Whether you talk to a small business owner, a large agency or an experienced manager, you’ll hear one thing and one thing only. Knowing a second language is beneficial. They will all agree that speaking a second language is one of the most valued abilities. Not only that, but it also opens the doors in business which without a foreign language may not be available.
Today, like never before business is done globally. The ability to communicate is vital because a growing number of companies are choosing to expand internationally. This however doesn’t seem to change people’s opinion on languages as only three-quarters of adults in Britain are able to speak a foreign language. In business terms, this simply means that these employees will not be able to communicate with a potential clients overseas. As you can see, the benefit of speaking a foreign language in business is great, but so are the costs, to both the company and employee.
Baroness Coussins, who is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on modern languages (APPG) claims that the UK economy loses around £50bn each year in contracts due to the lack of language skills within businesses.
By offering more language skills, UK SMEs could potentially expand their client base significantly. Peter Menn, a business owner who works closely with Language Reach, suggests welcoming bilingual employees as he believes they offer added benefits for companies.
Clearly, speaking a foreign language can be helpful to the business you work for, but how can it benefit you personally within the corporate environment? Well for one, speaking another language definitely makes you more valuable in the eyes of your employer as it allows you to communicate with foreign business partners. Knowing a language also means understanding the culture, consequently, you will be able to keep up with innovation, and adjust your actions accordingly.
Sylvia Laws, founder and CEO of a PR agency Technical Publicity says that the multilingual skills of her team can be directly linked to the growth of her business. A number of her clients are based overseas, therefore being able to communicate with them directly through a native speaker means that the business is done much faster, professionally and efficiently. “Our clients are usually working for multinationals but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re brilliant at English, This slows them down enormously. It’s hugely helpful if we can ring them up and talk to them in their own language and understand where they’re coming from.”
It’s difficult to pin point which languages will be most valued in the future. But it’s clear to see the growth of Mandarin, Chinese and Arabic as these markets become more and more attractive to British companies every year. From our point of view, we can see a real demand for German, French and Spanish. We also see languages such as Japanese and Russian which will be of crucial importance for UK business prosperity in the near future.