On 21 February, we celebrate International Mother Language Day, which, as stated by the UN, recognises that "languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals' focus on leaving no one behind". Language is a remarkable cultural phenomenon. Linguistic diversity is a subset of cultural diversity. As such, it results in exposure to new values, practices and world views for all involved. Cultural diversity is stated as being "as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature" (Article 1 – Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity). Not to mention how it accelerates innovation and creativity, which is correlated with profitability, in the workplace!
While Movingdots is based in Bremen, Germany, as the technology hub in the automotive and mobility space for Swiss Re, we are part of a much bigger family at the same time. Therefore, we have colleagues all over the world, from New York to Beijing. It will come as no surprise that our business's main language of communication is English, which most of us learnt as a second language. Therefore, this particular day is very close to our hearts. For the occasion, some of our colleagues agreed to share their experiences and perspective on this wonderful journey.
Eden comes from Israel and he moved to Germany in 2018 to work as a developer for Android. He now works as part of the App team at Movingdots. "Getting to learn about a whole new culture is a unique experience, not to mention having the opportunity to learn a language when living in a country where it is spoken. I myself expanded my knowledge about this world and the people in it". In relation to challenges he faced, Eden encountered some linguistic constraints. "Obviously sometimes speaking a different language makes it rather hard to explain yourself using examples and words that are specific to your cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Sometimes one word in your own language can explain an entire concept". His experience has helped him to develop in different ways. "I get to learn German which is great because I live in Germany. Also, I have learned how to achieve a better work-life balance because here in Germany people pay more attention to it".
Condelizza is a Dual Student in the Services & Integration team. Her family has cultural influences from Ghana, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. She grew up in an environment where English was the spoken language and so she has always struggled with German, despite being born and raised in Germany. "Attending an International English-speaking private school, where everyone is from a different cultural background, creates some overall difficulties. I have had the same friends since I was five years old, most from different backgrounds such as Taiwan, Peru, Iran, Kenya, Italy and Albania to name a few – I could name a person per country – we all grew up solely speaking English, every single subject was taught in English. Because of that, I have struggled to speak German in the weirdest situations; for instance I struggle to find enough adjectives to describe how I feel sometimes and automatically switch to English, consequently I end up speaking a weird mix of English and German". Nevertheless, Condelizza is not constrained by any language barriers. "I see this as a catalyst to meeting new people. Speaking English, German and 'Denglish' introduces you to a whole array of people who do the same or struggle with the same thing. I would not want to limit myself to one language or one culture of people, I value diversity more than I value 'normality' ".
Condelizza shares another eye-opening experience: "When I started my first full-time job in Hamburg and moving to a different environment, I had what I might label as 'culture shock'. I lasted three months before I quit. Hitherto, my curriculum, learning behaviour, exams, our relationship to one another and what I had experienced at the International School of Bremen was completely different. Long story short, I ended up at Movingdots and have never felt more at home, besides the home office under the current circumstances that COVID-19 has brought, my colleagues are very open as they actively strive to be culturally aware and openly embrace our differences.
Besides discipline and consistency, I have learnt that openness and acceptance are important characteristics to maintain. Humans come in all shapes, colours and sizes so we must accept people for who they are since they cannot easily change the way they look like, especially at work. Accepting people's values and opinions – particularly if they oppose my own – is an incredibly important value to carry into every situation. Growing up with different cultures has taught me to realise that everyone views things from their own personal experiences, ideas, and even their culture.
Being open-minded not only to people but also to criticism and change, has shaped me to the ever-growing person I am".
Marc comes from Germany. He is a Software Qualification Manager in the Operations & Application Management team at Movingdots. He likes traveling with his family and has family members in other countries. "I think it is very important to teach children, already from a young age, to understand and thus respect different cultures. As a father of two daughters, I appreciate having the chance to work together with colleagues in a diverse team.
Especially in these times of the pandemic, when many employees work from home, having video conference calls, it happened that my daughters listened to parts of a discussion and noticed how we work together. They could tangibly observe how an international team can collaborate to reach a goal; how we use individual strengths as one team and show mutual respect".
Marc then goes on to make a connection to the business world. "Imagine a company having developed a great product for the local market. Now this company decides to expand and tries to place the product world-wide. In my opinion this can only be a success if conditions of the destination markets are considered, as explained in this article. You need experts on-site because you must understand the different cultures and languages. By broadening your team with these experts, you gain this knowledge: this is how our company acts. Working at Movingdots is much more than just improving our products by reaching goals. To work in an international team, with people in and from different countries, with diverse cultural backgrounds and speaking different languages is very motivating. Being part of this team is a rewarding experience for all of us".
While language differences might come with certain complexities, inclusion and diversity will result in a beneficial impact on business. They are all linked: when languages fade away, so does the world's rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Creating an effective strategy of inclusion and diversity is undeniably no mean feat and it requires strong and sustained leadership. We believe that the benefits associated with such a strategy are well worth it.
Today and every single day, we celebrate and embrace the unique cultural differences that make us who we are and affect how we impact the world. We build great solutions together, we learn together and we grow in our careers and in our lives together.
If you are interested in reading some of the success stories of our diverse team, you may find our webpage insightful.