04 Jan 5 Successful Entrepreneurs Fluent in Foreign Languages
The rapid globalization today has led businesses to operate in multi-cultural and multi-lingual environments. Cheryl Conner, author of ‘How Learning an Additional Language Could Influence Your Business’ (Forbes.com, 2014), says that it is imperative for international businesses to be able to communicate with foreign clients and partners effectively in order to be successful.
Furthermore, superpower nations such as the United States have varied benefits and high profits to gain from foreign consumers through fruitful communication as the nation comprises of less than 5% of the world’s population. Beat Sommer (Why Multilingual Education is a Must in the UAE, GulfBusiness, 2015) states that in the UAE, a country that is host to more than 200 nationalities, fluency in English as well as Arabic is high in demand among employers, therefore emphasizing the need for multilingual enterprises in the region.
People learn best from examples and we’ve got 5 successful bilingual as well as multilingual entrepreneurs that are more than worthy of recognition:
- Mark Zuckerberg – Co-founder of Facebook
Co-founder of Facebook, the biggest social media site across the globe, Mark Zuckerberg is fluent in Mandarin as well as English (his native tongue). A Q&A session at the Tsinghua University of Beijing in 2014 saw Zuckerberg conducting the entire session in Mandarin, a feat that was speculated to impress his Chinese in-laws as well as the entire population of China in hopes of lifting the ban off Facebook from the region.
Mandarin is not only the native language to almost 1.2 billion people but also the most spoken Chinese language in the world (hence making it the most spoken language internationally). Learning Mandarin will not just provide benefits for business in today’s market but also for the coming years due to the accelerated growth of Chinese businesses around the world.
(Aurora Smith, Benefits of Being a Multinational CEO, 2015)
- Paul Bulcke – CEO of Nestle
As the CEO of Nestle, a firm that runs sales in 189 countries, it is only appropriate for Bulcke to be fluent in many languages in order to communicate with the diverse client-base of the firm. Bulcke, a master of Dutch, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese and, of course, English, commented; “Being multilingual creates a stronger connection with peers, employees and consumers, which is critical for a business like ours.”
(Ofer Shoshan, Entrepreneur.com, 2015)
- Madeline Johnson – CEO of Market Council
Madeline Johnson is a marketing expert for businesses in the health, well-being and lifestyle industry, and proficient in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian (in addition to English, her mother tongue). In her opinion, one shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes when learning a language and instead look at them as opportunities to improve and perfect their language skills.
Madeline also believes that knowing more than one language provides an exceptional advantage of being able to engage in a profitable relationship with multilingual businesses in their operational approach.
(CEO World, 2015)
- Leo Apotheker – Former CEO of SAP Hewlett Packard (HP)
A proficiency in 5 languages (Hebrew, Dutch, English, French and German) is reported to have been the reason Leo Apotheker was chosen to run HP as the multinational nature of the company required a global minded leader to run its operations worldwide.
Currently, he is on the board of supervisors of Schneider Electric SA, Steria, and the not-for-profit organization PlaNet Finance.
- Tiffany Richards – Owner and Founder of Peaceful Warrior Martial Arts & Healing Center
Though many might consider her choice of a second language unusual, Tiffany Richards strongly recommends and supports learning the American Sign Language. Today, ASL is the 4th most popular language in the United States and the most used sign language across the globe.
Tiffany states that her fluency in ASL has led her to expand her client market while positively affecting her business as she is able to compassionately communicate with customers that are hearing impaired.
(Lee Bob Black, Bridging the Communication Gap: Entrepreneurs Talk the Talk, 2014)
There are many more entrepreneurs that have experienced the advantages that come with learning a second language. For example; Richard Wagoner, the President and CEO of General Motors, learnt the Brazilian Portuguese language while working in Brazil on a project, which helped him build relationships with the local business community. (Forbes.com, 2014)
Entrepreneurs and businesses welcoming the change of a multilingual and diverse cultural environment have an opportunity to earn benefits that will not only offer them a competitive advantage in the industry but also build a strong relationship with their customers.
Start your entrepreneurship journey to the path of success and learn a new language today!