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Foreign languages in the workplace

Hi all Can anyone point me in the right direction to some clear guidance on employees whose first language is not English, speaking in their native language in the workplace? To an extent I understand that it may depend on the job and environment etc but was hoping that there might be at least a steer on this. The intention is not to discourage it btw, we want to encourage a diverse and multicultural workforce, but it needs addressing as there is a lot of misunderstanding around what is acceptable and what us not. Thanks
  • I've worked in two very multicultural environments - to the extent that English mother tongue speakers were a minority. In both, the rule was English to be spoken during work time, but speak what you like during your breaks.
  • Hey. From the experience of managing a team, where for many people their native language is not English, I can say the following. You need to establish the rule that you can speak only one English during the work process. No matter how tolerant you are towards employees, but misunderstanding in speech is a sharp deterioration in the labor rate. If one of the employees doesn`t know English well, they should learn it using the dictionary
    or use the program for speech translation
  • In reply to Rose:

    Hi Cass

    Example of an employment solicitor approach
  • In among all the varying opinions on this subject (including legal summaries such as that identified by David, above) I think the important issues fall under three headings.

    First: Is NOT speaking English creating a hazard or harming the efficiency of the business?(e.g. with regard to Health and safety or communication with customers?) If not, then why must English (alone) be spoken?

    Second: is not speaking English itself creating a detriment for some workers or groups of workers? e.g. by excluding people from conversations either deliberately or unintentionally? Again, if not, or the alternative language is being used to in fact include some workers, then again, why prevent it being spoken?

    Third: is an alternate language being used for illegal or unethical reasons? (e.g. to circumvent procedures, arrange unlawful conduct or transactions, or to foment indiscipline by ridiculing managers or abusing colleagues.

    On the basis of these three headings it is hard to see why preventing other languages being spoken "at all" might be hard to justify on other than practical or safety grounds, but clearly issues such as the exclusion of others by their use, or the facilitation of misconduct, need constant review by line managers, in the same was as (and for the same reasons that) any other exclusive or unacceptable conduct should be prevented.

    It might also be remembered that the flexibility and expressive range of English itself is due to its formation from a multiplicity of different languages, (introduced following invasions by other races or adopted from those we've invaded) If it were not so we would all be speaking Gaelic! :-)