Is corporate language training set to increase in 2010?
Wednesday, 13th January 2010
A survey of over 500 British businesses conducted on behalf of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) in April 2008 found that employers are keen to employ staff who are able to speak foreign languages, especially if they also are familiar with foreign cultures and business practices.
Such skills can attract extra pay, and help companies to improve existing relationships with foreign customers, clients and business partners, and to move into new markets.
At the moment around 10% of the British workforce have foreign language skills, and 72% of UK international trade is with countries where languages other than English are spoken. The lack of language skills among school leavers is seen as a major problem by the majority of organisations trying to do business with other countries, and indeed many employers view this as one of the most significant problems they face. However only 4% of companies believe that they have lost business as a result of insufficient foreign language abilities, and a further 21% may have, though they’re not sure.
The most popular languages among employers are currently French and German, followed by Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) and Spanish, the demand for which is increasing rapidly, as is the demand for Portuguese, thanks to the growing market in Brazil. Other languages that are increasingly in demand by employers include Russian, Japanese, Korean, Polish and Arabic. The majority of employers (74%) are looking for staff with conversational ability in foreign languages, while 26% look for fluency in their employees.
In an ideal world all school leavers in the UK would have at least a conversational knowledge of one or two foreign languages, as well as knowledge of the cultures associated with them. Unfortunately this is currently not the case, and the numbers taking languages at GCSE and A Level since they were made optional in 2002 has dropped significantly and continues to fall.
Therefore there appears to be plenty of scope for corporate language training to grow. Employers need staff with language skills, few of their recruits have such skills, and one way to solve this problem is for employers to provide intensive language training. If employees are strongly motivated to learn foreign languages and have definite reasons for doing so, such as better employment prospects, placement abroad or regular foreign business trips, and pay rises, they are more likely to succeed than school children who don’t necesarily understand the importance of learning other languages and lack the motivation and desire to do so. Corporate language training can also be tailored to the specific needs of individual employees and employers.
Posted by Simon Ager 2010-01 under