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

Effective communication skills are highly valued in the professional world and are often considered a key requirement during job interviews. The ability to communicate efficiently not only facilitates positive work environments but also promotes collaborative teamwork and effective problem-solving. In many cases, even if a candidate possesses excellent technical skills and knowledge, their proficiency in the organization’s working language becomes the determining factor for their employment prospects.

This emphasis on language proficiency puts individuals with limited linguistic repertoires at a disadvantage in the labor market. Despite having the necessary skills to perform a job in a different linguistic context, these individuals face challenges due to their language limitations. Consequently, they are often forced to settle for jobs that offer limited networking opportunities for career advancement and social mobility. This situation is commonly referred to as “brain waste.” With global migration becoming increasingly prevalent, the traditional division of languages into dominant and minority is no longer sustainable. A broader perspective is needed to address this issue. It is essential to develop a new methodology that allows individuals to employ their full linguistic repertoire in multicultural encounters, enhancing the quality of intercultural interactions and facilitating the integration of international talents.

The Lang@Work project aims to develop inclusive working practices for international educators and provide professional training. The project focuses on creating a methodology and tools to facilitate the entry of linguistically vulnerable young people from international backgrounds into the labor market, promoting their integration into society. Additionally, Lang@Work aims to target decision-makers responsible for hiring, as their hesitation to hire applicants who do not fit the “normal” applicant profile often correlates with a lack of skills to address specific needs. To achieve these objectives, the project utilizes translanguaging, a practical tool that allows all participants in the education process to use multiple languages for communication. Translanguaging enriches learning and teaching through active interaction and a better understanding of various topics, such as language, math, or brainstorming at work. By promoting diversity, inclusion, and social justice, translanguaging practices facilitate improved communication in multicultural workplaces.

The implementation of the Lang@Work project involves several key activities. Firstly, the project engages stakeholders, including unemployed or underemployed educators, administrative personnel, management, and migrant integration counselors, to collect insights and understand the nature of linguistic insecurity in multilingual workplaces. This discovery and exchange of practices form the foundation for addressing communication challenges. In the training phase, project experts design customized training activities for local international talents and decision-makers. These workshops utilize artistic activities known for their therapeutic properties to equip participants with the necessary tools to find common ground in communication. The workshops focus on addressing and overcoming insecurities revealed during the initial phase, covering topics such as linguistic resilience training and anti-discrimination training.

The final step involves testing the project’s approach and methodology in real-life workplace conditions through practical workshops with participants representing both mono- and multilingual backgrounds. These workshops aim to identify challenges, uncover the potential of international talents, and apply the acquired skills in practice. All participants document their experiences through learning diaries and share their insights in a web blog, contributing to the creation of a comprehensive set of practices that support communication in multilingual workplaces.

The Lang@Work project is expected to yield significant results and outcomes. By adapting the method of pedagogical translanguaging to working life contexts, the project aims to reshape the role of educators as learners, challenging the notion of fluency and addressing the culture of ‘natispeakerism.’ This shift towards inclusivity contributes to building a more inclusive education system, aligning with the principles of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DEI). The project produces various material results, including a Working Research Paper, e-Toolkit for Career Guidance for International Talents, e-Handbook, Learning Diary Blog, and an e-Course that popularizes translanguaging and multilingualism accessible to non-expert audiences, including youth. These results cater to the specific needs of target groups and provide a comprehensive approach to understanding multilingualism and supporting communication across mismatched language skills. Through the Lang@Work project, strides are being made towards promoting language inclusivity and creating a more harmonious and effective multicultural working environment.