Archive for July, 2009

We know how valuable language skills are to the workforce and the economy, but it seems like there’s even more evidence now to show that there’s a high price tag attached to the lack of language skills across the English speaking world.

A new report shows that a shortage of translators in Ireland, capable of translating documents into Irish, has cost the government there over €1.5 million since 2007. The department of education was the biggest spender, with the department of social and family affairs also spending significant amounts.

This means that not only are the UK and Ireland both losing out on valuable contracts through the lack of language skills in their workforces (as we reported recently) but this skill shortage is actually costing us a lot of money too. This comes as another report states that around a fifth of UK primary schools could miss a target to offer languages by 2010. Without this pipeline of talent, the situation is going to get even worse.


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We often hear about glass ceilings for women but a recent government report has concluded that top professions have become increasingly exclusive, making it harder for individuals from poorer backgrounds to break into careers in law, medicine and accountancy. In many occupations it has also become harder to ‘work your way up’.

Barriers cited include internships, with former Health Secretary Alan Milburn saying that securing one often relies on knowing the right people. He is calling for career advice to start much earlier – in primary school – and more action by schools, parents and companies. He said: “There is a chasm between where we are and where we need to be if Britain is to realise the social and economic benefits of huge potential growth in professional employment. We need a new recognition: that a closed-shop mentality in our country means that too many people from middle-income as well as low-income families encounter doors that are shut to their talents.”

 It’s an interesting argument – as recruiters we know that there is a lot of legislation surrounding equality and a lot of work that goes towards providing opportunities for a wide range of people. But on the other hand, without a good education and the necessary support and encouragement, many people will not be able to maximise on their potential talent and grab these offers. What do you think – are there closed doors? And what can businesses do to help this situation?

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A new, 25th, version of the Duden German language dictionary has now been launched, featuring 5000 new words. It’s always interesting to see what new English words make it into the dictionary, but what new vocab have the Germans been using?

New words include twittern – to twitter and komasaufen – literally translated as ‘to drink into a coma’, but more commonly known as binge drinking. A more German related entry is Abwrackprämie, a ‘car scrapping premium’ of €2500 for those that scrap their cars which are over nine years old.

Which other words would you like to see added?

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Where have all the linguists gone? Making modern languages optional at GCSE must be having a knock on effect, as Universities are now facing the effects of less students applying to study languages.

The University of the West of England is stopping courses in French, German and Chinese for the next academic year as they only received 39 applicants, compared to other subjects which saw a 14% rise in applications. This comes as Queen’s University Belfast announced plans to close its German department.

This is just another example of the damage that a drop in language learning is causing. In a few years’ time this will have a significant effect on the business world too, with a shrinking pipeline of linguistic talent. At the recent European Award for Languages held by CILT, Baroness Coussins quoted some interesting research from Cardiff Business School, which found that the UK loses £9 – 21 billion from lost contracts every year due to our lack of language skills. That’s a phenomenal amount of money that could be helping restore our economy, but with news like this, the situation doesn’t look like it’s going to be improving in the near future.

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Our recent press release!

We’re in a recession but the UK economy is losing out because of our lack of language skills. That was the message from the European Award for Languages 2009, where multi lingual recruiter Euro London Appointments sponsored the Business Language Prize.

The ceremony reinforced the message that languages are key to the UK workplace. Baroness Coussins, Chair of the Parliamentary group on modern languages, quoted recent research that found the UK loses up to £21 billion a year in lost contracts because of the lack of language skills in the British workforce. She also pointed out that teams from 205 countries will be participating in the London Olympic Games in just three years time and urged language learners to continue working hard to turn around the negative stereotype surrounding Brits and languages.

“As a company that not only recruits multi lingual personnel, but whose staff all speak another language, we really appreciate how important languages are to the business world” says David Shacklock, Managing Director of Euro London Appointments. “It’s great to get involved in projects like this and encourage language learning, which is crucial to ensure that we have enough talented linguists to make up the next generation of business leaders. These figures are just more evidence that more needs to be done when it comes to language learning. That missing £21 billion could go a long way to lifting us out of this recession.”

Euro London awarded the Business Language Prize of £1000 to a project called ‘Eurofest’ for developing language provision to match the needs of business and employers. The awards were held in Bristol by CILT, the National Centre for Languages, to reward language learning projects from around the UK. They also featured journalist, broadcaster and keen linguist, Henry Bonsu, as Master of Ceremonies.

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It’s no surprise that ever since the government made the learning of a foreign language at GCSE level optional, the number of students taking them has fallen. But according to the exam board, Cambridge Assessment, only 75% of the highest achievers take a GCSE exam in a modern language – that’s down from 94% 25 years ago. The research also said that Spanish is set to overtake German as the second most popular language after French.

Three quarters of the highest achievers studying languages is still a high percentage, however it’s worrying that this number has decreased so dramatically. And if it’s falling among the brightest students, what about the rest of the school population? More efforts need to be made to encourage language learning, or the pipeline of linguistic talent in the UK will continue to shrink.

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France, like the rest of the world, has suffered at the hands of the global recession, but Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

He recently told Parliament that the French economy would gradually improve next year, which would also help the employment market. “The year 2009 will be very difficult for the employment program. It will be only during the course of 2010 that we see a very gradual [economic] improvement that will permit an improvement in the employment market.”

It’s positive that there is now more optimistic discussion going on, and although there is a long way to go yet, hopefully we are on the road to recovery.

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