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.
It’s a widely held belief that Britons aren’t the best at learning languages. But it seems that the Irish share our lack of linguistic ability. The Irish Independent reports that according to the latest Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey, over 23% of employers complain that Irish graduates lack fluency in a foreign language. The article also says that Chinese and Japanese are growing in popularity in Irish schools, with these nations becoming increasingly significant in the business world.
Professor Fan Hong of the Institute of Chinese studies at UCC is working to try and get Chinese taught in more Irish schools. He says: “Mandarin will become an important language for Ireland in the 21st century. People have to realise that if you want to find a job, you have to be able to communicate in other languages. It may not be necessary to learn the language so that you speak it fluently. But some basic knowledge will certainly help people. Mandarin is now a major language of business.”
Both in Ireland and in the UK there does not seem to be enough emphasis on the importance of language learning due to English being the lingua franca. Teaching languages like Chinese would be a great move forward as at Euro London we see a constant demand for candidates with Asian languages. More work like this needs to be done to get children learning languages at an earlier age and to encourage them to continue with their language studies.
If you’re a company interested in promoting language learning then visit CILT – Euro London have been involved with the Business Language Champions project for 2 years now and it’s a fantastic way to show young people just what opportunities languages can bring.