I was recently talking with a CEO of a company which operates in several countries all over the world. Not surprisingly, they use English as corporate language. But although they assume that new employees can work in English, there are differences in their fluency – and that can lead to misunderstandings, or people spending more time in communicating and understanding issues than they would in their own language.
I asked whether they tested the level of English skills when new employees were hired. It turned out that a tailored test based on the special terminology of their industry and also of management would be helpful in defining their skill level. After all, most of us would describe ourselves as fluent speakers of a language – but fluency is a very movable beast. Having spent most of my professional life writing an reading in English, I still manage to make errors of various seriousness practically every day. At times, such errors really obfuscate the meaning.
I repeat myself, but to me, the real future of the language business is in all the various new and yet even unimagined tools and solutions for employees working in a multilingual environment. As we exchange messages and develop ideas across contries, cultures and languages, we need new and faster ways to cross the language barriers. Using crowdsourcing for multilingual needs will open up interesting possibilities, just like in Google Translate where users can suggest a better translation. Similar applications for crowdsourcing multilingual solutions inside companies and industries should proliferate.
Btw., an interesting point was made by another person responsible for training in a large global organization. He remarked that using social media in training allows them to evaluate the results better: they can tap into the conversations of the community and trough them see what people have learned and where they need to improve the training. Great idea!