What Languages Are Your Customers Speaking?

In many countries around the world, multilingualism is a part of everyday life. In fact, more than half of the people around the globe speak two languages. Thomas Bak, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh, points to one example among many: “Consider in Belgium: you take a train in Liège, the announcements are in French first. Then, pass through Loewen, where the announcements will be in Dutch first, and then in Brussels, it reverts back to French first.” In cities like these, language diversity adds richness to the culture and is a resource to be cultivated. On top of these benefits of multilingualism, people who speak multiple languages also reap many mental health rewards.

As monolingual speakers become the minority and powerful languages, such as Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic take on economic capital, multilingualism within your workforce is becoming a necessity, rather than an option. Do you know what languages your prospective customers are speaking? Here, we’ve highlighted four of the world’s most multilingual cities.

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Which Cities Benefit from Multilingualism?

Manchester, United Kingdom

A recent study by the University of Manchester found that close to 50% of the adult population in Manchester speaks more than one language. After English, the most common languages spoken include Urdu, Arabic, Chinese, Bengali, Polish, Punjabi, and Somali. Each of these languages is highly desirable in the Manchester job market, giving multilingual speakers an edge over the competition.

Dublin, Ireland

Ireland has two official languages, Irish Gaelic and English, and for many years these languages dominated the linguistic landscape. However, according to a 2011 survey, 11% of Dublin’s residents reported speaking languages other than Irish or English at home. Due to the changing demographics of Ireland, the 2011 census began asking what other languages were spoken. French, German and Spanish topped the list, but a total of 182 distinct languages were reported to be spoken in Dublin. If you are considering expanding your operations in Ireland to Dublin, it will be beneficial to have a workforce equipped to tackle the changing linguistic landscape of the city. In addition to skills in English and Irish Gaelic, employees in Dublin will benefit from a familiarity with French, German and Spanish.

Montreal, Canada

Canada has one of the highest per capita immigration rates in the world, which continues to change the linguistic makeup of large cities like Montreal. Although officially a bilingual city, after the mother tongues, English and French, it is Spanish that is most commonly spoken. If you are hoping to expand into Montreal you must ensure that your workforce is capable of reading as well as speaking the necessary languages. Due to strict signage laws in Quebec, everything must be posted or advertised in both French and English, and the French words must be well-lit at night.

Los Angeles, United States

Also due to immigration, L.A. is the most linguistically diverse city in America. Spanish-speakers make up the majority of the non-English speaking population. Chinese, Korean and Tagalog speakers are also well-represented in the Greater Los Angeles area. While the beaches and warm weather may draw a company to set up an office in L.A., it is imperative that the workforce has the skills to conduct business in both English and Spanish, and knowledge of other common languages in the city would be beneficial as well.

Big metropolitan cities like Milan, Tokyo, and Paris are often thought to be synonymous with language diversity. However, in today’s modern world multilingual cities are everywhere, and there are many benefits to multilingualism on your team when conducting business in these cities.

Even Google is taking stock of popular languages spoken, having released Google Trends data with the most popular languages in search in some of the world’s biggest cities. These cities are hubs for business activity of all kinds and language diversity is only expected to grow. This connection means that your employees must be able to effectively communicate at a high-level with customers in a variety of languages. Speexx can help you cultivate language skills in your workforce to open doors in new cities around the globe.

Learn more about how multilingualism helps break down barriers in the workplace.

Help your team build proficiency in target languages with Speexx’s blended learning solutions.

Photo: Amir Saboury

About the Author:

Marije Nieuwenhuis is Senior PR Manager at Speexx. She holds an MA in Business Communications from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands and has lived and worked abroad for more than a decade working within international teams. Marije has worked in the fields of international PR, promotional marketing, B2B promotions and events, and project management.