Multilinguals at Work: Improving employment prospects of non-native language users

The ability to communicate efficiently with other people is considered as a key professional skill when a candidate is interviewed for a job. Communication skills are also essential to create a positive environment and productive tasksolving via collaborative teamwork. Often, all professional technology knowledge and skills would be ignored if a person in front of an interviewer could not demonstrate proficiency in the organization’s “working” language.

Therefore, individuals with limited (that is mismatched) linguistic repertoires are disadvantaged in the labour market, even though they may have the necessary skills to do the same job in another linguistic context. This issue leads to a situation where people with international background are unable to use their skills, and are forced to work in jobs that offer little networking possibilities for career advancement or upward social mobility. This phenomenon is also known as “brain waste”. Due to intensive migration around the world, it is not sustainable anymore to divide languages into dominant and minority. We must broaden the view. Therefore, there is a need to develop a new methodology that would let people employ their full linguistic repertoire in multicultural encounters. This methodology would increase the quality of intercultural interactions and facilitate integration of international talents.

Objectives: What do you want to achieve by implementing the project?

The Lang@Work project develops inclusive working practices for international educators and professional training. We aim at developing methodology and tools for facilitating the entry of linguistically vulnerable young people from international backgrounds into the labour market, and through this, their integration with the society. We also target those who decide whom to hire, since a lack of courage to hire applicants that do not fit in the ‘normal’ applicant profile overlaps with a lack of skills to address their specific needs. Translanguaging is a practical tool that allows all participants of the education process to use several languages in communication. Translanguaging ensures that learning and teaching is enriched via more active interaction and better understanding of any topic, whether it be language, math or brainstorming at work. Using multilingual practices, translanguaging promotes diversity and inclusion, and manifests social justice.

Implementation: What activities are you going to implement?
Lang@Work will prepare practical open-access materials that give diverse actors tools and methods to implement translanguaging in working life. These materials will be prepared through a 3-step process. Dissemination activities, such as workshops and webinars will popularize our results.

Step 1: Discovery and Exchange of practices Objective: Collecting insights from stakeholders, such as unemployed/underemployed educators, the administrative personnel and management (aka decision makers) and migrant integration counsellors. Understanding the nature and dynamic of linguistic insecurity in a multilingual workplace. The project’s starts by exploring various actors’ insecurities associated with communication in a multilingual workplace.
Step 2: Training Objective: Developing skills to deal with linguistic insecurity in work-related context In this phase, carefully selected project experts prepare customised training activities for local international talents and decision makers. During workshops, the participants engage in artistic activities, a method well-known for its therapeutic properties. The purpose of workshops is to equip participants with necessary tools for finding a common language in the future. The workshops concentrate on coming to terms with and ameliorating insecurities revealed in phase 1. Example workshop themes include, but are not limited to, linguistic resilience training and anti-discrimination training.
Step 3: Work Objectives: test our approach and methodology in real-life workplace conditions and during practical workshops with mixed mono- and multilingual participants, face challenges, discover potential of international talents and apply it in practice. During Step 3, practical workshops with a mixed group of participants are organised locally to test the skills and methods practised in Step 2. All participants will document their through learning diaries. Participants will be asked to share their experiences in a web blog to help create a comprehensive set of practices that support communication in a multilingual workplace.

Results: What project results and other outcomes do you expect your project to have?
The Lang@Work project will adapt the method of pedagogical translanguaging to working life contexts. Focusing on education as a workplace, the project helps re-frame the position of an educator as a learner. By shifting the narrative about what it means to be “fluent”, the project seeks to challenge the culture of ‘natispeakerism’, which strictly regulates who can pass as “one of us”. By doing so, the project contributes to building a more inclusive education system. The project thus brings the principles of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DEI) to the education sector. The partners agreed to produce the following material results: Working Research Paper, e-Toolkit for Career Guidance for International Talents, e-Handbook, Learning Diary Blog, e-Course popularizing translanguaging and multilingualism (accessible for non-expert audiences, including youth). These results are complementary but each is tailored to the needs of a specific target group. Therefore, our results offer a comprehensive approach to understanding multilingualism and supporting communication across mismatched language skills.