Expert insights

Why there’s never been a better time to learn a language

7 June 2017 by Joanne Taylor, Capita Translation and Interpreting

With calls for British workers to improve language skills, Capita T&I recommends businesses consider options.

The Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) is calling for businesses to boost the language abilities of their teams. The national body, which represents translation and interpreting professionals, is predicting that foreign language skills will be more in demand than ever during the UK’s Brexit period.

English is the most widely spoken language spoken in Europe, with 38% of people able to speak it. However, while European business has often been carried out in English, business travellers will know that knowledge of other languages always helps when working overseas.

The ITI has suggested that language skills will be more important than ever in the years ahead, as businesses may need to negotiate new contracts and trade with European counterparts.

Which language should you learn?

In 2013, Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, suggested that German should be used for business in the European Union, because it is the most widely spoken mother tongue. It is estimated that around 16% of the European population speak German. While 20% of the European population can speak French, it is the mother tongue for 12% of people.

That said, Joanne Taylor, head of marketing at Capita Translation and Interpreting, recommends British businesses think about other options, too.

“European languages are huge for us,” she says. While agreeing German is in demand, she also has plenty of requests for Spanish and Portuguese speakers: “The fact that the likes of Spanish is a global language only places this in further demand,” she adds.

She is also predicting greater interest in Asian languages in the future, as Britain looks to strengthen its partnerships outside the EU. “It will depend on what Brexit deals are made,” she explains. “Time will tell.”

Language services such as Capita Translation and Interpreting are available to help businesses with their needs. But if you do want to boost the conversational abilities of your employees, there are a number of ways to do it.

How to boost language-learning at work

“Many global businesses already offer their employees language-learning courses, especially where their company has a strong overseas presence,” says Taylor. “Where this is not necessarily the case, businesses can approach local colleges and team up with them on language learning initiatives.

“Quite often, colleges are willing to offer businesses discounted rates on courses, as this often promotes further recruitment and skills in the local area. Staff learning and development should form part of any decent businesses’ strategy, so for employees wishing to learn a language, approach your line manager to see if this is an option.”

Alternatively, business travellers can get a head start by opting to learn a language on the move.

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