My father was Italian, and my mother was Greek, so I grew up in a cosmopolitan home. A lucky break that allowed me to study both languages fluently at my mother’s knee. Another coincidence was that my parents didn’t speak the same language.
They spoke in French, which was the dominating language at our dining table. This enabled me to study a third language. While my father spoke Italian and my mother spoke Greek to me, I spoke French myself and majored in French at university.
Speaking a second language increases our cultural understanding and broadens our perspectives beyond our language. The second language provides us with a second identity as a multicultural individuals with countless personal and professional benefits. Perhaps this is what Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne meant when he remarked, “Having another tongue means having a second soul.”
What is Multicultural in Nature?
Being multicultural may lead to identifying challenges and doubts about who we are. Is being multicultural synonymous with being from an immigrant family (such as Arab-Americans, British Indians, or Chinese Canadians)? Or do we develop a multicultural identity by learning to speak many languages or by living or working abroad?
A recent Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes You Multicultural,” provides one of the better descriptions of a multicultural individual. According to the authors’ research, multiculturalism among individuals is defined as “the extent to which they know, identify with, and assimilate more than one culture.”
So being multicultural entails more than just taking a language class, being multicultural entails becoming interested in another culture’s way of thinking and doing.
Switching the Code
However, being multicultural is not the same for everyone. I don’t change my conduct or tone with various groups to alter cultural conventions. Others, on the other hand, will embody multiple cultures depending on who they are with. This is known as “code-switching.”
Traditionally, it was characterised as transitioning between two or more languages effortlessly throughout a single discourse. It now has a broader connotation and frequently refers to underprivileged or underrepresented persons adjusting to their dominant environment.
According to Harvard Business Review racial research, code-switching is defined as “adjustments in one’s manner of speech, look, conduct, and expression in ways that would maximise the comfort of others in exchange for fair treatment, excellent service, and career chances.”
Some Benefits of Being Multicultural
Being multicultural has various advantages, whether you code-switch or not. Here are just three of the numerous benefits of workplace multiculturalism. Perhaps a good online meditation course London can be a proven way to utilise the true power of being multicultural.
- Improved Creativity
Creative people are open to new ways of doing things, and they can see people, situations, and objects from various perspectives. Immersing oneself in a multicultural experience, according to a study published in American Psychologist, is one approach to increase your ability to encourage creativity.
According to the findings, persons who have spent time adopting more than one culture are better equipped to develop innovative ideas in the lab and the workplace.
- Significant Increase in Abilities
Due to technological breakthroughs, geographical barriers have largely evaporated in an increasingly global environment. Because of these visible hurdles, more individuals are willing to relocate for a job. Companies worldwide are employing foreign labour, resulting in a more multicultural workforce.
It is critical for leadership success to have intercultural competency in order to lead across cultures. A recent study published in Organization Science shows that multicultural experiences can boost a leader’s communication and leadership abilities while managing international teams.
Leaders who have been exposed to a variety of cultures are more sensitive to cultural differences. As a result, they are better equipped to communicate a concept in a framework their followers are more likely to comprehend and value.
- Service Capabilities Increase
Depending on the kind and scale of your firm, you may be required to serve a worldwide customer. One of the key tenets of customer service is to put clients at ease, which can be difficult given the many cultures and backgrounds involved.
Multicultural individuals are more welcoming and sensitive to other cultures in general. A multicultural staff may help a corporation interact with clients from many cultures. As a result, they will be able to give superior customer service to all clients.
For example, my hometown of North Vancouver has a sizable Chinese and Persian population. It is well recognised that people have a higher level of comfort and connection with others from their own culture. I see many businesses recruit Chinese and native Persian speakers. This personnel assist businesses in dealing with clients in their native language.
The Final Words
My diversity has taught me to appreciate diverse cultures, and it’s made me realise that even something as basic as eye contact may be a cause of misunderstanding.
After decades in Canada, I think like a Canadian despite staying an Italian at heart. When I speak to someone in their original language in international settings, I feel an added sense of belonging, a sense of kinship that promotes rapport. The smallest distance between two persons has a shared language.