April 30, 2024

Speaking Your Language: An Update on Weiss’s Multilingual Staff

“Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.”
―Galileo Galilei

Math may be the universal language, but nothing beats being able to speak to colleagues without relying on Google Translate.

Weiss is a case in point. It was more than five years ago that we first expounded on our commitment to multilingual accounting services, and that commitment has only grown since then.

Nearly one-fifth of Weiss’ employees can speak, read, and write in a language other than English. Those languages include (in alphabetical order) Assyrian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Gujarati, Hindi, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Telugu, Ukrainian, and Urdu.

Putting Clients at Ease
Shaz Shah, senior tax accountant in Weiss’ accounting and tax advisory services department, described a recent situation where his language skills came into play. A prospective new client, whose primary language was Hindi, was meeting with partner Jim Hamilton. Although the gentleman spoke some English, the conversation wasn’t flowing due to the language barrier. Jim reached out to Shaz and asked him to join the conversation.

Shaz said, “After I spoke to him in Hindi, his body language completely changed for the better and he started getting comfortable. We were able to have a fruitful conversation for well over an hour. It felt good that we were able to effectively communicate with a potential client despite the initial language barrier.”

Yesenia Malagon, a CPA and manager in the firm’s tax department, has been at Weiss for almost 10 years. Several of her clients prefer speaking to her in Spanish even though they are all fluent in English and speak English at their jobs. These clients live in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

She explained why they choose Spanish over English. “Taxes are confusing. I will send them forms and other communications which are in English, but I’ll always call to see if they have any questions. For many of them, it’s just easier to speak in their native language. The communication is clearer, they are more comfortable, and much less self-conscious. Although I believe there are no stupid questions, sometimes they are hesitant to ask about something they think is too simple. When they speak to me in Spanish, there is more trust between us. They feel more confident. I’m happy to do this because I know it provides a more tailored and helpful experience for them, and I think they appreciate that,” said Yesenia.

Language Trivia

  • Assyrian is a distinct language with roots stemming from ancient Mesopotamian history; many Assyrians also speak Aramaic. Today Assyrian is primarily spoken among Assyrian communities living in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.
  • Arabic is a Semitic language spoken throughout the Middle East and North Africa and the official language of 26 nations. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recognizes 32 officially varieties of Arabic.
  • Bulgarian is a Slavic language written in Cyrillic; linguistically it is closely related to Macedonian.
  • Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken by people from the Gujarat region of India.
  • Hindi is an Indic language derived from Sanskrit. It’s spoken primarily in Northern India.
  • Korean is written in Hangul, a writing system that uses 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Although North Korea and South Korea differ in innumerable ways, both countries speak Korean.
  • Polish is a Western Slavic language spoken primarily in Poland and the Polish diaspora. It is similar to other Slavic languages like Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Czech, and Slovak.
  • Russian is an Eastern Slavic language and the official language of Russia. It is often spoken as a second language in former republics of the Soviet Union.
  • Spanish is a Romance language in the Indo-European language family. It is the official language in 20 countries.
  • Telugu is the fourth most prevalent language spoken in India; most of its speakers reside in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Ukrainian is an East Slavic language primarily spoken in Ukraine; there is more mutual intelligibility between Ukrainian and Belarusian than between Ukrainian and Russian.
  • Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language spoken primarily in South Asia; it is the official language of Pakistan.

Those with fluency in two languages are bilingual; fluency in three languages counts as trilingual. Arabic and Spanish are the languages most represented; three Weiss employees each speak one or the other.

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