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Home / Resources / Mother tongue increases employee training effectiveness

Mother tongue increases employee training effectiveness


A multilingual staff can make the difference in today’s competitive market of global business.

Companies are increasingly willing to expand abroad and hiring employees from different parts of the world and with different cultural background, is the starting point to support this growth. While the benefits of an international workforce have already been recognised, managements often fail to provide this multilingual and multicultural staff with a proper employee training scheme in their mother tongue.

Training is proven to enhance employees engagement and retention, with lack of training being one of the top three reasons for employees leaving their jobs – as this survey found. Professional development is a crucial factor in any role, especially according to millennials – 87 % of respondents to this report from Gallup agreed. Employers today are taking training more seriously than ever, and the trend is positively growing.

English is often the language of choice when developing training courses for a globalised workforce, based on the assumption that English is recognised as the lingua franca for multinational contexts. This assumption, however, not only oversees the fact that multinational companies (MNCs) often employ workers whose mother tongue is not English or that do not speak English at all, but also forgets that different regions of the world can present different lingua francas such as Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. Overseeing the language issue by developing training content in English presents many threats to the effectiveness of your employee training.

1. Excluding non-English workers

When you deploy a training in English, you are automatically cutting out all non-English speaking workers. Employees might be demotivated and, even worse, they might feel afraid to point out their poor understanding of the training, leaving managers to incorrectly believe that the training was successful. Moreover, as this article outlines, training often covers complex instructions or industry-specific terms that are not used in everyday conversation; they are often difficult to understand even for people that do speak English.

2. Putting safety at risk

It is evident that understanding safety training is crucial and that misinterpretation can lead to lower productivity, lost revenue and more seriously, injury and loss of life, especially for workers in high-risk sectors such as manufacturing and construction. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that language barriers are a contributing factor in 25 percent of job-related accidents.

3. Missed opportunity for a better learning

While poor English skills can impede training effectiveness, the flip side is also true—using your employees’ native languages for communication and training can increase productivity. More than 80% of respondents in the aforementioned survey agree that workers are more productive when their manager communicates with them in their native language. Workers are more motivated when they can use their mother tongue for communication or training, even if they do speak English. Furthermore, research found that people learn faster when training is imparted in their native language – and this can mean increased training effectiveness. First-language training gives employees a better understanding of the subject matter, makes them retain information more efficiently and is even important to ultimate success in the second language.

Providing training in the mother tongue of your employees can also help make them feel more included and motivated and can help build a culturally inclusive work environment. Not only training, but every material should be available in a language that your employees understand – documents, announcements, memos. The more you engage your workforce, the more productive it will be. So, if you are planning to expand your business globally, make sure to fulfil the needs of a global workforce by providing translated eLearning courses and materials. 

Sponge is able to create multilingual training modules for your employee training. Discover more here.