Training in native languages is far more effective, and safer

Offering training in the native language of the learners can save lives

Human resources professionals are often tasked with delivering safety training for workers, vendors, distributors, and customers of their business or organization. The easy way to do this is to assume that your workers speak enough English to understand the safety protocols the training is designed to deliver. Unfortunately this involves buying into the myth of Global English, the mindset that says all cultures conduct business in English. This is not only wrong, it is disrespectful to your international workers and may even be dangerous. In addition, based on recent studies, language diversity in the US has doubled since 1990, with 66 million Americans speaking a language other than English at home. So many of your US workers probably require training in another language.

Let’s look at one example from the Training Industry blog ( from the blog post titled Why You Should Be Offering Training In Other Languages by Dr. Matthew Casey. We highly recommend reading this important piece):

Example:

Problem: As part of the design of the loss prevention program, actuaries provided disturbing predictions regarding injuries and deaths that could be anticipated based on the size and type of construction projects being considered for the expansion program. Additionally, the construction industry in North Texas has a large number of Spanish-speaking workers. These workers were experiencing a high number of fatalities and injuries at construction projects.

Solution:

  • A mandatory 40-hour safety training program.
  • Classes were presented in English and Spanish
  • Students choose which language class they would attend.
  • Spanish classes had half day verbal terminology for basic construction tool names and terms in English.
  • English classes taught verbal terminology for basic construction tool names in Spanish.

Impact:

  • Zero fatalities over the five-year construction period.
  • Recordable and lost time rates were significantly below both state and national averages.
  • Lost time rate of 0.42/200,000 hours (compared to average of 3.60/200,000 nationally and 2.4/200,000 statewide).
  • Recordable (incident) rate of 3.68/200,000 hours (compared to average of 6.80/200,000 nationally and 4.3/200,000 statewide).”

Training in native languages has measurable ROI

Training, whether delivered in person or via an online eLearning course, is far more effective when translated into the native language of the learner. In addition to the safety example above, there are other significant benefits of having your training translated and delivered in the native languages of your learners:

  • Much higher comprehension leads to less time spent training
  • Learners are more motivated to take and complete training
  • Improved safety leads to less absenteeism due to workplace accidents and lower liability

As the article points out, this is not speculation. In fact, to quote:

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that language barriers are a contributing factor in 25 percent of job-related accidents.”

Translation and interpretation of training courses into multiple languages is not a perk, it is an important responsibility for HR and L&D professionals working with international workers, or in global markets. The measurable benefits of implementing a true localization strategy for all of your training far outweigh the costs. And it helps those of us who are native English speakers leave behind the potentially dangerous myth of Global English dominance.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that language barriers are a contributing factor in 25 percent of job-related accidents.”

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