New technology links the world as never before. Our planet has shrunk. It’s now a “global village” where countries are only seconds away by fax or phone or satellite links. And, of course, our ability to benefit from this high-tech communications equipment is greatly enhanced by foreign language skills.
Deeply involved with this new technology is a breed of modern business people who have a growing respect for the economic value of doing business abroad. In modern markets, success overseas often helps support domestic business efforts.
Overseas assignments are becoming increasingly important to advancement within executive ranks. The executive stationed in another country no longer need fear being “out of sight and out of mind.” He or she can be sure that the overseas effort is central to the company’s plan for success, and that promotions often follow or accompany an assignment abroad. If an employee can succeed in a difficult assignment overseas, superior will have greater confidence in his or her ability to cope back in the United States where cross-cultural considerations and foreign language issues are becoming more and more prevalent.
Thanks to a variety of relatively inexpensive communications devices with business applications, even small businesses in the United States are able to get into international markets.
English is still the international language of business. But there is an ever-growing need for people who can speak another language. A second language isn’t generally required to get a job in business, but having language skills gives a candidate the edge when other qualifications appear to be equal.
The employee posted abroad who speaks the country’s principal language has an opportunity to fast-forward certain negotiations, and can have the cultural insight to know when it is better to move more slowly. The employee at the home office who can communicate well with foreign clients over the telephone or by fax machine is an obvious asset to the firm.