Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace


As explained in the previous post, Leveraging your Languages is all about adopting strategies and developing opportunities to integrate your knowledge of a foreign language into your private or professional life.

This post is all about Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace.

Maybe you’re already working in an international environment or for an employer that values or requires you to use your knowledge of another language. Or, maybe you are working in a job that doesn’t OFFICIALLY require a knowledge of a foreign language at all. Whichever of those two situations applies, you can still use any of the Leveraging strategies listed here, or in the next post entitled Leveraging your Languages alongside your Day Job.

So let’s get started.

Here are some suggestions that will enable you to leverage your foreign language to add personal and company value in your current job:

Some simple first steps:

  1. Make sure that your knowledge of your working languages is known to other people at work, especially your line manager:
  1. Integrate your language in a very simple way into your e-mail signature:

“With best regards/Meilleures salutations/Mit freundlichem Gruß/Met vriendelijke groet”

(only include the languages you already know well or the languages of your regular contacts)

  1. Make your “out-of-office” message multilingual also, but make sure the foreign-language part is flawless and doesn’t contain any mistakes.
  1. Find out if any colleagues in your company or organisation are native-speakers of your target language. Get to know them and if they are willing, meet up with them regularly for lunch or coffee as a way of practising the language.
  1. Use your foreign language sometimes when e-mailing colleagues or clients abroad. Make the first contact in the foreign language. If an existing contact, add a couple of friendly remarks or a question in the foreign language at the end of an e-mail. The last part of a message sticks in the mind and your contact may then respond in the foreign language. Using the language in this way will strengthen the connection. A positive effect resulting from this is that your contact will also be more likely to forward information or messages from other decision-makers directly to you in the foreign language. They may not have done so if they thought they had to translate the information first. Then take a look at number 3 below.
  1. If telephoning and asking to speak to your contact at the other end, introduce yourself in the language and ask to speak to your contact. Even if you continue the call in English, the colleague from the next desk who picked up the phone may let your contact know that you are a fluent speaker of their language. Greater use of the foreign language and increased access to information are the likely results.


Longer-term Leveraging strategies:

  1. Is your company or organisation involved in any projects, or does it have any subsidiary companies, partners or clients located in your target-language country? Get to know the people involved in those projects or communicating with those subsidiaries, partners or clients. Purpose – you may be called upon to make contacts, receive visitors, visit a partner organisation abroad or help develop the project.
  1. Use on-line resources in the foreign language to collect information relating to your company’s area of activity. This could be information about your organisation’s subsidiary companies, partners or competitors in other countries or information about potential sales opportunities.
  1. Translate and/or summarise the information you find under number 2 above into English and pass it onto your line manager or Managing Director, state the source and that you translated the information yourself. Leverage this as an opportunity to remind them of your language ability and familiarity with the country concerned, but it will also give you the opportunity to familiarise yourself (and become fluent) in the language and terminology of your work.
  1. Watch YouTube videos posted by your organisation’s affiliate companies, partners or clients abroad and keep revisiting those videos.

Good luck in implementing these suggestions – the next post will be about

Leveraging your Languages alongside your day-job.


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