My colleague Anraoi recently wrote about the importance of providing cultural training to employees, so they’re better equipped to adapt to their new environment, therefore improving their chances of a successful assignment. One way to try to avoid cultural shock is by learning the local language so today I would like to talk about the importance of providing language training to your assignees.

Although the number of languages worldwide is decreasing due to globalisation, there is still an impressive 6,500 living languages around the world today! Language is the primary tool with which human beings interact with one another and build relationships so what a better way to integrate a new country and learn about a new culture than be able to speak the main spoken language? Learning at a minimum the basis of the host country language is sine qua non to a meaningful integration and a successful assignment.

When relocating to a country where English isn’t commonly used, the ability to communicate with the people you need to interact with on a daily basis (be it the waiter at the local restaurant, the taxi driver or a fellow colleague) and therefore learning basic communication skills is key to maintaining autonomy, improving happiness in the workplace and overall. It will take time, effort, and a lot of dedication but ultimately it will be worthwhile. Starting lessons as soon as possible once the assignment is confirmed is highly recommended rather than wait until arriving in the host country where the first few weeks and months are likely to be extremely busy.

The majority of the respondents to our 2022 Long Term Assignment survey confirmed that companies do provide language training to their long-term assignees, their partners, and all eligible dependents. The survey results also indicated that only a small minority of companies simply provide language lessons to the employee only.  

However, learning the host country language may also sometimes be a necessity that assignees simply must do for practical reasons. A great example of this is obtaining a driver’s licence in the host country after the first year for long term assignments. If we look at Europe as an example, some EU countries have bilateral agreements with non-EU countries allowing foreign long-term residents to exchange their driver’s licence after the first year of the residence permit (or long-term visa equivalent). There is usually a lot of paperwork involved but with a bit organization, it should be relatively straightforward.

Some countries in Europe however have limited bilateral agreements with the rest of the world. If there is no agreement in place with the assignee’s home location, you will have to take both the theoretical and practical exam in the local language (English is often not an option)! Some countries allow for a translator to be present but only under certain circumstances (it is not always feasible or practical). The reciprocity (or lack of) between the home and host countries is something the local DSP should flag before the start of the assignment so that assignees know what to do & who to reach out to when the time comes to do the exchange or take the exams.  

With AIRINC’s Assignment Cost Estimation tool, you can quickly obtain an overview of the costs of assignment benefits, like DSP services and language training, along with carefully researched income tax rates, taxability logic and relocation allowances. Do not hesitate to reach out to us if you would like a demo of our ACE tool. 


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