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,
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
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.
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
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.