programs to those who travel or who will be working with others who speak different languages. Over the years, countries like Japan, Spain, Thailand, and many others have been teaching their children a second, even a third, language so they will be equipped to survive in the ever-changing business world. In the United States, languages have not been emphasized enough in lower grade levels. In an effort to keep up with the competition, some American companies have begun to offer classes in Spanish and Japanese, just to name a few.
Language programs in the workplace are similar to those one might have encountered in high school or college. Classes are small, usually 10 to 12 people per session. Sessions are one or two days a week during the normal lunch hour. The classes are paid for by the company, but a time commitment of a year is usually required. This means if a person chooses to leave their job before taking a year’s worth of lessons, they will have to pay the company for the books, tapes, and other materials used.
Alternately, companies who employ foreign workers are now integrating English studies into the employee’s workday. The Center for Law and Social Policy reports that over 8 million people, who are of working age, speak poor or little English in the United States. (This number will only go up as more people immigrate to America and the States’ Hispanic populace continues its rapid expansion.) It was also estimated that over the next 20 years, people born outside of the United States, and are between the ages of 25-54, will hold the majority of America’s blue collar jobs.
Here is one important example of the need for bilingual skills in the blue collar world. A prime concern of many companies is the worry about safety standards not being met because of language barriers. The standard, translated, English-to-another-language signs do not provide enough reach, due to regional dialects spoken and other culturally-based factors. Offering classes in “job English” is the next logical step in terms of making people aware of the dangers on the job.
Training sessions offered through tutoring aim to help those struggling with English by assessing their current language abilities and building a solid foundation from there. Through classes, tapes, and one-on-one tutoring, people are given the opportunity to learn basic English skills needed not only to perform their job safely, but to read signs, invoices, directions, and other materials needed to perform their job correctly and effectively. In some cases, more in-depth translation services are also being used.
From only the case study above, the impact of multilingual communication in the workplace is easily understood. People from company owners to managers to factory workers need to know how to communicate with each other in order to run a successful and safe business. Learning another language is one way to accomplish this task.