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  • Writer's picturePetra Henderson

Bilingual and Multilingual Employees: Vital to Entering Global Markets

Do you have human assets you’re not leveraging?

While developing this series on going global for smaller businesses entering other language markets for the first time, the issue of having bi-lingual or multi-lingual employees came to the forefront. This happened in parallel with our plans to release translated microsites of our English site in multiple languages. Specifically French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and German. Why these languages? In part because we have people with fluency in these languages that can handle inquiries and work with these customers in their native languages.

Expanding proactively into new language markets requires fluent employees

Being a translation and localization company means we are already working in global markets. However, we’re moving towards a more formalized push into providing our services inside these language markets. The fact that we have multilingual employees who can interact in the languages listed above, is a driver for our decisions to move into more direct marketing in their native languages. In fact, having these skills in our company is the driving factor. For us, fluency in other tongues is a major qualifier for working here.

Service businesses may have an initial advantage over product businesses

Service businesses are highly reliant on their people’s experience and language fluency is a significant part of that. Our formalization of a marketing push into additional language markets is relatively seamless because we are a pure service company- we do not face distribution issues or product support issues. We’ve developed proprietary software for managing translation and review workflows in the cloud, making 24/7 interaction with customers much easier. They can log into our applications to manage their projects, 24/7. These applications also serve as a ‘single source of the truth’, eliminating version control issues. The reason I mention them is to illustrate that, in our case, we have developed the tools required to go global. They’re already in place, though we may have to consider localizing our software interfaces into the languages we are targeting.

Multilingual employees are valuable assets

You may not be aware of co-workers who speak multiple languages, though it is very likely that you already work with multilingual people. In the US, for example, over 20% of the population speak a language other than English at home. In major urban markets that figure can rise to nearly 50%. I’d suggest surveying your people to find out who is multilingual and in what languages. In addition, when hiring, make it clear that being multilingual gives an applicant a leg up in the hiring process. These people can provide you with valuable resources when considering a global expansion project.


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