Should business be English-only?

business english, renault, harvard business reviewThe Harvard Business Review recently reported that multinational corporations are encouraging—or mandating—their employees to speak English. Samsung, Airbus, Microsoft in Beijing and many others now enforce English as the language of their business. Even corporations that are based in foreign countries, like Renault in France and Rakuten in Japan, are mandating English communication for their employees. Back in 2010, Rakuten (Japan’s largest online retailer) became an English-only company, encouraging their employees to conduct all business in English: e-mails, memos, and verbal communication.

In 1997, the International Civil Aviation Organization (which regulates all international air travel) reaffirmed the importance of English as the in-air language of communication. To reduce communication problems, all pilots who fly internationally must speak English. So when a plane is flying from Paris to Madrid, the pilots must speak English. In the air, communication is a matter of safety, and in offices, it’s a matter of efficiency.

However in other realms, the standard language of communication has shifted away from English. As we discussed last year, the official language of space is now Russian. (Find out more here.)

This all begs the question: if people communicate better in their native tongue, are you doing them a disservice by forcing them to use English? Will employees be less creative or innovative if they cannot talk or write in their native language?

Do you think that businesses should be English-only?

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