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Report Links Foreign Language Skills and Business Success

Declan Mulkeen

13 Dec 2016

A European Commission report has highlighted a direct link between foreign language skills and profitable businesses. The survey, conducted with nearly 2000 European SMEs, also indicated genuine foreign language skills demand among their workforces.

Foreign Language skills demand keep increasing

Misunderstandings must be avoided at all costs as they can jeopardize the whole business winning process

Companies who set clear language strategies (such as developing the language competency of their employees or hiring native speakers) are getting better results than those that don’t.

The report goes on to highlight that:

  • 11% of EU SMEs surveyed are losing considerable amounts of money because of their lack of language skills
  • 37 firms admitted they had lost contracts valued between 8 and 13.5 million Euros because of language problems

From writing emails to drafting contracts and making phone calls, every aspect of the business and negotiation process has to be dealt with carefully and misunderstandings must be avoided at all costs as they can jeopardise the whole business winning process.

Which lingua franca for which geographical areas?

The importance of Russian when doing business in Eastern Europe or French in African countries is not to be underestimated

This report also underlines the existence of several business lingua francas. While English is now widely recognised as the universal language for business, the importance of Russian when doing business in Eastern Europe or French in African countries is not to be underestimated.

The same goes for other parts of the world: Spanish speaking employees will help to create business opportunities in Latin America while being able to speak Mandarin Chinese is an invaluable asset for companies seeking to develop the Chinese market.

What should SMEs do?

The overall economical performances of the EU could be dramatically improved if exporting firms were able to enhance their language skills

There are several options for SMEs wishing to improve the foreign language skills of their workforces:

  • Implement a language strategy
  • Develop the international competence of your workforce with language training
  • Recruit native speakers
  • Hire translators or interpreters

Developing your current employees’ foreign language skills

Developing a corporate language strategy is key for any organisation that wishes to succeed internationally and retain top talent.

The importance of mastering foreign languages will become more and more crucial for firms wishing to be successful in the international arena

The report concludes that the overall economic performances of the EU could be dramatically improved if exporting firms were able to enhance their foreign language skills.