In today’s globalised world characterised by technological progress and advancements in the information and communication industry, English language has always been at the centre-stage, which no other language could make its reach and impact businesses and governments globally.
Skills in foreign languages, especially with the growth of economic associations across the world, servicing importers and exporters amongst others, have created a huge demand for interpreters that is helping bridge language barriers. The role of interpreters has become crucial and they are being hired in big numbers for different languages as economies globally are expanding to various foreign markets, thus facilitating deals and businesses.
In fact, one’s ability to speak multiple languages, including English is becoming a valuable tool for modern employers, particularly as aforementioned global bodies, governments and businesses are growing in size, as their economy is moving globally, making languages a crucial subject of importance.
India and China are home to the biggest education institutions and systems in the world and with all five BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations committed to scaling up efforts. They have the potential to become leaders in good quality education. This will help millions of students who would benefit from improved learning systems as it would ensure better skills and knowledge. This will help in transforming economies and societies.
Moreover, languages are an essential means at the international level for developing businesses and for exploring new markets. Helping oneto- one interaction and bridging the barriers, foreign languages serve as a medium to also bridge intercultural gaps and contribute to a mutual understanding.
Though English language continues to remain important in the future despite countless regional and minority languages, skills in foreign language like English, continues to be a key asset.
Why English is no longer dominant in world trade: English and globalisation have spread hand-inhand and its role as a sole language for internet and world trade has drastically taken a dip as other foreign languages are increasingly being used. The most relevant example is Chinese language.
The importance of this language for trade relations has grown significantly over the years. It is not English alone that is used in international business relations. It is due to the tendency of companies to use local language based on their markets or one of the major languages, such as German, Spanish or French.
Investment in the learning of the language, both by central government, educational institutions or private sector organisations, necessitate a methodical examination of languages that can bring more benefits, to people, society and the economy at large.
Demand for language skills: Businesses in a wide diversity of sectors keenly seek employees with language skill. Need for German and French in sales and trading roles considered for 16 per cent of all needs, demonstrate the strong command for linguistic working in various markets. The sales and trading sectors are accounted for one-third of all available vacancies. This was followed by IT and technology, administrative, finance, and project management positions.Responses from various recruitment agencies indicate that employers are looking for people with linguistic and advanced foreign language skills who can be used in a business context.
Their clients seek workers who are extremely capable in languages but not necessarily expert linguists, such as translators or interpreters. This is a very positive message for graduate linguists. Significantly, language learning encourages international mobility, which itself is highly valued by employers. International experience is associated with a strong command of a particular language and increased flexibility.
Employers reported that when applying for a job, a graduate with knowledge of one or more foreign languages would have an edge over a similar graduate with no language skills. Foreign languages are reported to be the skills in relation to which employers are most dissatisfied.
Why language and intercultural skills are important: Languages and intercultural skills are strategically important in a challenging economic environment. Graduates must develop their language ability to remain competitive in today’s global workforce. The perception that everyone speaks English is enough, can be easily challenged. Use of different foreign languages on the internet has dramatically changed in the last few years for international communication and for commercial purposes. Social medias like Facebook, Twitter and even Google are allowing their audience to communicate through local languages.
Lack of knowledge of foreign language may deter businesses in reaching out to global markets. For companies that are proactive in their exports and are willing to meet to the market needs, give higher importance to language skills that helps to scale up businesses and exports. Moreover, universities and institutions must also invest in languages to remain competitive in the global marketplace.
Language learning in higher education can offer returns on investment that students will inevitably seek. There is huge demand for foreign languages and intercultural skills from employers who are looking for individuals with active language skills and are able to work on an international platform. They look for a wide range of languages, across various sectors. Most importantly, research has enabled the higher education language community and other interested to make progress in quantifying the labour market for language and intercultural skills.
A labour market study says that languages continue to be critical to the success in every sector. The numbers of those who take-up learning foreign languages must be encouraged to ensure that the continued demand can be met. On the other hand, employers must also be encouraged to articulate the value that they place on recruiting and retaining employees with language skills.
The writer is president, Manav Rachna Educational Institutions.