The business value of languages: fostering intercultural agility

Written on 23 October, 2023

Those who are proficient in another language therefore do not just bring linguistic skills to business but also the intercultural agility that can enable people to work across different cultures and countries.RAND Corporation 2022

In today’s globalised business landscape, the importance of languages extends far beyond the mere exchange of words. It delves deep into the intricate realm of intercultural agility, influencing individual mindsets and human behaviours. Researchers such as Galor et al. (2020) and Ginsburgh & Weber (2020) have shed light on the undeniable connection between the grammatical and lexical characteristics of a language and its profound influence on individuals.

Business value of languages

Languages bridge cultural gaps

While there may not be a unanimous consensus on the precise nature of the relationship between language and culture, one thing is indisputable: languages serve as essential channels for the transmission of human culture. Those proficient in multiple languages bring much more than linguistic skills to the table; they offer a unique form of intercultural agility that is indispensable in today’s multicultural, multinational business world.

The ability to communicate in another language embodies an understanding of the subtleties, nuances and unwritten rules of a culture. It empowers individuals to navigate the intricate web of customs, values and expectations that define each culture. In essence, linguists have the capacity to bridge gaps, build trust and forge meaningful connections in diverse cultural settings. This, in turn, facilitates effective collaboration and negotiation across borders.

In contrast, while artificial intelligence (AI) translation tools have made significant strides in recent years, they cannot fully replicate the intercultural competence of well-trained linguists. AI tools are undeniably useful for basic translation tasks, but they often fall short when it comes to capturing the cultural subtleties and context that are critical in business interactions. They may translate words, but they cannot fully understand the underlying cultural implications.

Importance of languages in international trade

To illustrate the business value of languages in fostering intercultural agility, consider the following scenario: A multinational corporation seeks to expand its operations into a new market. They have the option of using AI translation tools or hiring a team of professional linguists. While the former may provide a cost-effective solution for simple translation needs, the latter brings a wealth of intercultural knowledge to the table. They can navigate the intricacies of the new market, understand the local customs and help the business build relationships with key stakeholders in a way that AI cannot.

In conclusion, the business value of languages extends beyond the realm of communication. Language professionals offer the intercultural agility businesses need to excel in a globalised world. At Surrey Translation Bureau, we understand the transformative power of language and are dedicated to helping businesses navigate the world with precision and cultural finesse.

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