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The Business Benefits of Learning a New Language Language gives your business the opportunity to expand internationally.

By Michael Shangkuan Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Effective communication is essential in any workplace to ensure both the business and its employees can meet goals and build productive relationships, internally and with customers. Language plays an essential role in cross-cultural communication. It permeates through every aspect of a multinational enterprise and allows business owners to tap into a whole new world of diverse opportunities.

As new technologies make global business more accessible, the more understanding of multiple languages will continue proving to be beneficial. Language differences can have a profound impact on the successful operation of your multinational corporation, and adapting to new languages can increase your company's ability to break into new markets. So, what are the business benefits of learning a new language?

1. Improved communication skills

In the entrepreneurial world, we are always looking for new ways to improve how we communicate with each other and with our clients. Learning new languages is an effective way to improve communication skills and connect cross-culturally with clients and employees whose first language might not be the same. Since people tend to connect more deeply with those they identify with, sharing the commonality of language helps to create culturally stronger personal relationships and ultimately, partnerships and business connections with foreign customers.

Translation remains a challenge for many international businesses, and mistranslation of certain phrases or sentence structure can cause a lot of confusion. Fluency in the native tongue of a customer, rather than using a translator or translation services, creates the opportunity to find contextual connections and form a deeper understanding of the client, their business and their messaging. Mastering a language and cultural understanding can help prevent misunderstandings caused by personal biases and prejudices.

Related: Multilingualism and Cultural Fluency Are the Drivers of Tomorrow's Workforce

2. Global market expansion

When you look at the differences between monolingual and multilingual people, in terms of business success, the case for learning a new language is compelling. For example, some of the most well-known American CEOs speak more than one language, including Stefano Pessina (Walgreens), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), James Quincey (Coca-Cola) and Hubert Joy (Best Buy), to name a few.

Having someone on your team who speaks multiple languages puts the business owner in a unique position to take advantage of global markets and develop a more strategic understanding of the culture that's required to build better strategies for growing your business abroad. It can also help foster better client relationships by demonstrating an interest in their culture and an investment in their language. Companies that can successfully communicate cross-culturally have a competitive advantage, because they can devote more time and resources to conducting business rather than navigating communication issues.

Related: Learning a New Language Can Help You in Business

3. More creative and diverse opportunities

Even though, in some ways, our world continues to expand every day, language barriers still remain, limiting business opportunities for collaboration and growth across continents. Multilingualism bridges the cultural gap and opens the door for more significant investment opportunities, partnerships, global customers and foreign office expansions. If fluency seems unattainable for your team, aim to learn key phrases in the language of your targeted region, not only to build a more solid foundation with your customers, but also to work towards narrowing the language gap.

The ability to communicate with and understand your employees, co-workers or customers, is absolutely essential in the business world. Language is crucial in the pursuit of understanding and market expansion as well. Understanding the impact of globalization on cross-cultural communication is imperative for organizations seeking to create a competitive advantage in the global market. As a business owner and leader in any industry, encouraging language learning among employees is a strategy that can have demonstrable and significant benefits for your business.

Michael Shangkuan

CEO of Lingoda

Mike Shangkuan is an ed tech entrepreneur, fitness fanatic and polyglot, speaking six languages — English, German, Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese. He is a graduate of Yale University and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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