Alessandro just moved from Rome to Amsterdam to take up his dream job.
He was surprised that quite often the employees in his company communicated in Dutch, not English, like he expected. Many informal events in the Netherlands are dominated by the Dutch language, like the infamous Friday borrel.
Alessandro had to learn the language of his business. And he had to learn it fast.
But he had neither the time nor the patience for a language training course.
Instead, he opted for a more practical approach to language training―one in which the benefits were tangible and the results immediate. He littered his desk with sticky notes containing Dutch language phrases he’d picked up around the office: vergadering (i.e.meeting), waarde voor klanten (i.e. value for customer), vakantie (i.e.holiday), and salaris (i.e.salary).
He quickly assimilated the company’s mission statement and business values, allowing him to talk about vertrouwen en communicatie (i.e. trust and communication) and to sit in on a saaie vergadering (i.e.boring meeting)
Daily he communicated to his colleagues a funny phrase or local greeting he’d just learned, brightening their mood on an otherwise gloomy Dutch day. One day he impressed Dutch people by using the term Bakkie pleur, which is a funny Rotterdam way to talk about a cup of coffee.
Engaging with the company’s culture in the company’s language helped Alessandro bond with fellow employees, improved his workplace well-being, and cemented his resolve to stay with his company.
And then there’s Ivan.
Ivan is a software engineer from Ukraine who also took up a job in the Netherlands.
Ivan’s company put him through a language training course where he was cramming grammar rules and the “1,000 Most Common Dutch Verbs.”
Ivan wanted to communicate with his teammates in their language and blend in with their culture. But the language training course hardly taught him how to communicate with fellow employees.
Outside of team meetings and an occasional videoconference, Ivan felt left out. Eventually, he resigned, and even took up a lower-paying job, one that offered more opportunities for workplace communication and integration.
What was the difference between Alessandro’s success and Ivan’s struggle? Integration into company culture in the language of the business.
Company Culture for New (and Existing) Employees
In today’s global world you can change your company―and continent―with the click of a mouse. So to attract the best talent, a business needs to offer more than just a competitive salary.
It needs to become a culturally driven organization whose employees are motivated not from fear of punishment but intrinsically, because of desire to accomplish something bigger together. Frederic Laloux formulates it like this in his book “Reinventing Organizations”:
“When organizations are built not on implicit mechanisms of fear but on structures and practices that breed trust and responsibility, extraordinary and unexpected things start to happen.”Frederic Laloux
Successful companies promote an atmosphere of creativity and autonomy, and a sense of purpose and accomplishment. They offer tailored training courses for their employees’ continuing education.
As a result they have happier, more productive employees. And happy, motivated workers tend to stick around, like Alessandro. Alessandro does not only enjoy the usual benefits of language learning, but also uses it as a tool to be successful in the workplace.
The Expats’ Challenge
Globalization and the post-Covid emergence of a growing hybrid workforce has given companies access to a global pool of talent on an unprecedented level. But talent alone does not guarantee employee retention, even in a multinational business.
Ivan and Alessandro actually had a lot in common. They were both expats. Both moved to the Netherlands seeking to thrive in their career. And neither spoke the language before moving.
But in the end, Alessandro blossomed, while Ivan struggled.
Inability to communicate in the language of the business and integrate into the company’s culture and absorb its business values isolated Ivan from his team and ultimately led him to take up a lower-paying job elsewhere. Daniel Pink writes about this in his book Drive:
“We leave lucrative jobs to take low-paying ones that provide a clearer sense of purpose.”Daniel Pink
For expats who don’t speak the local language, it can feel hopeless to work in an environment where they don’t feel understood. If only Ivan spoke more Dutch than he “learned” in class…
Benefits of Proper Language Learning
Alessandro’s success in his workplace is attributed to his efforts in learning to communicate in the language most spoken in his business—Dutch. An effective language training program can have similar benefits for your employees’ development.
Workplace language training creates bridges between employees that speak different languages, allowing them to find common ground and work in a more positive environment.
But beware that not all language training programs have the same benefits. True, Ivan’s company provided him with a language training course. But Ivan never used the Dutch he was being fed. He was too busy assimilating grammar rules and words that were irrelevant to the business.
Proper corporate language learning required context, as you can read In the article “Global Business Speaks English” by Harvard Business Review:
“Companies need to contract with language vendors who specialize in helping employees at various levels of proficiency. The vendors need to be intimately familiar with the company context so that they can guide employees’ learning.”Harvard Business Review, Global Business Speaks English
With customized corporate language training, you can personalize your employees’ language learning with business-specific content.
The Fastest-Spreading Language in Human History
English is the common language of multinational businesses. But only 7 percent of non-native English speakers in global companies believe they can communicate effectively at work.
The benefits of having employees with improved English skills include an enhanced business identity and expanded global outreach; not to mention, it will make it easier to operate the business after a merger or buyout.
Taalhammer’s mission is to help culturally diverse businesses use language learning to create a unique company culture where people are encouraged and empowered to communicate in a foreign language.
Our customizable language training application is superior to language training courses that focus on teaching grammar rules and impractical vocabulary lists.
We use statistics, full sentence practice and recall techniques to accelerate language retention. Your team becomes conversation ready and develops confidence and precision in no time.
We provide language training plans based on the unique vocabulary of your business and company culture, including even the idioms, jargon, and inside jokes spoken around the office. Visit our website for more insights. Book a call with us to discuss how we can help elevate your business culture with language learning.
Watch the video below to learn how Taalhammer can provide effective language training for your employees to speak about your company in the language of your business.