When English is so widely spoken, it’s easy to assume there’s no need to learn another language – especially now translation software can decode a document in an instant. However, the lack of workplace language skills in the UK is thought to be costing the economy almost £50 billion a year in lost contracts, according to government figures. Here’s why being multilingual can make all the difference to your company and career…

1. The demand is there

Employer demand for linguists is currently on the rise, with a recent report by jobs site Indeed showing an increase of 2.7 per cent since 2016. As a result of slowing migration from the EU, and a decline in language learning in British schools, multilingual professionals are increasingly sought after. Indeed’s report stated that German is currently the most popular language for UK companies wanting to recruit (with demand climbing by 11 per cent between 2016-19), followed by French, Chinese, Spanish and Italian.

2. It opens opportunities

‘If the business that you work for does business internationally then you’re going to be an asset,’ confirms a spokesperson for Euro London Appointments (eurolondon.com), a language-oriented recruitment consultancy. While it’s true that millions of professionals around the globe can speak excellent English, they might also, in fact, be happier negotiating in their first language. So if you can reach out to them in their native tongue, this could give you the edge when it comes to making both contacts and deals.

3. Cultural knowledge is key

According to Euro London Appointments, another reason why learning a language is so valuable is that it increases cross-cultural understanding: ‘People do business with people they can connect with,’ confirms their spokesperson. If you know how to greet an overseas contact properly, and are au fait with the way of life in their country, they’re more likely to feel at ease and want to collaborate further in future. Soft skills of this kind enable you to make better working relationships – and friendships – internationally.

4. It's a USP

As a study by the British Council showed in 2017, only a third of Britons can hold a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue. Therefore, simply having this ability will set you apart. In my own career as a journalist, for example, I’ve been approached to write bilingual features on account of my language skills (I’m a fluent German speaker) – work that would not have come my way otherwise. Be sure to flag up your linguistic prowess to both current and future employers, and on work-related social media profiles.

5. You can join the conversation

If you work for a global company, you might be conducting meetings with overseas colleagues in English, but as you leave the table, don’t you want to know what they’re saying to each other? Wouldn’t it be useful, too, to be able to read all your work documents and emails without having to rely on translation software, which tends not to pick up on nuances or turns of phrase? Once you have the language know-how, you will feel more involved in everything that’s going on in your business, and on a more level footing with your counterparts around the world.


Alex Reece is a freelance writer, editor and language tutor.

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