Singaporeans are known globally for their ability to converse and communicate in more than one language. Most Singaporeans are efficient in at least two languages – English and their mother tongue (Mandarin, Tamil or Bahasa Melayu). This is all thanks to the bilingual policy established by the People’s Action Party since they were elected to power in 1959. The policy ensures that Singaporeans will learn a second language on top of English in public schools. Much has been said about the pros and cons of the mandated bilingual policy in Singapore, but most agree that bilinguals make more valuable employees in the workforce, but is that really true? Why so?
1. Bilinguals Make More Culturally-Aware Employees
How many times have we witnessed big brands get themselves into a public relations nightmare due to cultural appropriation or cultural insensitivity in their advertisements or campaigns? Such incidents are harsh reminders that a marketing or public relations teams should always comprise individuals from the target market to prevent a possible backlash. If there are no vacancies in the team to hire another staff, make sure that there is a bilingual in your team to ensure some representation for your target market.
Business owners would agree that it is highly important for an individual employed in a public relations position to be more culturally-aware. Bilinguals would fill this position easily as they naturally possess knowledge of two cultures from learning two languages. Being culturally-aware makes for more valuable employees as it prevents groupthink and can help to identify and avoid any major advertising faux pas when expanding your business to a foreign market. Bilinguals can also suggest ideas that are more suitable or appropriate for said foreign market.
2. Bilinguals Can Create More Business Opportunities
This benefit should be rather obvious as being able to speak multiple languages essentially means that you will be able to sell products or services to multiple markets or countries without having to employ more manpower for translation. A bilingual employee can help to communicate with an untapped client pool from a completely different background, which translates into a wider reach for your business. How great is that?
3. Employing Bilinguals Builds a Diverse Workplace
With more bilinguals within a workplace, it naturally builds a diverse community which can foster a good environment for individuals from different backgrounds and cultures. A diverse workplace would mean more culturally-tolerant employees and greater creativity from the team as the team would be made up of many different individuals with different perspectives. Clients who visit the office or have interacted with your team of staff will also be able to gain a different kind of experience from working with your company.
Other than hiring bilingual individuals, business owners can also encourage existing employees to upskill and take up a new language for a better advantage in the workforce and more opportunities. If possible you might even want to incentivise your staff for taking the initiative to take up language courses to improve their portfolio.
If you are looking to send your employees for conversational English or Mandarin courses, School of Language International (SLI) is just the right place for you. Here at SLI, we have corporate training courses available that can be tailored to your varying needs.
If you are a foreigner in Singapore looking to take up a second language to remain competitive in your workplace, you can always sign up for basic mandarin lessons with SLI to make yourself the best candidate for your position.