There has been a lot of discussion lately over fears that Britain is losing its position as a leader in the global marketplace. Among other things leaving British businesses out in the cold, language has been identified as one of the major obstacles.
Despite the Prime Minister leading trade missions to China and India, the gulf becomes even more apparent with the trade deficit.
Why We’re Losing When Selling Aboard
The main reason is confidence. As Brits, we usually lack the confidence to sell abroad due to the lack of language skills we possess and the misunderstanding about foreign cultures.
In fact, the figures are quite astounding:
- 3 out of 5 mid-sized businesses don’t sell abroad
- 1 in 10 businesses have included global expansion in their vision for the future
Industry leaders have met at Whitehall to discuss potential solutions and one key area has been unearthed: the lack of language learning in schools.
It seems that the traditional way of pushing children through the education system isn’t translating well into worldwide business. Future leaders in business need technical skills and real language abilities, and instead they’re being forced to sit GCSEs that may not have any relevance in the future.
Thanks to Michael Gove, language is now compulsory from the age of seven. Despite this, it is clear that more needs to be done. Currently, too few British people speak a foreign language and this threatens to affect our economy as a whole.
To further add to the problem, compulsory language learning fails to address deep-rooted problems such as the lack of communication between primary and secondary schools, and the fact that language studies are the first to be sacrificed if a child is struggling with educational demands.
Along with this, the languages on offer have little value in a global market as they are mainly European, with most schools concentrating on French or German. Other languages such as Mandarin, Japanese and Arabic need to be introduced in order to connect us to the global marketplace and not limit our businesses to a single continent.
This year’s news of A-Level results varying in degree due to discrepancies in marking have led to more stringent controls over the way language exams are marked. Hopefully, if everyone involved, the government, industry leaders and those at the coalface at the schools, can communicate better, the whole picture will be resolved.