Communicating across borders
Scientific support for GlobalDenmark’s approach to communication and language
By Ann Britt Donovan, consultant at GlobalDenmark
We work with professionals from many different countries who speak many different languages. Obviously, we don’t speak all the languages of the world, so our lingua franca is English.
For some of us at GlobalDenmark, English is our primary language, whereas for others English is a second – or maybe even a third – language. This is especially the case for many of the researchers and business professionals we have had the pleasure of advising on communication strategies over the past many years.
In our collaboration with this multicultural group, we have often seen evidence of how addressing an issue in your non-native tongue enables you to see that issue from a new angle and may ultimately lead to new insights. We have seen how discussing a sensitive topic in a language that is not your primary language may in fact allow you to access an awareness and emotions that were otherwise hidden to you in your ’own’ language.
Research in how language affects the way we think and behave has shown that organisations actually stand to gain from employing multicultural teams (see article); the individual team members represent different languages and cultures, and their brains see problems and solutions in different ways. Moreover, several studies have shown that individuals are inclined to make more rational decisions when they think in a non-primary language, because speaking an additional language provides greater cognitive and emotional understanding than just the native tongue.
We believe this to be very true because we see it every day. How about you?