Why Learning Another Language Is Important for US Companies

In this article, we will talk about how Sodexo, a leading global food services and facilities management company, has partnered with the language-learning app Babbel to improve language skills among its employees. The results were overwhelmingly positive, with improved self-confidence and well-being among participants, as well as better social bonds and increased opportunities for communication and collaboration within the teams.

As international companies dealing with language barriers between employees and clients know all too well, having a multilingual workforce is becoming more valuable every day both locally and globally. Without a doubt, proven corporate language training programs are becoming essential for US companies in order to keep up in a global marketplace, and to streamline their internal communication processes — but while language learning may be a good idea, companies may still wonder how to implement these programs and whether they will be a good investment.

Fortunately, Babbel for Business offers the perfect solution with a flexible language-learning software that takes out the guesswork. As proven by a study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a major services company for group catering and facility management, Sodexo, Babbel’s language-learning software can improve employees’ and managers’ language skills for a range of cascading positive effects on business.

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Employee Satisfaction

Want to integrate language learning into your company as well? 

You can find a practical guide based on the Sodexo case study in our eBook “4 Steps to a Sustainable Language Learning Culture.” Download it here for free! 

Case study: The international challenges that US companies are facing

As an industry leader in their field, Sodexo has approximately 420,000 employees from over 120 countries — making it one of the world’s most international companies. Coming into the experimental study with Babbel, one of the US Sodexo branches had two distinct challenges:

  1. Spanish-speaking employees wanted to improve their English, and
  2. English-speaking management staff wanted to interact more fluently with Spanish-speaking employees.

Fortunately, Babbel’s mobile app helped Sodexo to solve both challenges.

The program study lasted for 10-12 weeks due to varying start and end dates, with 10 frontline employees learning English and four native English speakers learning Spanish. Babbel’s recommended time for daily language learning was 20 minutes on the app a day, with 15 minutes for new lessons and five minutes to review the past day’s work. Coming into the study, participants had varying motivations — everyone thought language learning was “highly important [to] their job responsibilities,” while a vast majority thought it would improve their job performance and help them “gain appreciation and recognition from their supervisors.”

While engagement levels varied among participants who completed the study, the results of the study were overwhelmingly positive.

Two employees learning a new language on a computer.

Language learning improves employees’ self-confidence

At the most fundamental level, using Babbel improved participants’ ability to speak their target language in just 10 weeks. All 10 frontline employees showed an improvement in English grammar and vocabulary, and role-play sessions with researchers showed an increase of “words per utterance,” a common marker of oral fluency. While the data were clear that using Babbel in a regular and structured way improved language skills, using the app also had positive effects on participants’ self-esteem and well-being.

After completing the study, the ESL participants self-reported “improved learning, self-efficacy, and self-confidence” in addition to their improved speaking abilities. At the beginning of the trial, ESL employees were surveyed on their perceived self-efficacy when it came to general learning, job interactions, and technology, among other factors. While many reported high levels of self-efficacy on both the initial and exit surveys, four employees rated low in the initial survey.

Even so, after using Babbel, the four employees with lower scores all increased with regard to “general technology use,” and one of the four reported a huge jump (from a 1 or 2 to a 9 to 10 on a 10-point scale) in confidence with using new technology as a result of their improved language skills. Still more compelling, as one participating Sodexo employee put it, is that the experience with Babbel meant they “were not scared anymore” when speaking in English with customers. These positive feelings around work challenges are good on an individual level, but they’re also beneficial to create more positive customer service interactions.

As these examples show, language learning is not only valuable for person-to-person communication — it also has applications for streamlining internal company communications involving new technologies. Even more interestingly, these individual benefits also lead to team-level benefits as well.

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How language learning empowers better teams and better businesses

In addition to questions about self-efficacy, exit surveys also polled participants on how the acquisition of a second language would affect their quality of life across many dimensions. Though everyone reported that language-learning improvements would help them with their job responsibilities, 11 out of 14 participants also said the skills would help them interact better with their fellow employees — with one ESL employee suggesting they would now consider their English-speaking coworkers as good “opportunities to practice.” Similarly, Sodexo managers also commented that improved social bonds were seen right away as employees were “not as shy” to speak a second language at work.

Though it may seem like common sense, teamwork is a crucial component of a company’s success — and good teamwork relies on trust and open communication. Even in the absence of exceptional leadership, a team composed of people who all speak the same language — literally — is likely to get further than one that doesn’t. No matter the organization in question, removing language barriers between team members increases opportunities for coworkers to communicate, collaborate, and build trust with one another, all of which are the bedrock of successful teamwork.

For US companies, proven language-learning programs are the future of business

It’s clear that for US companies with multilingual teams working domestically or who are doing business internationally, implementing proven language-learning programs will be hugely beneficial to employee empowerment, team cohesion, and increased profits. As applied studies like Sodexo’s show, Babbel for Business’s effective and flexible approach to removing language barriers and improving employees’ language abilities is the way forward.

By following Babbel’s best practice guidelines, teams of any size can get on the path to improved language skills with just 20 minutes of practice a day (much of which could be accomplished during breaks and commutes). As the world gets more connected and fast-paced, US companies of all sizes need proven language-learning programs to improve their employees’ professional development. As case studies like Sodexo show, Babbel for Business is the way to get there.

Employee Satisfaction

Want to integrate language learning into your company as well? 

You can find a practical guide based on the Sodexo case study in our eBook “4 Steps to a Sustainable Language Learning Culture.” Download it here for free! 

Anika Wegner

Anika Wegner

SEO Content & Blog Manager — Exploring other cultures through language is particularly important to her. That's why she loves writing for Babbel about topics, how companies can benefit from language-learning solutions.