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“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela

At K2 we pride ourselves on celebrating diversity and encouraging multilingualism. In recognition of International Mother Language Day recently, we wanted to shine a light on some of our multilinguists and their journeys.

Our K2 family is comprised of no less than thirty-two different nationalities. With 40% of all employees having worked or lived in a country where their native language is not spoken and over half (57%) of K2 employees speak more than one language, our talented linguists often find use for their language skills working in the global mobility world.

Alluded to by Nelson Mandela, the quality working relationships and bonds that can be forged out of a shared understanding of cultural and language differences is unlike anything that can be imagined. As humans, communication is so important to all of us and being able to speak to, and understand, each other is what truly helps us to connect.

Bernie Hillewaert, K2 Relocation Consultant in Paris, explains how she has found language to be an incredibly useful, transferable skill in her global mobility career:

“Born in Brugge, Belgium, my mother tongue is Flemish – a language closely related to both Dutch and Afrikaans – however, I grew up learning French, Latin, English and German at school before choosing to study English and German Literature and Linguistics at University and later, Swedish as a post-graduate course. 

Understanding and conversing in these languages opened up so many wonderful conversations, ideas, opportunities and friendships. But most importantly, it enabled me to better understand each culture and a broad variety of opinions and influences. 

Advantageously, my language skillset has assisted me numerously with relationship building with many K2 clients and assignees, and indeed throughout my career.”

Although the benefits of multilingualism are evident, speaking the language of a country is not always synonymous with an easy transition.

K2 Global Account Manager, Stephanie Helmer, speaks of her unexpected struggle when moving to the UK from France early on in her career:

“Having studied several foreign languages at school before I moved to the UK alone, I was confident that communication would not be an issue for me once I had landed in the UK. However, this couldn’t have been further from the truth.

With the exception of some comical and embarrassing conversations, my journey to bilingualism was an unexpectedly lonely and isolating experience where I felt as though I was not only losing touch with others but with who I was as well. I felt as though I had been stripped of my personality along with all that I knew.

After a return to France and a period of readjustment, another opportunity to move back to the UK, now with a young family, was one that I couldn’t pass up on, so I gave it another go. As a family of five (plus two furry friends) the cultural adjustment was still not always easy, but despite these bumpy beginnings, I am so proud that I challenged myself to get through it. 

I have seen my children bloom and embrace their new culture using both languages fluently. Having to adapt to not only a new language but new teaching methods, social codes, as well as the constant mental gymnastics, they have become flexible, inquisitive, grounded, open-minded and efficient problem solvers and I couldn’t be prouder.” 

Across the globe, there are an estimated 6,000 languages spoken which are, sadly, dying out. Today, around 43% of these are endangered.

K2 Commercial Services Lead in Sweden, Shannon Lim, speaks about her efforts to combat this:

“I was born into a multicultural environment and exposed to many languages from a young age. At primary school, I was taught three languages, English, Mandarin and Malay simultaneously as well as speaking Cantonese, Minnan, Hakka and many more at home. So, you can image the language diversity in my upbringing!

Recently, I have become more aware of the importance of mother language due to the increased focus on more common languages such as English and Mandarin. It is clear to see that mother language is slowly fading and very soon these wonderful languages could become alien, some even disappearing forever.

To keep my mother language alive, I make the effort to speak more of my Chinese dialect at home in the hopes that my own children will learn this and pass it on to the next generation.”

K2’s rich tapestry of employees brings global perspective and cultural appreciation, to every client solution. Our employees are diverse in nationality, with multiple language capabilities, and diverse in cultural experience which enables our consultants to be empathetic to the diverse needs of individual relocating employees and their personal circumstances.

K2 language skills help us to deliver our services across 186 countries across the globe. Our helpline operator also partners with an interpreter network with immediate coverage for all major languages. An interpreter can be conferenced into the call between the caller and the responding K2 team member. We find that enabling the relocating employee to converse in their own language during any time of concern provides an immediate level of comfort and removes any frustration associated with the feeling of not being understood.

While the primary language of our business is English, our teams also have language capabilities in over twenty different languages including English, Portuguese, Armenian, Lithuanian, Russian, Xhosa, Zulu (SA), French, Danish, Dutch, German, Polish, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Flemish, and Mandarin.

Want to find out how we can support your relocation process? Get in touch today and a member of the team will be happy to take the time to say ‘Hi’, ‘Hej’, ‘Hola’ ‘As-salam alaykom’ or ‘Ni hao’.

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