English is the working language in many organizations in Europe. If English is your own language, when you are negotiating international business in English it helps if you are aware of the difficulties that foreign speakers have in such discussions.
However, in almost all kind of professional environment, the ability of managing an additional language is more and more important and could be vital. Additionally, a recent survey in the North East England found that 20% of companies lose business in international markets as a result of a lack of language skills and cultural awareness; 46% of businesses are aware of language barriers; and 20% of businesses are aware of cultural barriers. These findings are a clear indicator of the worrying decline in the use of foreign languages and skills. (References taken from the PROWESS website, the OneNorthEast RES strategy, the RLN website and the University of Newcastle website).
Furthermore, the recent expansion of the European Union (EU) has heightened the urgent need for businesses to improve their language skills. The increasing influence of the European Union and the globalization of markets mean that these skills are becoming more and more important.
Modern languages are those that are widely spoken in the world today. Studying them not only involves language skills but also creates an understanding of the cultures of other countries.
Most people study modern languages because of their interest and ability in the subject. Comparatively few go directly into careers in which a language degree is essential – such as translating, interpreting, aspects of publishing or teaching. Many graduates, instead, go into jobs in which their language skills are desirable, such as the media, hospitality and leisure, areas of finance or journalism. With ever more European and international connections, such skills will grow in importance and can give you a real advantage in applying for a wide range of graduate jobs.
However, it is incorrect and limiting to assume that managing a foreign language is per se a source of an interesting and well-paid job. Together with what I will call “primary skills” (speaking, writing, and interpret a foreign languages), “secondary skills” are more and more important, and often vital to start up a business and survive in a high competitive market. Amongst these secondary skills we should mention communication skills, leadership skills, personal development skills, IT skills, business and accountancy skills. Some university degrees offer optional modules giving students the opportunity to specialize in market-related skills or topics related to enterprise and entrepreneurship, but these are often overlooked and not given the correct importance by graduates.
IN my work as an ambassador for international communications, I offer discussion, talks, mentoring on the possible development and implementation of strategies in the language industry that will build towards increasing the numbers of graduates and postgraduates and individuals starting and growing businesses and careers involving languages. The work does not aims to develop “primary skills” (i.e. translation skills, language learning), but it is focused on the “secondary skills”, as above defined. The work could involve working closely with universities and colleges offering languages degrees, translation and cultural consultancy agencies, career advisors to raise awareness and provide information to graduates on how to broaden students’ horizons.
The objectives include:
Raise awareness on the importance of language skills and cultural differences.
Encourage greater communication between entrepreneurs, language service providers and organizations supporting start-up businesses to stimulate supply and demand for language careers.
Provide career solutions designed to equip entrepreneurs with the best mentoring scheme for them.