Lately I have reflected quite a lot about how we look upon persons depending on their origin and adoption to the culture where they live. My wife is from Panama, as I wrote in my last post, I am Swedish, my brother lives in Los Angeles and I am currently in Hong Kong. Can it be more International?
Here the official languages are English and Cantonese, but far from everyone masters both languages and in Sweden almost everyone speaks fairly well English even if Swedish is the official language.
Take a moment and think of when you were in a place that the person you interacted with didn’t speak the same language as you, it could have been on a conference abroad, holiday vacation or maybe in some place in your home city. Think about how you felt about the other person and how he or she might have reflected upon who you are. Do you think the first impression was the same as it would have been if you spoke the same language and shared the same culture?
Look at these maps of how people from different countries look upon the Europeans depending on which country they come from. People have predetermined views on people from other cultures, and the language barrier just adds to that fact.
I am sure that you can find quite a few situations where you could have had use of another language in your professional as well as personal life. If not, employers will acknowledge the value of your second or third language and also your experience and understanding of different cultures.
I speak and write Swedish, English and Spanish fluently and my German is good enough to understand basic conversations. Without the different languages, I wouldn’t be writing for this blog, I wouldn’t have my extensive understanding for the Latin American cultures and most importantly, I wouldn’t have met the friend of mine that introduced me to my wife.
Please let me know in the comments how speaking a second or a their language has helped your brand or when it didn’t because you didn’t speak the language.