In today’s global business environment, the need for corporate language training to help your employees communicate with colleagues and clients is very real.

But budgets are also very real. And we totally get that sometimes companies’ language training needs don’t match up with their budgets.

If that’s the situation at your company, how can you make the most of the language training you can afford? We’ve got a game plan for you.

What One-on-One Language Training Costs

So let’s take this hypothetical scenario: Your company wants to improve the language skills of 120 employees, and your budget for doing this is $50,000. The goal is that each employee move up one CEFR level of fluency. In other words, you’re not trying to turn an employee with rudimentary knowledge of their second language into a complete master of that language. We’re talking more along the lines of helping an absolute beginner with the language become an advanced beginner (be able to ask some questions like ‘Where is the _____?” and “Can you help me with ______?”) — or of helping an intermediate speaker start to move into advanced intermediate (this is the difference between not being able to work in the language and being able to work in the language).

The most efficient way to do this is providing each employee private, one-on-one lessons with a native speaker instructor for at least a couple of hours each week, either in person or online. Two hours of instructions will run you $100-$150 per employee per week, and advancing one level of fluency (in other words, a very noticeable difference in ability to speak and understand) takes about 100 hours. That adds up to $5,000 per employee.

So with a $50,000 budget, you could help 10 employees advance one level of language fluency. That, as you’ve no doubt noticed, leaves 110 more employees you’d still like to train.

10 Secrets to Managing your Multilingual Global Workforce

Be Strategic with Language Training

Here’s where we’d like to offer you some magical solution that enables you to give all 120 employees one-on-one language lessons. Unfortunately, though, there’s just no way to do this.

Based on our extensive work with corporate clients in all fields, we believe that the best Plan B in this situation is being highly strategic in selecting the employees who receive language training, for now. To make that decision, ask yourself questions like these:

  • Which employees would have the most profound effect on their coworkers if they receive language training?
  • Are there any current supervisors you wish had greater language skills that would motivate others to improve as well?
  • Are there employees you would consider promoting into management if they had greater language fluency, and who also want to be promoted and who want to be in management?

When you have some candidates in mind, talk with them about topics like these:

  • Do they aspire to having a higher position and more responsibilities at your company? Where do they see themselves in five years?
  • Do they want to improve their fluency in their second language?
  • Do they have a couple of hours each week to devote to language classes and can they attend at least 85% of the time?

Do a thorough job of gathering information before you decide which employees will receive language training. This is a serious investment, and you want to choose the right people.

Collect the Proof that Language Classes Work

Here’s a slight variation on that plan that could end up being even more effective for you. Choose just five employees to receive 100 hours of language training. Six months in, get a report on student progress from the language training company and collect feedback from the managers who work with these employees on a daily basis. Spoiler alert: The managers are going to tell you that the language training has raised the employees’ productivity, which saves the company money.

Share your findings with upper management and then get another five employees signed up for lessons. Collect feedback again when this group “graduates.” At this point, you’ll have lots of evidence that shows management that language training has a great return on investment. When they see the proof that classes are paying off, they’re likely to approve training for even more employees.

Even if you can’t initially offer language training to as many employees as you’d really like to, starting small can set the stage for a bigger program later.

Need some additional resources to help you make the case for language training? Check out our past articles “How to Convince Your Boss That Corporate Language Training Is Worth It” and “What Does Corporate Language Training Cost? Let’s Do the Math.” We’re also happy to talk with you more about your company’s specific needs. Contact us for a free consultation: or (800) 401-3159.