The power of language

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When you go abroad, how much of the country’s language do you learn? For most it includes hello, goodbye and one large beer please. This might be enough to get by on holiday, but is it enough for an international business meeting?

By Alison Gardner, account executive and international PR expert at Stone Junction. 

A recent survey by the European Commission found that only 38 per cent of Britons speak at least one foreign language, compared to the European Union average of 56 per cent.

So, why do so many people in the UK only speak one language?


Lingua franca

According to the World Economic Forum, around 1.5 billion people in the world speak English, but fewer than 400 million people have it as their first language.

Because of its popularity, English is usually the common language, or lingua franca, at international business meetings with attendees from multiple countries. So, it may seem unnecessary for people in the UK to learn a foreign language.


Technical advancements

Advancements in voice-recognition and computer translation mean that we may see a drop in the amount of people learning a second language.

Companies like Google are using artificial intelligence (AI) to create translations that are more accurate and natural, arguably reducing the need to learn a language even further. In the future, people may be able to wear devices that translate other speakers in real time — just like the Babel fish in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.


Multilingual

Although the capabilities of translation technology are increasing, we should not discourage people from learning a foreign language.

Studying a foreign language teaches you more than vocabulary and grammar. It will also give you insight into the culture and traditions of the people living in that country.

If you are planning to internationalise your business, learning the language may help you understand your new clients and associates. Willingness to learn the language also shows respect to a potential business partner, helping you to form important relationships as you expand your business.

Rather than turning to translation websites to help you on your next holiday or business trip, try to learn some simple phrases and immerse yourself in the culture — you never know what you might learn.

At Stone Junction we speak eight languages between us to help our clients build strong international PR campaigns. If you are thinking of developing your business overseas, give us a call on 01785 225 416 or e-mail alison@stonejunction.co.uk.

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