Knowledge of foreign languages provides more opportunities to SMEs

Small and medium-sized entities miss out on thousands of business deals within the EU, but also worldwide just because of lacking knowledge of foreign languages. This is the finding of a survey by the National Centre for Languages (CILT) in Great Britain which was conducted on behalf of the EU Commission. According to experts there is still a lot of potential in export and import business for small and medium-sized entities (SMEs) which invest in the foreign language skills of their employees.

Almost 50% of those export-oriented SMEs surveyed plan to extent their business activities to new foreign markets over the three years to come. Most of these companies, however, rely on the availability of sufficiently qualified applicants. Alternatively, companies hire employees with experiences abroad. Only a few are willing to actively invest in foreign language training of their staff.

However, according to the authors of the study research shows that these approaches are more and more inadequate. Many European companies miss out on export business due to lacking foreign language and intercultural skills. The study suggests that more investment in language skills would entail large-scale economic advantages and have positive effects on the productivity and export business of small and medium-sized entities.

Even though the study confirms the importance of English as universal business language, it also shows that the knowledge of further languages opens up additional opportunities. Among these languages are traditionally important European languages such as German, French and Spanish, but also to an always higher degree other universal languages like Chinese, Arabic and Russian.

The “ELAN: Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language Skills in Enterprise” study is the first attempt at European level to estimate the costs caused to EU companies as a consequence of lacking foreign language skills. The data presented are based on random tests carried out in 2000 small and medium-sized entities from all over Europe. GERMAN