Multilingualism and Cultural Fluency in the Professional World

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The study of multilingualism is a relatively young science. At the same time, the number of multilingual individuals worldwide is increasing , and the view of multilingualism is changing rapidly in the professional world. 

In this book, Multilingualism and Cultural Fluency in the Professional World, we wish to examine the realities, opportunities, and challenges of being multilingual and culturally fluent in today’s and tomorrow’s professional world. This book, therefore, tries to answer two main questions: why are multilingualism and cultural fluency relevant in the professional world, and how can we effectively prepare future professionals best to be multilingual and culturally fluent? 

The world economy is indeed more global and multicultural than ever before. In the global world, advanced personal and professional skills are needed, including communicating efficiently in different languages and across different cultures. In this context, multilinguals are not only sought after in niche professions such as diplomacy or translation services: nowadays, more traditional fields, organizations, and firms have a global reach, and multilinguals can bring a different view or perspective on a particular issue. They can help think “outside of the box” and offer creative solutions that can be decisive during the decision-making and problem-solving process. 

In the last twenty years, the advantages of being multilingual have become increasingly apparent. The book aims to show that multilinguals can more efficiently help navigate language and cultural barriers and differences in various industries and company cultures. This is an asset in a world where cultural differences can tremendously affect organizations and teams. This need is reinforced by the fact that global teams are less bound by location since the covid crisis facilitated remote work. 

In the meantime, multilingual education exists everywhere in the world. Canada’s immersion programs in North America started as early as the 1960s. From there, multilingual education spread to the United States and is now considered a very efficient education model. Multiple stakeholders are now involved in multilingual education, from groups protecting minority languages to states aiming for internationalization or unity. More and more, however, programs seem to revolve around a rationale including global and local benefits for individuals, shifting the target of multilingual programs from minority to majority groups. At the same time, the politics of multilingualism, the debate around teaching methods, or the shortage of highly qualified teachers can be ongoing issues in implementing and managing multilingual programs. 

In the first book section, we will offer a diverse perspective on multilingualism and multiculturalism and answer the following questions: Do multilinguals with two or more majority languages have a competitive advantage in global economies? Is there a link between multilingualism and economic growth? Is mastering a heritage language beneficial or a hindrance in the professional world? Is multilingualism valuable for employment? Is cultural fluency a must-have along with multilingualism in the global workplace? Are multiculturalism and multilingualism the same? What is the relation between multilingualism and cross-cultural abilities or cultural fluency?

In the second section, we aim to discuss the conditions upon which educational systems or academic programs can prepare students for a global workplace. Guiding questions could include: How can we effectively train future workers to become multilinguals? Must any public and private education alike be multilingual to be future-ready? What forces can support or hinder the development of a multilingual education program? What kinds of teachers’ backgrounds, perceptions, or instructional practices support multilingual programs? What student outcomes promote democracy and human rights, and what types and proficiency levels allow individuals to take advantage of global opportunities? Are the skills and competencies needed for these outcomes different? What context and constraints exist in the policy and practice of multilingual education? At a different level, the book could discuss the different types of international organizations and see current recruitment conditions or language policies within these organizations or companies. More generally, it will be possible to determine which languages ​​are most in demand and why? Finally, the book could look at further education institutions and examine their conceptualization of multilingualism.

The authors will offer various insights into different multilingualism and multiculturalism practice models. Chapters will cover different world areas, disciplinary approaches, and languages​. This book will also provide insights into developing multilingual and multicultural teams as a strategy for a diversity of thoughts and means to achieve more significant results. Through selected cases, this book will also highlight the commitment of various education systems to multiple forms of multilingual and language education to ensure that the next generation is prepared to thrive in our global reality. Finally, the book will propose solutions to advance students’ language and cultural competencies, preparing them to be future productive bilingual and multicultural citizens.