The many ways in which languages can boost growth – who’s saying what:


Why native English speakers fail to be understood in English – and lose out in global business: there is mounting evidence that in international business, native English speakers are failing to integrate as a result of their shortcomings when it comes to tailoring their English for this context.

Welsh economy is losing millions of pounds because of poor language skills: The British Council in Wales says poor language skills are costing the Welsh economy millions of pounds a year.

Science and languages vital education tools, says HP boss: “We’ve talked about delivering a world-class education system for years but we have to do it now. There are skills gaps and we have to address them, both in languages and technical expertise,” Martin Murphy, who heads Hewlett Packard in Ireland.

Firms ‘held back by export barriers’: Four in 10 Scottish businesses want to grow internationally but feel they are being held back by export barriers, a survey has revealed.

Foreign languages rated as useful by employers: Major European languages remain in high demand from British businesses but there are signs of a shift towards languages used in the world’s fastest growing markets, such as Mandarin and Arabic.

CBI/Pearson Education & Skills Survey: languages likely to continue to grow in importance “as ambitious firms look to break into new, fast-growing markets”.

80,000 UK students to visit China to boost trade links: Vince Cable urges business leaders to support a drive to double the number of UK exchange students who travel to China.

How studying or working abroad makes you smarter: Research shows that experience in other countries makes us more flexible, creative, and complex thinkers.

The language bonus: What is a foreign language worth?

Born Global: Rethinking language policy for 21st Century Britain.

Employers struggle to fill vacancies because of lack of languages:
Employers said they find it difficult to fill 17% of their vacancies because of a lack of foreign language skills, according a recent survey.

Languages are in vogue in the fashion industry: international brands and overseas supply chains make languages essential for a career in fashion: Although English is widely spoken in the fashion industry, foreign language skills are becoming increasingly important for those aiming for the top of this highly globalised trade. The UK’s second and third favourite high street shops, Zara and H&M, are based overseas, while New Look, currently at number one, recently announced plans to expand its presence in Europe and enter the Chinese market for the first time.

“English is fine if you want to buy things, but it’s not the right language to use for people who want to sell things,” says Nick Brown, CEO of Nikwax, a UK-based manufacturer of cleaning and waterproofing products that exports to 50 countries and produces print materials in 48 languages.

SMEs are missing out on export sales because they can’t communicate in other languages: Their arrogant approach is costing them a lot of business says Jim Hart, founder of Europlus Direct.

Second language acquisition by the numbers: Multilingualism is increasongly vital to every nation’s growth.

Language skills deficit costs the UK £48bn a year: With foreign language skills increasingly important in a global economy, monolingual Britons risk being left behind.

Language graduates: what jobs are they doing now? From international aid to banking, social media and teaching, language graduates end up across all career sectors.

The European Commission Representation in the UK has teamed up with to produce a series of video interviews with languages graduates to promote the wide range of careers that a degree in modern languages can lead to and to highlight the importance of the year abroad. The graduates featured in the clips have found work in business, finance, the media, the police, international development, education, sport, diplomacy and translation thanks to their language abilities and the skills developed on the year abroad.

Languages serve as a launch pad to a whole host of different careers and these videos are intended to give young people a better idea of where languages can take them and to encourage them to continue with their language studies and take advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by the year abroad. There are fourteen two-minute video interviews, each featuring a different graduate, and one longer five-minute video summarising the key message that languages boost your career. You can find the video interviews here.

The reopening of the Foreign Office Language School is an “investment in long term British influence in the world”: The newly reopened facility will teach 80 languages from Arabic to Zulu. Foreign Secretary William Hague promised a “quiet revolution” in the Foreign Office, where he aims to “build the strongest skills in negotiation, analysis, policymaking and economic and political diplomacy”.

Learning languages is critical for Scottish tourism: Within the Scottish tourist sector, a dearth of language skills is leading to insularity, with some attractions lacking translations of guide books or even brief explanations in different languages.

Foreign language skills make jobseekers more employable during recession: The UK’s top employers are urging young people to improve their employability prospects by adding a language to their CV… and recent research shows that the mean salary of language graduates three years after finishing university is ahead of that of graduates of engineering, maths, physics and astronomy, and chemistry.

Foreign languages are at the heart of the United States STEM sector’s ability to communicate, innovate, collaborate, and compete: “The $15-billion, highly-technological U.S. language industry enables U.S. STEM businesses to reach foreign markets worth $1.5 trillion. In fact, languages really are as much a part of STEM as biology, engineering, information technology, and many other fields.”

Commission highlights benefits of foreign language skills for UK students and business: More needs to be done to encourage British students to study languages at A Level and university, according to the European Commission. The importance of foreign language skills is self-evident in all EU countries, given that businesses increasingly operate internationally: more than half of the UK’s trade is with the rest of Europe – and its businesses need staff who can speak the language of their customers.

Multilingual skills shortage hits Irish firms: Shortages of multilingual IT technicians, finance accounts managers, marketing associate professionals, and financial administrators reported: languages in particular demand include German, French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch.

Some great resources from the University Council on Modern Languages (UCML) on languages and employability: with information on:

  • interpreting the concept of “employability” with reference to degrees in languages
  • identifying the skills and attributes of a languages graduate
  • suggesting ways to develop the employability and entrepreneurship skills of students
  • advising on how to develop supportive relationships with agencies, both internal and external to universities
  • providing qualitative and quantitative data to make the strategic case for the “employability” of languages graduates
  • listing and glossing a guide to seminal reports on employability and entrepreneurship by key stakeholders and annotating a list of relevant readings.

How to sell your language skill to any employer: team work, communication, analytical skills, diligence and motivation. Employers cite these as the most desirable skills.

The British Chambers of Commerce on the major shortfall in foreign language skills within the business community that is hampering exports: The BCC calls for more support for firms looking to trade overseas, while encouraging the take-up of foreign languages – both in school and in the workplace.

Business schools are speaking the language of business: A growing number of business schools believe that a degree of fluency in at least one other major language is essential for the next generation of corporate leaders.

A shortage of language skills is undermining UK export performance, BCC survey finds: A survey of more than 4,500 businesses shows that gaps surrounding the general know-how of how to take a product or service overseas are holding back firms from taking the initial step towards exporting.

British ambassadors struggle with Arabic: Only six of the 16 British Ambassadors in the Arab world speak enough Arabic to be able to conduct official business in the language, the Foreign Office has disclosed.

Collaboration, cultural awareness and the ability to speak foreign languages essential in next generation of leaders: A new study has shown that Generation X value very different leadership qualities to their departing peers. How can organisations prepare and shift?

Promote more linguistic experts or risk credibility, Foreign Office told: The UK risks losing credibility if more senior diplomats are not fluent in a range of languages, MPs are warning.

Minding your employees’ language: “The UK is rapidly losing pace in the global market due to its lack of foreign-language abilities and intercultural skills, so there has never been a more urgent need or justifiable reason to promote language learning in your organisation”:

Learning languages a way out of crisis, says Vassiliou: Learning foreign languages can become a way for Europeans to exit the economic doldrums and find employment opportunities across borders, says language and culture Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.

Career ammunition for language graduates: “A surprisingly huge number of students we’ve met recently still think that their career options as a language graduate are limited to teaching, interpreting or translation. This is simply not the case. Global brands understand the positive value of communicating with clients and customers in a way which makes them feel comfortable.”

Is English still the dominant language of higher education?: What are the implications for international strategy? Many UK and US institutions view international students as key to growth, both home and abroad, but last year’s London Met furore revealed the crucial role of English language testing in their recruitment. Meanwhile, in non-English speaking regions, does language redefine the whole project of internationalisation, as some Latin American university leaders suggest?

Could Learning Mandarin Be the New Key to Succeeding in the Fashion Industry?: In December Chinese shoppers officially surpassed American shoppers as the number one consumers of luxury goods. Now, luxury companies are doing everything in their power to adapt to this growing market–and one of the ways they’re doing it is by encouraging, or in some cases, requiring, that their retail associates learn Mandarin.

Britain’s stores tempt Chinese shoppers: Big stores offer payment by Chinese bank card and Mandarin-speaking staff to serve growing number of visitors: Bicester Village and Harrods are two of the first major retailers specifically advertise job vacancies for Mandarin speakers. The stores have announced that Chinese customers bring in a lot of business, and that their spending is only going to increase over the next year.

Chinese tourists make a big splash on the British shopping scene: Selfridges report a 40% increase on 2011 of international Chinese tourists, saying that the group is their highest growing category of international customer by far. John Lewis reported a 70% increase in Chinese customers in the last 12 months. In response, the store is training its staff in Mandarin to better serve their Chinese customers.

Not enough Mandarin is taught in UK schools, claims report: Too few schools are teaching Mandarin Chinese, hampering young people’s prospects and putting the UK economy at risk, it was suggested today.

NI ‘ill prepared’ for business future, says language report: “Northern Ireland has a weak profile when it comes to learning foreign languages and needs to give this a much higher priority, a report suggests.”

Foreign language skills ‘cost Scottish businesses’: “A widespread lack of language skills could be damaging Scotland’s ability to trade abroad, a report has suggested.”

Languages drive is crucial for Scotland’s future, MSPs told: “Children as young as nine will be taught three languages amid rising immigration, tourism and increasing demand for workers that speak more than just English, MSPs have heard.”

The joys of being bilingual:  speaking more than one language “clearly represents to prospective employers that you are someone who will actively seek out challenges and also that you have an aptitude for picking up new skills.”

Overseas study is good for business. Article by David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science: “Choosing to learn within another culture is something to celebrate rather than to condemn. First, UK companies need people with broad experience to compete internationally. Second, though we still have some of the best universities in the world, the world is changing.”

The Plan for Growth (HM Treasury & BIS Department for Business, Innovation & Skills):
Page 105: “The Professional and Business Services (PBS) sector accounted for around one third of UK
growth between 2000 and 2007, and it is internationally competitive… The PBS sector employs the UK’s most qualified graduates… PBS businesses want UK graduates to do more to develop ‘business readiness’ skills including communications, literacy and numeracy; a stronger base of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and language skills; and a clearer and earlier understanding of the value and purpose of a business career.”

In today’s world it pays to speak up: Acquiring a language can lead to an increased cultural awareness that can be helpful in the workplace: “Language and cultural learning go hand in hand,” says Nick Rines, CEO of the Institute of Diplomacy & Business. “Any effort to understand etiquette is important when doing business overseas.”

CBI education & skills survey 2012: The UK’s business lobbying organisation publish their education &skills survey, which emphasises the strategic importance of communication and intercultural skills to UK businesses, and raises concerns that ‘limited language abilities and cultural awareness are acting in effect as a tax on UK trade’.

Language please! PayPal is finding it difficult to find people in Ireland with the necessary language skills for the jobs they are offering.

Labour Market Intelligence on Languages and Intercultural Skills in Higher Education report from UCML finds that:

  • Businesses in a wide variety of sectors actively seek recruits with language ability.
  • Employers are looking for linguists with advanced foreign language skills that can be used in a business context.
  • Employers note the importance of language skills for UK business in general, many as part of an important part of an overall graduate skills package.

British Chambers of Commerce: Boost exports further by improving businesses’ language skills and international connections

UK economy needs schoolchildren to learn languages, BCC says

Diplomacy lost in translation? Only one in 40 of British diplomats now speaks to the highest level the language of the country where they are posted – while the UK loses out on lucrative trade deals.

Lack of staff knowledge of foreign languages is damaging UK businesses: a growing number of UK businesses are trading overseas, but ‘monolingualism’ could bear a high price for employers.

Trading abroad will help boost UK business: Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk: “Giving businesses the confidence to trade abroad is vital to help boost growth in the economy.”

The Economic Case for Language Learning and the role of employer engagement (a publication by the Education and Employers Taskforce, November 2011):

Page 17: British Chambers of Commerce, (2004), BCC Language Survey: The Impact of Foreign Languages on British Business: “There is a direct correlation between the value an exporter places on language skills within their business and their annual turnover”:

‘Opportunists’ simply respond to approaches from overseas customers rather than instigate business development initiatives, most often failing to adapt and localise their offering to their markets and communicating only in English. ‘Enablers’ are proactive in their export approach, consciously choosing markets and adapting their products, services and literature to meet those market needs, and place a great deal of importance on staff within their business having foreign language skills. 77% of Enablers have an annual export turnover above £1/2 million, compared to 33% of Opportunists, and Opportunists’ export sales are declining by an average of £50,000 a year per exporter, while Enablers’ exports are increasing by an average of £290,000 a year per exporter.

Leading business expert recommends boosting language skills to help the UK to trade its way out of recession: Adam Marshall, Director of Policy and External Affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce, is interviewed in the next issue of Languages Today magazine, out January 2012 (and free to members of ALL).

George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer: challenges companies to double exports to £1tn by the end of the decade

David Cameron signs a joint letter to G20 on finding new growth markets: A letter signed by Australian, Canadian, Indonesian, Mexican and South Korean leaders raises pressing issues to be addressed at the G20 summit.

Vince Cable on why the UK should be thinking carefully about international skills: “The task is making sure that UK companies have people with the linguistic ability, overseas experience and cultural awareness necessary to do business abroad, to attract inward investment, to export goods and services. That, in fact, is the blueprint for sustainable economic growth”.

We must learn to talk the talk for boost in trading: Given that the majority of the global population doesn’t speak English, language skills are key to unlocking our export potential, says Google boss John Herlihy.

CBI delegates look for optimism: the CBI calls on Prime Minister David Cameron to boost UK exports.

BCC international trade survey: Britain’s SME exporters are reliant on slow-growth markets, rather than countries experiencing rapid economic growth.

Globe-Gate Intercultural Web Project, USA: “Are foreign languages needed in exporting? For making repeat business with your trading partner, you must do what you always do for success: know your customer.” Bob Peckham at the University of Tennessee, on the need for modern foreign languages as part of a post-recession export imperative.

Lost in Translation: an introduction to the Position Paper Language Matters More and More by the British Academy Policy Centre, highlighting the “increasing severity of the languages deficit”.

Valuing Languages: why languages matter: CILT CfBT advocate the importance of learning a foreign language and the benefits that it can bring, with particular emphasis upon the necessity of languages in business.

Employers value language skills: statistics from CILT CfBT regarding employer thoughts on the language capabilities of job candidates, with links to labour market research that demonstrates a skills gap.

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