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Helping Foreign Employees Bridge the Language Gap

As business becomes increasingly global, it's more important than ever for employees to overcome language barriers so they can communicate with one another and their employers abroad.

"If you can't communicate effectively, what else can you do effectively?" says Terena Bell, the CEO of In Every Language, a translation and interpreting company in Louisville, Ky., which has clients in the U.S., England, France and Switzerland.

Whether paying for employees to take language classes or employing a third-party language interpreter, businesses can send international payments using a trusted online foreign exchange provider that offers relevant tools such as an online currency converter.

It may be preferable to bring in an instructor in order to ensure a high level of business-specific language education.

Learn More About Using Online FX

For example, a U.S. business owner that needs to pay his Japanese employees' English teacher ¥300,000 Japanese yen (JPY), can sign up for email market-rate alerts. When the business owner learns of a preferred exchange rate of $1 U.S. dollar (USD) = ¥99.340 JPY, he can immediately go to his online FX account and secure the latest rate. If he is able to secure the same rate he is alerted to, he can convert $3,020 USD for the international payment to the English teacher who is based in Japan.

In addition to determining cost-effective ways to submit international payments, business owners need to decide whether to bring in a language interpreter or to offer a language course to foreign employees. Here are some factors to consider.

When to Use an External Resource

It may be best to hire a third-party translation service if the need for a common language is very limited - for example, if a set of documents needs to be translated from Italian to English. "If [the need] is only temporary, there may be an opportunity to use the services of a foreign intern," says Jonathan Firnberg, global business manager for Norbar Torque Tools, a bolting equipment manufacturer in Oxfordshire, U.K.

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However, if business documents or discussions require cultural interpretation as well as linguistic translation, it might be wise to enlist the services of a full-time interpreter  who can assist with interpreting the underlying subtext of conversations, Firnberg says. Norbar hired full-time interpreters in Japan and Korea where the culture is significantly different than in the U.K. This was particularly important because nuances are so important when working overseas in these cultures.

When to Provide In-house Training

If the nature of the business requires foreign employees to learn a foreign language, businesses can choose to provide language expertise internally through recruitment or training, Firnberg says. In these cases, it may be preferable to bring in an instructor in order to ensure a high level of business-specific language education, he says.

Norbar pays about £80 pounds for a weekly half-day one-on-one language session for an employee learning Arabic, Firnberg says. The lessons are likely to last at least 18 months. Language classes can improve employees' loyalty, because workers see that the company is making an investment in them.

While the in-house language classes are more typical, Norbar has reimbursed at least one employee for outside language instruction, Firnberg says. That employee found his own training, which he did on his own time, and the company paid for it plus offering him a £1,000 language training bonus.

Regardless of the method for bridging the language gap, overcoming that barrier takes long-term effort, Firnberg says. "It's a continuous, ongoing process," he says, "and you have to use the language to maintain it."

Live Cross Rates

USD 69.2140 1.3102 0.7847 53.3150 1.0000 0.8805
CAD 52.7990 1.0000 0.5987 40.6750 0.7626 0.6718
AUD 50.1090 0.9483 0.5680 38.6030 0.7234 0.6374
EUR 78.5490 1.4869 0.8906 60.5130 1.1343 1.0000
GBP 88.1480 1.6687 1.0000 67.9070 1.2730 1.1216

Example: 1USD = xx INR

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