But there is a challenge ahead to get young people learning languages. It is so important for our future.
It is in fact the 10th Anniversary of this very important day which celebrates the importance of language learning in schools, colleges, the broader society and business.
There are so many benefits to learning a language including meeting new people, understanding different cultures and of course access to new and exciting career opportunities.
But it all starts with language learning in schools. Sadly there has been a steady decline in the take-up of languages in schools and colleges. The National Centre for Languages (CILT) recently confirmed that GCSE entries for in modern languages are down by 21% compared to 2007 and by a staggering 43% compared to 2000.
This paints a scary picture considering the importance of languages for the UK’s economic success. The use of languages in business is critical to operating effectively in a global marketplace. In today’s competitive environment, we cannot afford to be complacent about the way we communicate with our customers and business partners. We can buy in English but we will be a lot less successful if we try to sell in English! Surveys of exporting businesses continue to show that many have not only experienced linguistic or cultural barriers but have lost business as a result. We need good communication to understand and build our markets, to forge relationships, to capitalise on opportunities, and to use resources efficiently. At a time when the British economy is faltering it is essential that much more should be made of using language skills, using them effectively to support international trade, to attract inward investment, to boost tourism and to improve the quality of our service industries. If we are complacent about tackling language issues I believe we will do serious damage to our competitiveness and to our future prosperity. We should therefore be arresting the decline in numbers of university students on degree courses involving languages and improving representation of languages in vocational programmes. Our apprentice engineers should be learning German and Mandarin as part of their training. French customers will soon forget their English when you are chasing money! In other countries languages are embraced at all levels of an organisation and the demand is not just to learn English but any language that is useful in a particular market. Yet in the UK there is a tendency to dismiss language learning as a female, rarified pursuit, of little relevance to the world of business and industry.
According to the European Commission funded ELAN survey of European businesses, those that are proactive in their use of foreign languages achieve an average 45% more export sales
(Source: Hagen, S., J. Foreman-Peck, S. Davila-Philippon (2006) ELAN: Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language Skills in Enterprise).
But all is not lost. We are very pleased to hear that our current Government is acknowledging that there is a need to reintroduce the compulsory learning of languages to GCSE. The recent launch of The Speak to the Future campaign (www.speaktothefuture.org) backed by a number of languages, cultural and business organisations also aims to tackle this issue by raising the profile of languages amongst the media, parliamentarians and policy makers.
Language skills are a vital resource which need to be unlocked!
Need help with managing your language requirements?
If you would like advice on how to use languages effectively in targeting new markets, please contact us to book a free, one-hour review of your language requirements.
This will provide the opportunity to talk through your export plans in more detail and identify where the use of languages can improve your sales performance overseas.
The session should highlight some simple steps to get you started, so you can quickly see the benefits of investing in your company’s language capability. firstname.lastname@example.org or 0044 (0) 1926 335681