Are there enough bilingual people? A business consideration

101 Guides, Global Trends, Languages30 May 20183.7k

Nearly two-thirds of UK firms recognize the need for foreign language skills. 

The annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2014 underlines the importance of hiring polyglots if companies want to break into new, emerging markets.

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it is highly likely this requirement is only going to increase, which means savvy youngsters should considering learning a second language in order to improve their employability. 

The benefits of language 

When asked what are the benefits of having foreign language skills in their organization, 41 per cent said it is beneficial for the overall business’ operation, while 28 per cent have been able to develop overseas contacts.

“Young people considering their future subject choices should be made more aware of the benefits to their careers that can come from studying a foreign language,” said Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general.

According to Mark Anderson, managing director at Pearson UK, English is still the international language of business. However, he said there are still massive advantages associated with having employees “who can communicate with some proficiency in the language of clients, customers and suppliers”.

Allez les bleus!

French was seen as the most useful language to have by UK organizations for the second year in a row, with 50 per cent of firms admitting it would be good to have workers who could speak it as a second language. This was followed by German (49 per cent), Spanish (44 per cent), Mandarin (31 per cent) and Arabic (23 per cent).

The findings reflect the fact that the EU is still the UK’s biggest export market, but also indicate a desire to expand into the Asian market. For example, demand for Japanese, Cantonese and Mandarin speakers has increased in the past two years. 

Education, education, education

Various studies have shown that it is easier to learn a language when young, as brains are particularly receptive to learning or mapping different forms of information during this stage of development.

The British Council has already called on the UK’s education system to offer a wider array of languages, as having a greater pool of bilingual graduates can give the country a competitive advantage over some of its global counterparts. With one in five schools having a persistently low take-up of languages, it’s clear there is room for greater action to be taken on this issue to make sure the next generation are proficient in more than one language.


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