The reality of speaking a new language, especially in the workplace, can be a little scary. We look into some of the reasons people find it difficult and how you can create a culture to overcome that fear.
There’s no doubt that we’re all afraid of failure to some degree. But without trying, it’s not possible to succeed, and making mistakes and learning from them is the only way we can progress in life, work, and language. It’s completely reasonable to be afraid to speak a new language, seeing as you’re guaranteed to make mistakes, so that’s why we’re exploring how you can address this fear in the workplace and use it as a tool to help your team grow.
The challenges of speaking a new language at work
Overcoming the anxiety of speaking a new language is a huge part of language learning and one that isn’t addressed often enough. In fact, it’s so common there’s even a name for it: xenoglossophobia. This is a phobia of speaking a new language in a group setting, usually within a classroom. This fear could stem from a negative experience speaking foreign languages in the past or from spending time with more advanced speakers and feeling left behind. However, the stakes are even higher when speaking in a work setting. There’s a heightened fear of making a mistake and feeling vulnerable in front of colleagues.
Addressing these confidence issues within your team isn’t just fantastic for language learning, but will extend to their everyday tasks. It may also shed some light on wider issues within your team. For example, if some people are afraid of making mistakes in front of one another, there may be a need for some team-building exercises. Unearthing these findings and addressing them will lead to a happier and more confident group of people and a healthier working environment.
Addressing the challenges
Creating an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes will lead to a team that isn’t afraid of failure, feels confident to try new things, and is ultimately more creative. So, how can you create a culture where your team feels comfortable speaking a new language?
Learn alongside your team — As a manager, it’ll help if you learn the language alongside your team. Our research with UMass has proven that learners feel more motivated to speak a new language when a senior member is doing the same.
Take advantage of Babbel Live — After you’ve introduced Babbel in the workplace, and employees have gotten the chance to practice speaking and pronunciation with Babbel’s speech recognition software, assign each member 30 minutes per week to take advantage of Babbel Live. This is a one-on-one online lesson with a certified teacher, which is a great way to start having real-life conversations. Your team will take those first nerve-wracking steps in a safe environment, away from colleagues, which is a way to start building up their confidence.
Run a trust workshop — One of the main deterrents of speaking a new language in the workplace is a reluctance to make mistakes in front of colleagues. To get your team started, run a small trust workshop followed by a language exchange. Trust exercises can include simply falling back into the arms of a colleague or letting someone guide you blindfolded around a room. Once this trust has been established, your team will feel more confident speaking a new language in a group.
Make mistakes — There’s no better way of showing your team it’s okay to make mistakes than by making them yourself. As a manager, you set a precedent within your team, so if you take part in a language workshop, make mistakes and acknowledge them graciously. You’ll show your team it’s okay to make mistakes too.
Immerse the learners — After you get more comfortable speaking, you can bring some fun into it. Assign a time period per day where your team must communicate only in their chosen language or organize foreign film nights so they get accustomed to hearing their language out loud. Plus, if you order in pizza, it’ll double up as a fantastic team event.
How Babbel can support your team
There’s a myriad of reasons why your team might be learning a new language — perhaps it’s to expand international relations or simply to add a new skill to their portfolio. Whatever the reason, Babbel is here to support your team every step of the way, regardless of their previous knowledge.
With Babbel Intensive your learners will get an onboarding session complete with Q&A — a safe space for them to ask any language-related questions they might have. This will set them up to begin a course of bite-size lessons that they can digest at their own pace, whether in the quiet of their home or on a coffee break. And, with the help of their supportive manager, your team will soon be speaking their new language with confidence.
Interested in introducing Babbel to your company or upgrading your package? Just get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Sandro Köpke, Key Account Manager B2B
Sandro believes in lifelong learning – both professionally and privately. Language learning plays a particularly important role for him, since international communication means openness and potential to grow.