Given that only one in three British citizens are able to speak a second language and with a decline in students studying languages at school, it is becoming increasingly challenging for British companies to communicate and do business with countries in Europe and the rest of the world. The UK is facing huge economic consequences both now and will continue to do so in the future.
We will have to manage a lack of language skills whilst trying to maintain international connections. Employees who speak more than one language are highly sought after since they bring skills that businesses require to develop good international relationships and to create trade deals.
According to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages, “We will need more UK officials with foreign language skills.” “Language skills are vital for our exports, education, public services and diplomacy.”
Since Brexit businesses can no longer rely on employing EU nationals to negotiate trade deals. However, companies need foreign language skills to build our international economic position and maintain relationships with other countries. Not only are languages important for carrying out business transactions but also for having a good cultural awareness of how people conduct business in other countries.
Having employees who can communicate effectively with their international clients goes a long way to improving customer satisfaction and building positive working relationships.
If it is more difficult for EU citizens to come to live and work in the UK therefore it is vital for PA and secretarial staff in the UK to improve their language skills. Recruitment agencies are finding a lack of candidates with good language skills the most difficult positions to fill.
Britain lags far behind Europe for language skills
Whereas over half of Europeans speak a second language, only 25% of British adults speak a second language. The cliché “everyone speaks English” is no longer so true. Over 70% of the world’s population does not speak English especially true in growing economies like China and the Middle East.
Clearly, having knowledge of another language would make you stand out from other candidates.
If companies here want to show the EU that they still want to do business with them, the best way would be to make sure they have the staff with the linguistic skills to continue doing business effectively. Not just managers, but administrative staff too. Bilingual staff are crucial to secure new business contracts abroad. Some UK companies expect European companies to buy their products or services after selling to them in English, a foreign language, which is unbelievable!
1. We need to invest in non-European languages such as Mandarin, Arabic and Urdu.
2. Ensure EU nationals already here can continue their residency.
3. Make sure the Erasmus scheme continues allowing UK students to study, work or train abroad.
4. Promote language learning in primary schools and make sure it continues throughout schooling.
5. Make it compulsory for students to take a GCSE in a foreign language.
Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council says, “Learning a language isn’t just a rewarding way to connect with another culture but boosts individual job prospects, as well as business and trade opportunities for the UK.”
The co-chair of APPG, Baroness Coussins said: “Brexit must make the UK’s language skills a top policy issue since language skills are vital for our exports, education, public services and diplomacy.”
Many people enjoy learning a language with one of the many apps now easily downloadable to your smart phone. Popular ones include Duolingo, Babbel or Mondly. Read how language-learning apps thrive post-Brexit in this article by The Guardian.
Students are often reluctant to study foreign languages to GCSE or A-level because they fear the exams are too difficult and it is hard to achieve a top grade. Part of the problem is writing essays on topics such as racism, the environment and immigration or a literary theme. However, students can find help with writing essays through professional online UK essay writing service.
Anyone can learn a language – see the recent blog, “7 ways to learn a language easily”.