Is your company really a global company? If you’re not providing multilingual training (i.e. delivering training to employees in their native language), you may not be as global as you think. According to Forbes, a full 65% of those polled say that there is a language barrier between executives or managers and other workers. That’s huge. That means need-to-know information isn’t moving up or down the pipeline.
In a global economy where ex-pats move across international borders for work, language can be an enormous barrier, or an effective tool. Global competition means that as companies, we need to understand the global market for workers and provide effective training for each of them. One way to do this is to speak their language. Literally.
Benefits of Multilingual Training
Ensuring your workers are trained in their native language has some great benefits—both for them and for your company as a whole:
There are jokes that just don’t translate. That inability to effectively translate doesn’t apply only to jokes though, it also applies to training. Providing native tongue training allows workers to understand the nuances as well as the important points, increasing trainee success and confidence once they are out in the field.
Increased Efficiency and Effectiveness
Workers who know what’s expected of them and when it’s expected, can better gauge their workflow. Part of efficiency is understanding processes and performance expectations. Why not provide that information in a way that all employees can confidently engage with? And part of effectiveness is ensuring workers fully understand their job description. Providing multilingual training is one way companies can support efficiency and effectiveness among their employees.
Using native language training allows learners’ brains to focus on content rather than interpretation. When students have to think about content in a non-native way and translate it to their mother tongue, there is more room for translation error. There is also a problem with cognitive load. So much of our finite brain space is taken up by translation, that training takes a literal back seat. Great training reduces cognitive load as much as possible.
OSHA says 25% of workplace injuries have language barriers as a contributing factor. Not fully understanding training is the first line of misunderstanding and can cost companies dearly. If workers do not fully understand how to keep themselves and others safe, how can they be expected to fully implement a safety training program built around the premise of keeping everyone safe? It can’t happen.
Getting Started with Multilingual Training
So, how can your company get started with multilinguistic training?
Ideally, workers would be trained in their native tongue, on every issue. Certainly this could be quite an investment for multilingual companies who do not have a paid interpreter or whose workforce is diverse enough to speak more than two or three different languages.
However, there are a few things we can do to enhance our training, reduce cognitive load, and provide better outcomes for each of our workers. What can we do?
- Know your audience. Who are you training? What languages do they speak? Being sensitive to your learners means respecting, not only their culture, but also their language. Keep this in mind as you build training and you’ll start moving toward a positive experience for learners and increasing learner engagement and retention.
- Harness technology to create a Multilanguage platform. Our learning management system, Spoke, now speaks 9 languages. We have found that when your content and technology speak the right languages, you have a win-win situation. It’s good for the learner and good for the business.
- Start simple. You might have to explain simple phrases, but those explanations will help learners dive deeper and get more meaning out of your training. So make sure to explain and define key phrases or jargon for your industry. Even better if you continuously check in with learners throughout the training to see if they need simplified explanations as you take a deeper dive into content.
- Provide training in native languages for all of your employees. We know this is a tall order and a big challenge. Sometimes the keys to the multilinguistic kingdom reside in subtitles. Adding subtitles can offer students the clarity and nuance they need to fully understand content and to build their confidence.
- Provide supporting materials in various languages. Best practice means you meet learners where they are. Providing supporting materials in a variety of languages can foster learning and retention. This may take the form of translating job aides, or linking to multilingual resources on the web. These supports can help bolster key nuances that may otherwise be missed.
- Reflect the nationalities of your audience. We all want to see people who look like us. That helps us to identify with the message and makes us feel the required skills are attainable. In an effort to help foster these feelings among learners, it’s important to use images of actors who look and sound like your trainees. For video this means hiring actors who reflect your workforce.
- Use demonstrations and real-life action to show learners what you want them to learn. Action is the first mode of communication when people do not have a common language. Demonstrations can fill in the gaps if you cannot provide multi-language training.
Recognizing the need for training in multiple languages can be daunting. Often companies know the need exists, but have no idea how to address it. Considering that 84% of people polled agree that that workers are more productive with managers who can speak with them effectively in their native tongue, mother tongue training becomes ever more important. It allows your team to get the nuances of sales procedures, work processes, rights and responsibilities, or HR policies—whatever you want them to know.
We Can Help
At Unboxed Technology, we partner with companies who wish to provide globalized content and technology experiences for their workers, to increase efficiency and maximize their talent. If multilingual training is developed and posted in our learning management system, Spoke, your team could experience fully immersed, native tongue training. Your company can tap into the cultural knowledge, intelligence, creative thinking, and insight of your full team using Spoke, and that is the sweetest interpretation of all.