Are you Business Bilingual?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Zion Realty

My grandparents migrated here from Mexico nearly 100 years ago. They did not speak a word of English when they arrived here. When they had children they insisted that they integrate in to the American schools and adopt English as their primary language. Spanish was spoken in the home but my mother, aunts, and uncles learned to use both languages depending upon the circumstance and surroundings. Over time, however, the ability to speak, read, and write in Spanish slowly dissipated from the family and now three generations later no one is fluent. 

It's difficult to speak multiple languages. Not everyone is born with the ability and gift to communicate in different dialects. It's estimated that only 21% of Americans speak a second language other than English. Multilingual individuals show much more brain activity in the right hemisphere of the brain. Science shows us that right-brain thinkers are generally more intuitive, thoughtful, and creative. 

Being bilingual comes with many positive neurobiological effects for those who speak multiple languages from an early age. Increased ability to concentrate, protection from early onset dementia, better organization of speech and communication tasks, and an increase in ability to heal from traumatic brain injuries are all benefits that can be found in those individuals who have the ability to speak more than one language. 

Scientists have also proven that those who speak multiple languages can take on a different personality depending upon the dialect they are speaking at the time. An individual who can come across as patient, understanding, and thoughtful when speaking one language can also display a harsh, stern, or agitated personality when using a different vernacular. 

So how does all this talk of being multilingual have anything to do with how we conduct business? It's very simple. If you're an entrepreneur or small business owner you are already bilingual you just may not know it. Every one of our customers speaks a different language. How successful we are at communicating to those clients will determine the future of the generations coming up behind us. 


Are you a right-brain or left-brain business owner?











Do you spend the majority of your time crunching numbers, creating proposals, and building spreadsheets? Is your joy instead found in shaking hands, greeting people, communicating to your audience, and being personable? Just like monolinguals, not everyone is cut out to speak more than one language. Some small business owners know how to play to their strengths and then surround themselves with other team members who can pick up the slack in areas they are lacking. Consider yourself ahead of the pack if you happen to be one of the few individuals who can handle being fluent in multiple facets of your business.


Are you a Bipolar Bilingual?









If you do have the ability to drive, create, and organize your business while at the same time being out on the front lines handling your clients and customers then how consistent is your personality? Would your consumers and employees describe the same person when asked about you? Do you have a tendency to display a fun-loving and caring personality when the spotlight is on but if the curtain got pulled back you'd be revealed as a hard-nosed and demanding boss? Being business bilingual means we have to communicate in the same manner to everyone who crosses our path. It does us no good to exhibit positive affirmations and excellent service to our clients if we are despised by the employees we rely upon to help us with our success and vice versa. 


Do you know the language of your customers?







Have you ever been around two people trying to talk to one another who don't speak the same language? They try their best to communicate to each other but usually they just end up talking slower and louder thinking somehow this will help bridge the divide. Eventually the conversation breaks down in to a small game of charades as they point and act out what it is they're trying to say. This is certainly not the most effective way to interact. Do you know how to communicate to your clients? Do you know their language? What form of communication do they prefer? Are they young and tech savvy who would rather you text them instead of call them? Is your customer base older and even an email or a fax is beyond their comprehension? You have to speak the language of your clientele and identify gaps in communication so that you can be effective in getting your message across to them. 


How proficient is your native dialect?


The overwhelming majority of Americans were born in to English speaking households but depending upon each individuals education and upbringing those linguistic skills can vary. As business owners we too have a language we were born to speak depending upon our chosen profession, personalities and characteristics. However, do you even speak your primary language well? It doesn't do us any good to be bilingual if we're not effective in either given speech. If you're not an individual that can be multilingual then be outstanding in your primary dialect. Were you born to be a bean counter instead of a customer service representative? Then be the best bean counter you can be. Pick your main language and then excel. 


Does your business have too thick of an accent?











English can be spoken by two different people in two different parts of the Country and sound incredibly different. New Yorkers, Texans, and residents of Minnesota can say the same word and have the pronunciation vary greatly. Sometimes to the point of being almost unrecognizable if you aren't from that area. So, what accent does your business have? If you're a mortgage lender, real estate agent, or sandwich shop owner, is your language difficult to decipher by those who aren't directly from around your area? How well do you enunciate who you are and what it is you do so that individuals from all around can understand clearly what you're saying?


Being multilingual when it comes to business gives you the upper hand in countless ways. Immersing ourselves in different cultures can enrich our own business lives and help us achieve success in ways we never thought possible. Being bilingual when it comes to our careers can put us on a larger and more firm foundation, and ensure our message spans generations and borders. We should all strive to speak more than just one language. 


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Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Nicole, great post, and I enjoy computer work, but nothing like the face to face interaction with clients.   I often wish I spoke a second language.

Sep 17, 2015 04:00 AM #38
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

Interesting and thought-provoking post.  I love language (but only speak English.)  My French is just for traveling and my first language (Polish) has long been lost.  It's something I've always wanted to be able to do - especially in light of the statistic that people can have multiple personalities depending on what languague they are using!

Sep 17, 2015 08:07 AM #39
David Shamansky
US Mortgages - David Shamansky - Highlands Ranch, CO
Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg

I would say I am business bilingual but there could be a case for the other too after all these years lol

Sep 17, 2015 08:09 AM #40
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Debb - Hey, body language other forms of non-verbal communication are key to understanding eachother as well. 

Shirley - Speaking multiple languages no matter which ones is proven to enrich not only our minds but our overall lives as well.

Ernest - Americans should strive to speak more than just one language. I've never understood why the vast majority of U.S. citizens don't embrace other cultures since we're all products of ancestors who migrated here. 

Joan - I don't mind computer work at times but it's not my favorite part of business. I like being out and about meeting and dealing with clients the most.

Margaret - I think it would be very interesting to see what personality traits came out of me if I spoke a dual language!

Sep 17, 2015 08:14 AM #41
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

David - I'm business bilingual because I have to be right now but I'll admit there are certain aspects I'd rather not deal with. 

Sep 17, 2015 08:16 AM #42
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Nicole - It certainly does give you an upper hand.  I think learning a second lanuguage also helps you understand your native language.  It did for me.

Sep 17, 2015 10:50 AM #43
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

What an interesting post.  We all speak and perceive things differently.  Communication is key.

Sep 17, 2015 02:00 PM #44
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Grant - There are a lot of advantages in business when you are bilingual!

Joan - Learning the language of your business is paramount to communicating to your clients and customers. 

Sep 18, 2015 12:24 AM #45
Frank Rubi
Frank Rubi Real Estate, LLC - Metairie, LA

For years I did not use my Spanish, with this being said I am first generation born in the USA. Recently, I start to post my blog in Spanish and just that quick my phone began to ring with Spanish buying clients. The clients are buying and have closed new construction and existing property. I say even if your Spanish is broken, as in my case use it. It will serve a need. 

Sep 18, 2015 12:36 AM #46
Rebecca Foresee
Alain Pinel Realtors - Morgan Hill, CA
Let's foresee the possibilities . and get results!

Wonderful post and you hit many important points! My goal last year was to get my Broker license (done) so this year I set my sights on learning Spanish. I'm on my way shortly to the third lesson.  Next year is also going to be a busy year of balancing work and learning new skills.  Never stop learning.

Sep 19, 2015 01:29 AM #47
Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate
John L Scott Market Center - Birkenfeld, OR
"Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905

Nicole, seriously, this wasn't featured??? I am shocked. Well, just know that I found this to be one of those articles that needs to be in a national real estate magazine. Period.

On another note: what I have always discovered in my varying careers from acting to the medical field, to real estate (and SOOO much more!) is that many who are very familiar in their fields will speak in acronyms...and to the un-savvy newbie, an acronym may spell out a foreign language and leave someone totally scratching their heads. 

An example: docs and discharge planners from hospitals do this all of the time. When I was new, I had a discharge planner from the hospital telling me about a patient that we would be admitting into our facility and she said he was S.O.B. I assumed that he was going to be a difficult personality (as in son-of-a...) when actually his primary diagnosis was "Short of Breath", SOB!!! Who knew?? 

Sep 19, 2015 05:53 AM #48
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Hey, Nicole!

I included this post in today's "Last Week's Favorites".  Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Sep 19, 2015 11:36 PM #49
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

I speak spanish, but honestly not regularly anymore, even though it was one of my majors and I studied in Madrid...

Sep 19, 2015 11:59 PM #50
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Frank - I have been advertising for a spanish speaking agent for a few months. I think it would make a great impact on my brokerage!

Rebecca - I know you'll accomplish your goals! Keep on working!

Gayle - Every industry does have their own language and we have to be careful who we are communicating with because we can greatly confuse them with our specialized jargon! 

Patricia - Thank you so much Patricia! It's always an honor!

Kristin - I only wish all the spanish I took was still in my brain but it's gone! 

Sep 20, 2015 01:53 AM #51
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

I have tried so many languages, and haven't learned any...French, Chinese, Russion, Italian. I want to learn another language, but just never really worked hard enough, I guess.

Interesting post about left and right brains too. And I do think that it's important we at least master our own language. 

Sep 20, 2015 02:13 AM #52
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

I have picked up bits of Spanish and few other bits here and there but not enough to converse.

Sep 20, 2015 09:10 AM #53
Susan Laxson CRS
HomeSmart Professionals - La Quinta, CA
Local Knowledge & Global Network

Wonderful and informative post! Interestingly, when I speak Spanish I find that I am more lively and can express my emotions more vividly.

My Spanish speaking clients also appreciate that they can understand the transaction better in their native language.

Great post & thanks for sharing!

Sep 20, 2015 11:07 PM #54
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Karen - I've only tried to learn Spanish. There have been times when it was sinking in and I was starting to get a grasp on it then I'll hit a period of time where I can't keep up and it all goes away. 

Bob - I've learned just enough to engage a true spanish speaking individual in the worst conversation they've probably ever had. 

Susan - The spanish speakers that I'm around are very expressive individuals but I never equated that with their language until now. 

Sep 21, 2015 07:29 AM #55
Kimo Stowell
HI Pro Realty LLC RB-21531 - Honolulu, HI
REALTOR Associate® RS-76763 - Honolulu Hawai'i

Aloha Nicole,

This post reminds me of observing intoxicated people converse. Often times it's two people talking AT one another, repeating themselves, while essentially not communicating at all, each conducting a monologue while thinking they are in a dialog. Distracted people often do the same thing.

Because we have so many languages spoken in Hawaii, creole pidgin became the colloquial preferred method of communication, much to the chagrin of language teachers everywhere. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

a hui hou,

Sep 21, 2015 07:43 AM #56
Chip Morgan
Long Realty - Dove Mountain, Marana AZ - Tucson, AZ

We think of the elementary school game of telephone and the way something can be misconstrued from a little misunderstanding, accident, word left out etc.  Being BUSINESS bi-lingual is a key.  being able to read and write a language doesn't mean we should always conduct business in that language.  There are certain terms that may come across differently, or might be a direct translation that means something completely different.

Sep 22, 2015 04:29 AM #57
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