Even before the pandemic, businesses were digitizing and globalizing—and as more and more businesses are able to recruit multinational teams and expand their client base to customers from all over the world, the ability to quite literally speak their language is more important than ever.
The ability of a team member to switch back and forth between languages easily and almost thoughtlessly, a phenomenon called—“code-switching”—is an important asset to any company operating in this context. It happens when a team member goes from a work meeting in their native language to a phone call en español with a customer in Argentina. Or, when a client in Paris, speaking English on a call with your sales representative, switches to French mid-conversation to more completely express what they’re wanting or needing.
Most people naturally feel most comfortable speaking in their native language, so having a team of employees who can seamlessly code-switch from their native language to that of their customers when needed can be a boost when it comes to driving business, making sales, and leaving clients feeling satisfied.
Why Linguistic Code-Switching Is a Huge Win for Businesses
In business settings, whether you have international clients you present to or problem-solve for, or you sell products to a global market, being able to perform this linguistic code switching in external communications is a huge asset for any member of the team to be able to bring to the conference table.
In fact, a 2014 survey found that 75% of people are more likely to buy items when they’re presented in the customer’s native language. Having people on your team who can easily switch back and forth between their native language and one that serves your company’s customers therefore can go a long way toward connecting with potential clients and closing sales.
Having bilingual employees who are confidently fluent in two languages can not only reach more customers but build a rapport and trust with them. After all, business is just as much about relationships and communication as it is about the product or service you’re trying to sell, and speaking someone’s language is the best way to pique their interest and get to know them.
Even if your team member is having a comfortable dialogue in their native language with foreign clients, sometimes the customer might not quite grasp a detailed concept or know the meaning of a word precisely. If the team member can quickly call to mind the words or phrase in the client’s native language to fill the gap, this code-switching can help make conversations smoother and provide greater clarity for both parties—and that can go a long way toward customer satisfaction.
How to Create a Code-Switching Linguistic Dream Team
While hiring diverse teams is always a smart move, you can also create your own code-switching workforce. Language learning programs like Babbel for Business are an easy, low-cost, and fun way for employees to pick up or get better at a second language—and there’s no trekking to a language class or homework to add to their plate.
With Babbel for Business, teams can use the Babbel platform to learn the essentials of a foreign language: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and sentence structure. Specific lessons tailored to business purposes are also available, meaning that your employees can prioritize learning how to say what they need to say to communicate with customers and make sales.
There’s more Babbel offers to make language learning efficient and fun, too: Packages with Babbel Live, providing group video lessons, are available to help build conversational confidence and fluidity, as well as reinforce grammatical concepts. If your company deals with a specific field or within a certain industry, Babbel also offers lesson plans tailored to your needs.
Whether you’re a small company of one or you have a host of employees who deal with international clients daily, the ability to speak a second language easily helps open up quite literally a world of potential for your business.
Interested in improving your customer communication with language learning? Check out our new handbook for customer service teams.
Lea Naschberger, Content Project Manager
Lea is an expert in HR topics such as employee benefits or corporate learning. She believes that multilingual teams are the key to success.