The decline of foreign language learning and its impact on international trade

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All one needs to do is to take a look at recent news articles regarding foreign language learning in the UK to discover that the number of students currently studying a language other than English is dropping at a worrying rate.

In Wales alone, the take up of foreign language studies in secondary school is slow, in particular owing to the fact that modern foreign languages are not compulsory as modules to be taken, as opposed to England, for example.

Scotland is also facing the impact that the lack of foreign language learning is having. According to a report by the British Council, Scottish businesses are missing out on foreign investment as they are following a tendency to choose to deal with and export exclusively to English speaking countries, and incidentally those hit hardest by the economic recession, or to countries in which it is easier to find English speakers to do business with.

Arguably, this tendency can be viewed as short –sightedness to the potential that these businesses have to expand internationally.
Essentially, what we are seeing here is the result of an overall lack of foreign language learning.

Without the emphasis placed on foreign language acquisition from the earliest stages, i.e. secondary school module take up, or even primary school introduction, the number of foreign language speakers will continue to dwindle.
Although the basic English, Mathematics and Science skills should be, and continue to be of the highest importance in the education system, the need for foreign language skills in the UK is also greatly and increasingly manifested in Britain’s international trade relations with its overseas counterparts.

Essentially, if businesses wish to prosper, they should be looking towards foreign trade and investment. However, without the correct understanding of how to co-ordinate business with other countries, largely due to a language barrier, the needs of the targeted foreign business or consumer simply cannot be met.

Furthermore, in today’s increasingly technologically dependant world, according to data in the field, it has been found that visitors to websites that are not offered versions of pages in their own native languages do not pursue their interest in those websites. Therefore, whether those visitors are capable of understanding the language that the websites are written in or not, without a version to read in their own languages, the website can appear impersonal or even untrustworthy. On the other hand, translation of a website shows long-term business commitment to those foreign markets. Additionally, a translated website puts businesses ahead of the competition as it makes it easier for the buyer to engage with the seller.

Moreover, and as had been stated above, in the modern business world, one cannot afford to miss opportunities for business that largely stems from marketing efforts made online. The quickest and most far-reaching way for a business to market itself internationally is to do so through its website. If companies are not making efforts to provide translated web material for their targeted audiences/consumers, any other marketing efforts targeted at their foreign consumers will be wasted. In order to provide properly translated and culturally appropriate material, it is recommended that experts with foreign language skills and knowledge are consulted at all times to ensure a coherent and cohesive end result.

With the current global population standing at more than 7 billion people, the UK cannot afford to miss out on the great potential with overseas trade simply by trading internally.
Essentially then, efforts must be stepped up to increase numbers of foreign language learners which, as a result, increases the potential for globalization of UK industries and will lead to an eventual increase in international trade.

Here at Express Language Solutions, as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility and as a Business Language Champion, we have been promoting the importance of foreign language learning and the benefits that it has on UK business.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

This entry was posted in Commentary, Culture, Express Language News, Industry News, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The decline of foreign language learning and its impact on international trade

  1. Roberta S. says:

    Good evening, the lack of knowledge (of foreign languages, but also of good communication) is spreading itself all over the world. However, for the same reason, the job of translator is becoming (and should become) even more important. Commerce is going on despite that because it is not based on spoken languages but on ‘written conventional codes’ (I know that because I work at the International Department of an important Italian Bank). But if they want business to “GROW”, they need “language specialists”(translators as “lawyers” or “doctors”). Thank you.

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