Royaume-Uni; Nul points!

As technology alters the way that we interact with the people around us it is becoming clear that our ability to communicate effectively with people, some of whom are located far outside of our own linguistic and cultural parameters, is reasserting itself as being at the forefront of global business. It may therefore come as some of a shock to learn of Britain’s lack of competitiveness in this arena. We may have the regulatory conditions to inspire investment, we may even have dodged what looks to be a European-wide transaction tax, but we severely lack the language skills that our European and worldwide partners have and which will ultimately see them succeed on the ever changing world stage.

Throughout the 20th century English has forced itself to the fore of international communication, and this is something that too many UK businesses have become dependant on. We may think of the UK being a global leader on the economic stage but, as the table below demonstrates, linguistically we are as competitive as Hungary. After all, many of the directors of today grew up amongst a business community where any deal worth doing was discussed and negotiated in English. But as the global economic focus shifts, it is upon the talents of the younger generation and their language skills that our hope rests.

Whether it be on the talented, although ever decreasing, pool of language graduates or the wealth of international talent in the UK that we rely, business must adapt in order to continue to be successful. Language speakers open up new, far flung and profitable markets, not only with their language skills but with their innate understanding of local culture, sentiment and tradition.

As we stare into the face of what is looking to be yet another recession it is imperative that UK business stop waiting for the tardy and often ineffectual policies of government and start to remind themselves of the entrepreneurial spirit that put British business where it is today, whilst reminding themselves that UK clients are but a fraction of what’s available.

Step one on that ladder is the recruitment of talented, focused, business-minded linguists, who can open new revenue streams, provide more numerous, further flung contacts and restore some of that competitive edge to British business.

Average number of foreign languages learned per pupil

Luxembourg 2.5
Finland 2.2
Iceland 2.1
Netherlands 2.0
Italy 2.0
Cyprus 2.0
Romania 2.0
Denmark 1.9
Lithuania 1.8
Sweden 1.7
Latvia 1.7
Norway 1.7
Former Yugoslav Republic 1.7
Croatia 1.5
France 1.5
European Union (27 countries) 1.4
Spain 1.4
Slovenia 1.4
Belgium 1.2
Bulgaria 1.2
Germany 1.2
Slovakia 1.2
Czech Republic 1.2
Ireland 1.2
Austria 1.1
Poland 1.1
Hungary 1.0
UK 1

There were no applicable or available figures for Malta, Estonia, Greece, Portugal, Flemish community (Belgium), French community (Belgium), Turkey and Albania