Silicon Valley Companies Rely More on Bilinguals to Capture Global Market

The current administration might be on a roll to reduce the number of immigrant workers coming into the United States, but one thing it cannot stop is the rise of bilingualism, because it’s tied to a company’s goal. Businesses and their owners are grappling with this new reality: To expand their markets and reach underserved ones, they need employees who can speak more than just what the world calls “American English.” The more native the language is to the employee (e.g. he learned it as a first language at his parent’s knee as a child) the higher his or her value rises, because in most cases, companies in Silicon Valley target a global market and have offices worldwide.

Global mobility managers bringing in foreign nationals to work in the U.S. will find this emerging development an advantage. American businesses that continue to lobby for more foreign-language native speakers to protect their own interests can counter the so-called “anti-immigration” trend. Global mobility specialists can also leverage on the prevailing business needs and tap their assignees to communicate in their native tongue to shareholders if it means advancing the company’s goals.

According to Cigna and the New American Economy, the demand for bilingual or multilingual employees more than doubled in the past five years, from 240,000 to 630,000. The industries that offer a lot of job opportunities for them have to do with banking and finance, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, insurance, and electronics. California takes the lead among the U.S. states looking for them, followed by Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, and Texas. Finally, the most in-demand linguists that these companies are looking for are skilled workers who can speak and write with extreme fluency in Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic.

As explained by The Washington Post, multilingual workers become the bridge by which industries and companies of all categories reach out to their foreign and/or immigrant customers, who are the lifeblood of their business. Patients checking in hospitals and medical centers feel more reassured and confident if the nurses and doctors handling their medical condition can speak their first language. Software and IT enterprises seeking to build offices or sell their products around the world need translators and customer representatives to crack once difficult markets.

Another way how multilingualism grows the business is building an element of trust, which is vital in any business transaction. The customer at the other end of the line or the computer would feel that he can connect more if the marketer or salesman speaking with him is from his same culture, community, ethnicity, or country of origin. The same language — spoken with all the nuances and emotional undercurrent that only a native speaker can provide — provides that strong connection.

Global mobility managers would do well watch this trend, especially if they have foreign-speaking assignees working in their organization. Sometimes, in welcoming these foreign workers into the fold, we emphasize too quickly that they would be quick to learn the nuances of the English language, and neglect other ways that they can become assets to the organization with their language and culture.

If these assignees are directly related in tasks that deal directly with sales, marketing, and customer service, you might want to create avenues by which they can use their native-language communication skills to boost campaigns in these areas. If their work is a bit removed from any interaction with the market (read: they do tech work), you might want to study how you can integrate them to help out with the frontliners.