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Ireland pays the price for lack of translators

  •  Posted on Jul 30, 2009  by  | No Comments
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.
 

Another glass ceiling?

  •  Posted on Jul 27, 2009  by  | No Comments
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?
 

‘Twittern’ – the new German words

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?
 

Language degrees disappear

  •  Posted on Jul 20, 2009  by  | No Comments
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.
 

Encouraging language learning could save UK economy

  •  Posted on Jul 17, 2009  by  | No Comments
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.
 

Language learning at record low

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.
 

2010 for French recovery

  •  Posted on Jul 13, 2009  by  | No Comments
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.
 

The benefits of bilingualism

  •  Posted on Jul 06, 2009  by  | No Comments
We all know that being bilingual is a useful skill to have in the workplace and when travelling, but research now shows that those of us that are able to speak two languages can learn an additional language easier than those of us who are monolingual. According to research from Northwestern University in the States, it doesn’t matter which other language you speak, as researchers tested people who spoke both English and Mandarin and English and Spanish, and asked them to learn words from a made up language that did not resemble either Mandarin or Spanish. Both groups did significantly better than those who spoke only English. Viorica Marian, Associate Professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University, said: “It's often assumed that individuals who've learned multiple languages simply have a natural aptitude for learning languages. While that is true in some cases, our research shows that the experience of becoming bilingual itself makes learning a new language easier. After learning another language, individuals can transfer language learning strategies they've acquired to subsequent language learning and become better language learners in general." This is an interesting, although not particularly surprising find. Learning another language often teaches you a lot about your own language that you didn’t know before, and knowledge of how language works in general. This is even more reason for schools to start teaching languages from an early age, as it would provide a basis for further language learning. You can read the full article here. So what’s your next language going to be?
 

Police learn sign language

  •  Posted on Jul 03, 2009  by  | No Comments
When you think about languages, sign language isn’t often the first one that comes to mind. But it’s an important one, as police in Country Durham are learning. They have been offered sign language classes to help them communicate with a wider range of people in the local community. The course will teach up to 17 people over the course of nine weeks. This is a great idea – if more companies followed suit and helped their employees with language learning, it would make a huge difference to the UK’s ability to communicate in the global marketplace.
 

Scottish language

  •  Posted on Jul 01, 2009  by  | No Comments
We often forget that although the UK is one nation, we don’t all speak the same language. Much of Wales speaks Welsh, and now there is a push for more acknowledgement of Scottish. A Scottish Nationalist politician has written to supermarkets requesting that they change their packaging so that the fruit and veg are given their Scottish names. Bill Wilson says, "I can't see why they shouldn't use Scots words. For example, nobody uses the word 'blackberry' in Scotland; they're always referred to as brambles. The stores are very keen to say that they use Scots goods. Why don't they use Scots words as well?" However according to the Scotsman, critics have said he is wasting the supermarkets’ time during a recession and he hasn’t got very far in his quest, with the main stores telling him that a change would lead to confusion amongst shoppers. Language is a part of a culture and identity and therefore it is important – but isn’t this more a case of regional words and slang as opposed to a different language? London stores don’t have cockney rhyming slang on their packaging. Or is it important to relate to your customers in this way? It seems that there are some very different views – let us know your thoughts!
 

Ireland also faces language challenge

  •  Posted on Jun 29, 2009  by  | No Comments
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.
 

Spanish day

  •  Posted on Jun 25, 2009  by  | No Comments
Many of us in the UK can only manage a few words of Spanish, the most common ones being ‘hola’, ‘adios’ and ‘una cerveza’, I would imagine. So to celebrate and promote the Spanish language, the Cervantes Institute has launched the first international Spanish Language Day, or ‘el día del español’ which took place on Saturday 20th June. With events planned in 43 countries, including concerts, films and storytellings, the Institute plans to hold the Spanish Day every year. It was officially launched this year at the Institute’s headquarters in Madrid where a cannon fired out thousands of pieces of paper with Spanish words written on them. This seems like a great way to promote language learning around the world and something that schools and businesses could really get involved with. We’ll get thinking about ideas for 2010.