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Bilingualism in the Workplace

The 21st Century Multilingual Workplace

In an increasingly interconnected world, the expanding ease of communicating with others in situations where language barriers used to exist is exciting. Technology and improved knowledge about language have made such advancements possible.

Globalization gives companies the opportunity to collaborate with different cultures in ways that can be enriching—and even lucrative—on a professional or personal level.

Businesses are experiencing an unprecedented expansion of their potential client base. Today, companies can use language services to attract international clients. Having a language strategy as a business can help companies expand their reach and meet their growth goals. Companies like Bosch and Mercedes already train employees to build or improve their language skills. Other companies leverage the language skills of multilingual employees. Nationwide, hundreds of companies offer multilingual services today.

Benefits of A Multilingual Workforce

Some businesses don’t make an effort to become multilingual because they aren’t aware of the advantages. They may not realize how quickly their investment in languages can provide a return.

Benefits of bilingual operations

Between language services and leveraging the language skills of existing multilingual employees, linguistic obstacles to operation can become a thing of the past. For some businesses, a language strategy can expand the area of operation, both in terms of the footprint and/or the possible client population. If a business is geographically constrained, it can target its language strategy to meet the needs of that area. Language is no longer a barrier to tapping into a fraction of a client pool.

By building a linguistically diverse business, you prepare for further interconnectedness and globalization. Engaging one key client can spawn new relationships. Unforeseen opportunities can appear, and only linguistically dynamic businesses can capitalize on them.

Leveraging existing language skills

Multilingual employees bring their own cultural knowledge and language skills into the organization. Leveraging their language skills allows organizations to serve a diverse clientele.

As organizations determine how to leverage these skills, ALTA’s language services can help every step of the way. To determine what non-primary language skills are needed in the role, ALTA can perform a job analysis. Non-primary languages are all of the languages except the primary language (usually English) that are needed by the organization. Job analysis also determines the type of language capabilities required (e.g. speaking, listening, reading, writing) for each job requiring non-primary language skills. Lastly, a job analysis defines the level of capability needed in the role. By defining the language requirements for a job in quantifiable terms, an organization can then use language testing results as part of the selection process.

If the staff has less-than-satisfactory language skills, ALTA can create a customized language training plan to help organizations build on existing language skills. With a bit of training, especially industry-specific language training, they can reach full professional fluency.

ALTA can also assist multilingual staff in communicating clearly and effectively with customers.

Resistance to Multilingual Workplaces in the US

It’s possible to transition into a multilingual business. Attracting, vetting, and training candidates with the right language skills isn’t overwhelming if you have the right support. ALTA can be your partner as your organization goes through this transition.

Envisioning a Multilingual Workforce

Your company can reap the benefits of achieving polyglot status by building a corporate language strategy that considers your client population and growth goals. Give your workplace a global edge with additional language abilities, cultural knowledge and even international problem-solving skills.

Considerations when adding foreign language capacities

If you’re just adding a language besides English for the first time, some eagle-eye view considerations will assist your planning process.

  • At what levels of your company will you need work done in the language(s)?
  • Must bilingual associates be present during all operating hours?
  • Could hiring on-staff or contract interpreters meet the company’s needs better than training existing staff?
  • Does multilingual work need to be supervised or reviewed? Should you create a personnel hierarchy or workflow to facilitate review processes?
  • Can you achieve a greater return on your language investment by having associates produce multilingual language content and material to be dispersed?

For companies and large corporations, the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism are world-class!

A job market hospitable to languages

Attracting speakers of other tongues is easier than ever after the COVID-19 pandemic. Both companies and employees are more prepared for remote jobs. Many people have relocated or are willing to search for jobs outside their region. Meeting demand with multilingual workers is increasingly possible.

The Hiring Process

Attracting multilingual language associates

Adding another language may seem overwhelming. Letting go of the ability to monitor communication may feel risky. However, usually, when executives and managers ease up, the benefits of being bilingual as a business can shine through. Some employers offer a bilingual pay differential (or must do so) and see a quick return on their investment.

Vetting language skills

In the job market, multilingual candidates’ language skills can vary greatly. Language skills could have been developed through natural acquisition or formalized learning. Properly vetting candidates who speak a non-primary language can be accomplished with language testing. For decades, companies have achieved multilingual status quickly by having an independent testing company test a candidate’s language abilities. An enterprise-level company can vet candidates in many languages.

Language testing by a third-party

Language companies conducting language tests determine a candidate’s level of language proficiency. This can avoid costly miscommunications. Language testing determines if a candidate’s language skills are appropriate for that job or career.

Tests should detect the proficiency of a person in the abilities and domains they’ll need to operate in the workplace. For example, in-person sales personnel at a cell phone store mostly need listening and speaking skills, but may not need to read or write much. Language testing can hone in on proficiency and vocabulary. After a candidate is tested, the company can provide an objective, confidential report of the skills assessed.

Acquiring Language Skills Through Language Services

Some organizations reap the benefits of a multilingual workforce by adding multilingual employees. Nevertheless, it’s also possible to operate in many languages through services like translation, interpretation and localization.

Translation and localization

Professional translation services ensure that documents and written materials reflect the intended message and tone. Furthermore, localization services guarantee each element of communication or information is natural. When organizations present their services accurately in other languages, it builds trust and facilitates relationships with diverse partners and customers. It can avoid costly and embarrassing mistakeswhich can be comical to read. Translation mistakes provide an insightful warning about achieving communicative perfection.


Interpreters convey messages orally from one language to another. By converting speech when people communicate, professional interpretation ensures messages are received as intended. ALTA provides professional interpretation in person, over the phone and through video. ALTA’s phone and video interpretation services are available on-demand 24/7. We also train medical interpreters.

Managing A Bilingual Workplace

Managing new hires

Whether your language strategy involves hiring one multilingual employee or thirty, certain personnel and operational infrastructure considerations can help you plan a dynamic workplace environment. With proper organization, management and a future-oriented outlook, hiring additional language speakers is easy.

Personnel structures and workflows

In our list of hiring considerations, we mentioned workflows and hierarchies for producing and reviewing work in other languages. Hiring a skilled and responsible bilingual manager can go a long way. In large businesses and fortune-500 companies, hiring several managers, leads or work reviewers may be necessary. Creating personnel hierarchies that funnel up to the bilingual managers or reviewers ensures quality. For example, a call center may have quality analysts who review calls in two languages. An advertising agency may have bilingual editors who edit and proofread content in Spanish or French. Key managers and systems that make the most of personnel and resources can meet the demand for foreign language communication.


To ensure that personnel has maintained or improved their language skills as expected, conducting reassessments is key. Reassessments can help when language work or business trips are cyclical or intermittent.

How We Can Help

As a robust language service company, ALTA has a full suite of services designed to help organizations achieve all linguistic goals. Our language testing assesses candidates’ proficiency in a variety of linguistic capabilities and provides transparent easy-to-understand results. We provide customized training based on your corporate language strategy. Our translation services ensure your company’s materials can be available to a global client base. ALTA’s interpretation services allow organizations to communicate in over 200 languages. Localization services deliver software that achieves communicative and navigational perfection.

ALTA is an enterprise-level language service company that helps businesses hire the right candidates, market to a global client base, and communicate in over 100 languages. Everything we do is evidence of our commitment to our core purpose. We help people communicate across linguistic and cultural barriers.

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