The UK has long been criticised on the European and international stage for its reluctance to embrace foreign languages, and its inability to promote their teaching in our schools. Now this lack of enthusiasm for foreign language learning is threatening to stifle the UK’s economy, with businesses unable to hire employees with the linguistic skills they need.
For some time, English has been the international language of business, but in an increasingly globalised economy with more emerging markets than ever before, there has never been a better time to learn a foreign language.
Given the economic rise of non-English speaking countries like Russia, China, Indonesia and Colombia, effective communication across multiple languages is a greater challenge than ever before. Learning languages is an indispensible tool for relationship building and financial success, but research conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) shows that the UK’s apathetic approach to language learning is creating a skills gap we’re struggling to fill.
An ‘alarming shortage’ of Brits with foreign language skills
Of 300 UK companies survey by the CBI, two-thirds said they were more likely to hire people with foreign language skills than those who only speak English. Despite claims from the UK government that more school children are learning a foreign language, the British Council believes there is still an ‘alarming shortage’ of people with foreign language skills in a number of major languages.
The most sought after languages
Perhaps surprisingly, given the global economic shift in recent years, the three languages that are most sought after by UK firms are based a lot closer to home. In a recent poll, British companies said they believed French, German and Spanish to be the most useful second languages, with 50 percent, 49 percent and 44 percent of the vote respectively. However, the importance of emerging markets was also reinforced, with Mandarin (31 percent) and Arabic (23 percent) also on the rise.
Low foreign language take-up in UK schools
So do young people understand the importance of learning a language? With A-level entries for languages falling over the last few years, and acceptances for language degrees in 2013 dipping to the lowest level in a decade, on the surface of it, the answer would appear to be no. However, on closer inspection, the picture seems to be more nuanced.
Research conducted for the Guardian reveals that of 1,001 young people (aged 18-24) surveyed, almost 20 percent spoke another language at home with their family, whilst 70 percent would be interested in learning another language in the future.
There is also evidence that young people in the UK understand that learning a language can help to open up economic, social and cultural opportunities in the future. However, this is countered by the fact that 39 percent of students are put off by the belief that ‘most people speak English’, and 14 percent by the misconception that ‘most other languages are not useful’.
The importance of language translation agencies
Thankfully, what the UK lacks in foreign language speakers, it more than makes up for with high-quality language translation companies that are on hand to bridge the gap.
At Linguistica International, we get to know our clients’ brands and build close partnerships to help them achieve their international goals. For more information about how we can be your team on the ground, get in touch with our language experts today.