Why do multilingual employees give companies a competitive edge? (a summary of recent studies)

In a global survey by the Economist on how cultural and communication barriers affect business, two-thirds of 572 international company executives said that multicultural teams increase their organisation’s innovation. Why is this? In this blog post, we give a brief summary of some of the latest research into the benefits of multilingualism.

There have been many studies recently that focus on how speaking more than one language affects our brain and our thought processes.  The results of this research have indicated that multilingual speakers are generally better than monolingual speakers when evaluated for the following skills, among others.


A National Institute of Health study found that bilingual speakers are good at multitasking and find it easier to switch between tasks than people who speak only one language.

Communication and listening

A Northwestern University study found that bilingual people are better at integrating their audio and visual senses than monolingual speakers and that this helps them make sense of speech. The study observed that bilingual speakers could distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information and process information more quickly.

Rational decision-making

It is thought that our native language has a stronger emotional effect on us than a second language.  A University of Chicago study found that people were more analytical and less emotional when making decisions in a foreign language; they applied more logical reasoning when they used their non-native language in a decision-making scenario than when they used their first language.

The ability to think differently

Linguistic determinism is a field of study that investigates how the structure of the language we speak influences the way we see the world. The following TED talk on how language shapes the way we think explains how much our language determines our perspective.


The more languages we speak, the more perspectives are open to us. It also helps with cross cultural communication, making it easier to understand another person’s point of view. Studies of multi-language work groups show that mixed-language teams have a propensity to find innovative solutions for practical problems.

The ability to think abstractly

Neurolinguistic studies indicate that the part of the brain that is involved in the processing of language, forming concepts and thinking abstractly is denser in bilinguals than it is in monolinguals, and that it continues to become denser as the speaker’s language proficiency increases.

Other business benefits of multilingualism

In addition to the skills mentioned above, bilingual or multilingual staff can make use of their other language(s) to help adapt and localise their company’s products or services for global business. For example, they can respond to geotargeted social media posts (which can be six times more successful than regular posts) or proofread translations of the company website to ensure that the content is appropriately adapted for other languages and cultures.


The studies mentioned above show that investing in the recruitment and language training of multilingual staff has tangible benefits for any company or organisation, especially those who want to compete in a global market.  Many studies have found that, although language is easier to acquire as a child, the same benefits can be gained by those who learn another language later in life. An employee who can communicate effectively in another language not only makes it easier to deal with customers and colleagues from other countries, but also offers the company the opportunity to create multilingual teams with a high ability to multitask, make rational decisions and innovate.

Contact us to find out how we can provide online English and Spanish language training to help your organisation increase its competitive edge.

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