This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

August 29, 2000

Our Multi-Lingual Corporate World

121 Days until January 1, 2001

As the world shrinks, we become closer to our partners, consumers, employees, and suppliers around the globe. The demand for qualified workers moves us to recruit internationally. Increasingly, we encounter people who don't speak our language - or do not speak it as their primary language.

Here in the United States, we have the advantage of our language being the dominant language of trade, the common language of most business internationally. We don't have to learn another language to communicate in our daily work. We expect others to speak our language. When they do not, we can become irritated and frustrated. Our tolerance level is inappropriately low. Normal communication is more complicated, hampering productivity. As our labor vacuum attracts more foreign-born workers, this problem will intensify.

The proportion of US workers who do not speak English as their first language is growing. Many employers now offer courses in English as a Second Language. Relatively few offer similar courses in Spanish - or Vietnamese - as a Second Language. Americans still believe others should learn their language; they do not need to know anyone else's language - or culture. Enlightened US executives are increasingly realizing the value of learning the first language(s) of their workers.

Global business presents needs to communicate in other languages. Language is a vehicle to understand and appreciate different cultures, different ways of conducting business and developing relationships. As trade continues to open around the world, the advantage of speaking other languages will increase. American schools will be challenged to teach Chinese . . . and do a better job of teaching other languages.

With a strong economy and a population of 275,562,673, Americans enjoy a certain domination in world markets. But China's influence, with a population of 1,261,832,482, will grow rapidly. In another decade, US population will grow to 300,118,269 (US Census Bureau), compared to China's growth to 1,359,140,968. Spanish speaking countries aren't even in the top 10 in population, though we have larger numbers of Spanish speakers in our workforce. So, which languages, cultures, and ways of doing business will be dominant? Will you be fluent?

News as of today: Two of our books are ranked in the Top 35 Best-Selling Business Books by "Keeping Good People" is ranked #31; "How to Become an Employer of Choice" is #34. "How to Choose Your Next Employer" is now available.

Comments from our readers:

A copy of your very interesting article on The Multi-Lingual Corporate World was forwarded to me. Your readers may be interested to know that over 250 independent corporate speech pathologists, located in almost every state of the USA, are available to work in businesses with employees experiencing communication problems. These may include difficulties pronouncing English clearly, although they have good vocabularies, or other speech or hearing problems. In addition, many of the corporate speech pathologists work with businesses to help them understand their employees' or clients' cultural communication signals. For example, in certain cultures, employees rarely if ever ask their supervisors questions, and may not know that they should do so here.

The Corporate Speech Pathology Network is a new organization, and our website is under construction. In the meantime, I would be happy to answer your readers' questions and refer them to the closest corporate speech pathologist.
Katie Schwartz

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