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Language Training Disappears From The Business Agenda


Despite EU expansion, Britain appears to be determined to remain a monolingual society, according to a YouGov poll for Rosetta Stone.

The survey of 2,500 people revealed that 80 per cent of workers had never been given the chance to learn languages in the workplace, despite tougher global competition.

Scottish businesses are the worst offenders – only 8 per cent of Scottish employees had been offered language learning by their employers, with this figure rising to 15 per cent in London.

But the reluctance to offer language training could be having an impact on the bottom line – research by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) indicates that 20 per cent of UK businesses have lost opportunities because of their failure to embrace new language skills.

Yet the YouGov survey also revealed that the majority of business executives are not bothered by their dismal language skills.

Just 7 per cent (2 per cent in Scotland) of respondents believed language skills are the most important factor to consider if their company relocated overseas, with factors such as political instability (23 per cent) and the country’s infrastructure (11 per cent) scoring more highly.

In line with the BCC research, several respondents also cited lost business opportunities caused by language barriers.

And despite factors such as a boom in trade with Russia (exports to Russia in 2005 reached an all-time high of £1.8bn according to UK Trade and Investment) and the EU accession of major Eastern European countries such as Poland in 2004, respondents do not equate learning Russian or Polish with economic success.

Only 2 per cent of executives questioned felt that it was important to learn one of these languages. Instead French and German were considered the most relevant languages to business success each securing a fifth of the votes.

James Pitman, UK managing director of Rosetta Stone, said: “Our survey clearly shows that UK businesses are stuck in a time warp in terms of language learning and are strangely apathetic about the situation.

“In 2007, the EU is expected to expand again and it is therefore shocking that 80 per cent of businesses still refuse to offer any language training to their staff. It is little wonder they are losing business opportunities.”

Languages are now no longer compulsory in schools and the UK was recently ranked bottom of the league table of 28 countries for language ability by CILT, the national languages centre.


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