Languages in Business

Nelson Mandela once said that, if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that

goes to his head, if you speak to him in his own language, that goes to his heart. British Council research has concluded that three-quarters of British adults can't speak a foreign language competently. I suspect the other 25% have a loose grasp of the term, competently. If we want to sell, we need to communicate meaning, if we want to build trust and long relationships, we need to communicate at a rather higher level. I am a linguist so I should be able to do both. I worked in Brazil so thought I would have no problem later taking over country responsibilities for Portugal. On the first day there, I was flummoxed. American and British English are not as different but I have made the mistake of meeting an American on the 3rd floor, other problems are shown here:


The all-party parliamentary group on modern languages (AAPG) has decided that the UK is losing around £50bn a year on lost contracts because of a lack of language skills in the workforce. The reason that most people learn a language competently is necessity, which doesn't really exist for British people. Of course, speaking a language competently has relatively little to do with the meaning of words and everything to do with understanding the culture.

What can British companies do? The short term option is outside agencies and, naturally, Exportease can help there too. Nevertheless, as with all things export, a long term strategy will produce better dividends. SMEs especially should consider a recruitment policy biased towards foreign staff even if they don't need the language. They will come in useful later.

Much of business relies on enjoying your work and communicating image, personality and humour. Not many people can carry that off in a foreign language. Exportease offers language services. We don't want to turn away work but we do want to help you. Approach us when you need help with a short term problem, a translation of a document, a phone call or a trade fair. If you want to be international, recruit international staff.

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