Not speaking the local language is the biggest challenge that workers in a foreign country face.

One survey found that over 61 percent of seniors managers were of the opinion that the biggest barrier in the way of expats trying to complete their assignments is not knowing the local language. More than half of the senior managers also held the view that speaking the appropriate foreign language is essential to the success of business abroad.

Yet no more than 37 percent of respondents in the same study noted that their employer provided training for the local language as part of the typical package offered to expats.

Some of the reasons given for the limited training included the minimal need for a multilingual staff, the cost of the language training, and staff members lacking adequate time to complete a language learning course.

However, the first reason is not valid. According to experts, language training is essential because speaking the local language improves expats‘ proficiency in communicating with the company’s business partners as well as its local team. As a result, it leads to an increase in the productivity of employees and, eventually, in the fulfillment of the company’s goals with respect to the expat assignment.

Benefits of Providing Language Training to Expats

The success of a business relies on a number of factors, including a well-defined vision, strong financial management, innovation, great leadership and many others. However, businesses that seek to have a global presence should adopt strategies that have quantitative as well as qualitative benefits its customers and staff.

It is becoming increasingly evident that one of the important tactical approaches that many global companies tend to neglect is language training. In today’s globalized economy, foreign language skills are indispensable. In addition to helping executives grow their careers, it helps businesses speed up their expansion into foreign markets.

Below are three benefits of equipping expats with local language skills


  1. Expats with local language skills perform better because they’re more confident

Research shows that up to 70 percent of workers exhibit more confidence in their performance and interaction with vendors, partners and teams after they learn the local language. This is especially true for the communications, retail, and food & beverage industries. Furthermore, employees in operations, information technology and human resources departments report increased confidence and productivity after undertaking language training.

  1. Shared language results in increased retention of employees

One of the main challenges of human resource management is keeping employees happy. Employee retention is one of the top priorities of managers and executives. Expats in managerial positions typically have to manage employees who are not native speakers of the English language. While proficiency in written language can lead to a faster turnaround of work, it is just as important for employees to comfortably communicate with their coworkers and managers in their commonly used language.

  1. Language training helps expats learn to speak the customers‘ language, literally

To serve the company’s customers well on a daily basis, it is imperative that you speak their language. Most countries have a wide variety of languages, each with a unique nuance in delivery, pronunciation and tone. All of these affect how the message is received. Needless to say, the ability to communicate with customers effectively impacts customer satisfaction.

The Most Widely Requested Languages for Training

Considering the enormous amount of resources that company’s invest in relocating expats and their families, it stands to reason that the organization should also equip their expats with all the knowledge and skills required for success abroad, and languages are part of those skills.

Research has shown that Mandarin is the most widely requested language for training. This can be seen as evidence that an increasing number of corporations are expanding their operations in China, which has a mammoth economy that is second only to the United States. In addition to Mandarin, other languages that are also widely requested include German, French, Portuguese and Spanish. This makes sense because the countries in which these languages are spoken are emerging economies.

Besides the lack of skill in speaking the local languages, other important challenges that expats have noted include managing their taxes, finding the appropriate housing, and relocating their families.

For the reasons mentioned above, companies should therefore encourage and support their employees who need a language training. This increases employee satisfaction and gives the company the maximum benefit.