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Language Skills in the UK

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The UK might be losing out on international trade and jobs, as the demand for foreign languages is high at all levels in the workforce, while the supply of language skills is poor.

The UK might be losing out on international trade and jobs, as the demand for foreign languages is high at all levels in the workforce, while the supply of language skills is poor.

Published in: Education, Business, Technology

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  • 1. Language Skills in the UK The British Academy launched a report about the demand and supply of language skills in the UK in February 2013. Key findings of this report, Languages: The State of the Nation, include: o There is strong evidence that the UK is suffering from a growing deficit in foreign language skills at a time when global demand for language skills is expanding; o The range and nature of languages being taught is insufficient to meet current and future demand; o Language skills are needed at all levels in the workforce, and not simply by an internationallymobile elite; o A weak supply of language skills is pushing down demand and creating a vicious circle of monolingualism; o Languages spoken by British school children, in addition to English, represent a valuable future source of supply – if these skills can be developed appropriately. The need for language skills Another survey, somewhat complementary to the previous report, was conducted by CBI/Pearson. This report offers a wider approach to this issue, adding data about education and skills and how these affect the economic performance of the country. A special emphasis has been placed on language skills in the business sector. The picture presents the top languages UK managers find useful to their organisations.
  • 2. Of course, the importance of language skills of the employees depends on the business sector. However, about 70% of all company managers questioned agree that these skills are beneficial for their organisation in one way or another. As you can see, French and German lead the demand for foreign languages in the UK, with Spanish coming third. This is not a surprise, since France and Germany are still the largest export markets for British goods. The need for Polish is also predictable, considering the large number of Polish immigrants within the UK. Even though the European languages remain in greatest demand, one cannot overlook the prominent increase of the Chinese language. 28% of UK managers consider Mandarin a useful language for their organisations, while 16% consider Cantonese valuable. These languages are important assets of their employees. Also, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and
  • 3. Japanese seem to have a greater demand compared to last year. The French and the German markets may be the largest for the British, but the emerging markets of China, Russia, Brazil and Japan are to be taken into serious consideration. Language skills and economic performance It is a known fact that SMEs that invest in language management (having a language strategy; appointing native speakers; recruiting staff with language skills and using translators or interpreters) get a satisfactory ROI. The export figures of these companies are usually higher than those that stick only to one language when doing business. We have blogged about this before and you can find out more figures here. To find out how our translation and interpreting services can help you improve your business abroad, contact us today.