businessman talking on a video call

In a recent episode of “Language is Your Superpower” podcast, guest Samí Haiman-Marerro shared her experiences navigating multicultural spaces in business and through entrepreneurship. As one of the nation’s leading business development and marketing experts today specializing in the U.S. Hispanic market, she breaks down two ways that bilingual speakers can leverage their language proficiency in diverse spaces.

Being Bilingual in Business

As a Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) solutions-driven agency that assists the corporate, nonprofit, and government sectors to overcome their Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Marketing challenges, having a team that commands both English and Spanish has become her firm’s value proposition and business differentiator. Essentially, being bilingual in business has its benefits. Here is an example of how not only being linguistically proficient but culturally competent can help you navigate multicultural spaces…

In 2020, a potential client out of New York that sells puppies reached out to URBANDER as they were pivoting from brick and mortar to e-commerce due to the pandemic. With the shutdown and social distancing requirements, they no longer were able to have customers come to the pet store to see, play with, and get to know the puppies before taking them home. URBANDER was retained to help redefine their communication strategy and online engagement with potential and current clients. In an initial meeting, Samí asked the client, “Did you know that Hispanics over-index in pet ownership?” This was a surprising cultural insight that the client was unaware of, missing out on a potentially large segment of the population that they were not speaking to directly. Samí’s team suggested a bilingual campaign stating that “Latinos in the U.S. are English speakers AND Spanish speakers. And they are also Spanglish speakers and everything in between. So, it would behoove you to reach a broader segment of the U.S. population by having an English/Spanish campaign at the very least.” This resulted in a dual language, 4-part video series. They recruited a bilingual student from the University of Central Florida to share tips about bringing your puppy home and responsible pet ownership. The response from the Hispanic community was overwhelmingly positive.

Being bilingual in business is not only a benefit to companies that are seeking to engage with the Hispanic or Latino community. For people who are bilingual or multilingual, it connotes a sense of “I see you. I hear you. I value you.” This then offers the opportunity for those that command multiple languages to leverage this skill to navigate and excel in diverse, multicultural spaces.

Leveraging Language in Entrepreneurship

Many people suffered job loss due to COVID. As a result, people explored having, or have opted to start, their own businesses. Concurrently, URBANDER started working on a major project with three organizations in Atlanta (PRENEURology Global, Georgia Tech, and Morehouse College) to support minority business enterprises in increasing access to resources that will help them start and grow their businesses. Focused on breaking down the silos within the Black and Brown community, the project’s goal was to create more connectivity between them and equitable pathways to scaling, attaining success, and establishing generational wealth.

A perfect example of how to leverage language in entrepreneurship was on full display in a recent Connection Session where participating minority business owners came together to network, learn about best business practices, and become part of this entrepreneurial hub.

While many of the participants commanded English, Paula was the only Spanish speaker on the virtual call. So, when it was time for small breakout groups, the meeting coordinator placed her in a group with Samí as she commands both English and Spanish. The participants were asked, “What is your pain point to grow your business right now?” This offered an opportunity for sharing but also to fill a language gap due to Samí’s bilingual capabilities. What resulted was a safe and inclusive space for sharing between English and Spanish speaking business owners to exchange ideas and learn from each other. What the participants realized was that, like them, Paula had the same wants, needs, and doubts about being an entrepreneur and the only difference was that she was more comfortable communicating in Spanish. Very similar experiences, capabilities, and desires were simply expressed in different languages.

As someone that is bilingual or multilingual and considering the entrepreneurial route, your language proficiency is an advantage that will help you navigate different cultures and different communities.

Whether you are bilingual in business or seeking ways to leverage language in entrepreneurship, you can easily and securely test your language proficiency with LTI. Learn more here.

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