Language is the key to life success

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In response to the recent proposals for language education in schools, Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Applied Language Solutions, argues compulsory language teaching should e re-introduced if we want our economy and children to prosper

Government and Schools are being urged to encourage our school children to learn foreign languages if they are to succeed in life and in business.

Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of a leading translation and interpretation company Applied Language Solutions, thinks that the proposals announced by Lord Dearing to try and increase the uptake of children learning foreign languages don't go far enough. Gavin calls for more significance to be placed upon the financial and social rewards of learning a foreign language, and for compulsory language teaching to be put into practice at GCSE level.

Gavin said: "The way and who we do business with has greatly changed in recent years as more people from different nations, cultures, languages and backgrounds are meeting and communicating with one another. This brings many new business opportunities, together with the challenge of language and communication barriers.

"As a result, it is becoming increasingly crucial for survival in global trade for UK companies to conduct business in the language of their customers. However, the UK remains second from the bottom of the EU's language league table for our foreign language abilities. Evidently, we must act now by developing the next generation workforce as competent foreign language speakers in order to create a UK economy strong and skilled enough to compete in the International trading arena.

"Making language teaching mandatory at GCSE level will hold many benefits, not just for our children's future but also our economy. With more employers beginning to value the ability to speak a foreign language, there is a greater chance our children will prosper and have successful careers.

"The social benefits of learning other languages are also great and will open many foreign doors for our children. Not only will this increase their potential to travel and integrate into foreign societies, this will enable our children to overcome cultural differences and develop relationships with our global neighbours, both in business and in personal life."

As more companies from around the world begin to compete around the globe, the ability to communicate in various languages is becoming vital for survival. A recent survey by CILT shows that UK companies paying attention to language issues are generating extra business worth an average of £290,000 every year.

However, the research identified that UK companies remain less competent than their foreign counterparts; with almost half having encountered linguistic barriers and one in five having lost significant business through linguistic incompetence.

The research also found that companies in the UK are the least responsive to the needs of their international customers and the least likely to use the customers' language.

What was once deemed acceptable for UK companies to communicate solely in English has now become a weakness in the increasingly competitive international market. Statistics show that only a mere six per cent of the world's population are native English speakers, and 75 per cent speak no English at all. Clearly suggesting that it is dangerous to assume that English is the only language needed for international business communication.

Gavin warns: "Languages are now an essential element in achieving economic growth, with the use of translation and interpreting services ever increasing. However, some UK companies are gradually beginning to see the benefits of recruiting employees with language skills.

"Therefore, we cannot afford to ignore the significance of language education in schools at GCSE level. With only 50% aged 14-16 currently studying a foreign language, and no mandatory measures being re-introduced, we are seriously at risk of putting our economy, and therefore our children's future, at an extreme disadvantage.

"The attempts of businesses in Britain to speak a foreign language will no doubt determine export success. Particularly as many of the emerging countries who don't traditionally speak English, such as China, begin to dominate global business. Such countries offer huge trading potential, with added benefits such as exposure to increased technical know-how and cost savings, but comparatively few English speakers.

"You can get by in English to some extent, but if we intend to form long-term successful relationships with our foreign partners than cultural and linguistic knowledge is essential. If we continue to choose to communicate solely in English we are no doubt limiting potential success. Many people do not realise how much they can influence others by speaking the language of the country in which you are doing business. This will not only result in better communication, but ultimately new business opportunities, improved relationships and greater success in the global marketplace."

Not surprisingly, Gavin supports the Government's initiative to introduce language education into the National Curriculum as early as possible, with the company providing financial backing to a school in the local community to increase access to language teaching. Children aged 7-8 at Meltham Moor Primary School are able to benefit from Spanish coaching lessons funded and provided by Applied Language Solutions.

Finally, Gavin said: "We strongly believe that language education is important, and the Spanish classes we are helping to provide will assist the children as they continue to develop and move forward in their lives and education."

Applied Language Solutions translate all kinds of documents from simple letters to large technical documents, including whole websites and printed catalogues, for specialist Medical, Legal, Financial and Marketing organisations. The company is committed to using only professional in-country translators and interpreters, of whom they have over 6,000 on their books. These translators work in over 150 languages including all the major European, Asian, African, Middle Eastern and American languages.

Applied Language Solutions now have eight offices world wide: Huddersfield, California, Paris, Barcelona, Sofia, Guatemala City, Hong Kong and India, and are proud to be the winners of HSBC Start-Up Star Awards 2006.

For a free quote visit http://www.appliedlanguage.com or call +44 (0)870 367 7000 in the UK or +1 (800) 579 5010 in the US to talk to one of the team.

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Stacey Rose
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