We live in a Global Market of 7 billion, traditional barriers to communication and mobility are not obstacles any more
The Single European Market (SEM) came and evolved into the European Union (EU) of 500 million people; the two Germanies have long since married in constitutional union; the Former Soviet Union (FSU) continues to grapple openly with new concepts and increased pressures within and from beyond its former frontiers; improved transportation and rapid developments in Information Technology (IT) have shrunk the globe.
With development comes opportunity – Brexit is a point in question – and with opportunity comes challenge: Britain can look to revitalised and new markets in the same way others can now eye Britain and its population of 65 million. For reasons of historical accident – C19th hegemony of the British Empire, establishment of the Commonwealth with its current population of 2 billion, technological advances under the tutelage of North American English – English has become the world’s lingua franca: English is the preferred medium of communication in Board Rooms around the world. In the same way that French gained prestige in former times in matters of international diplomacy, English is now the undisputed international language of business. The position it occupies may be sacrificed at some future point – in Europe that may be to German, that would be to France’s chagrin – but international business English (Off-Shore English/Global English) looks set to hold pole position for the foreseeable future. The only snag there is that Britain risks being lulled into a false sense of security; it’s in her linguistic strength that lies her very weakness. It must never be forgotten that we live in a new multilingual world in which Britain must talk to people in the way they understand best and in which Spanish and Chinese in particular gain more importance daily.
The responses demanded of British companies in the face of international pressures can be readily identified:
CORPORATE LANGUAGE POLICY
In the first instance, companies should formulate and publicise to all employees their language policy. As a meaningful part of the business plan, the language policy should look to a desired point in the company’s future operation.
In order to put the corporate language policy to good effect, the company should then conduct both a skills audit – to determine foreign language capability across the workforce/throughout the employee range – and a needs analysis to assess current, projected and potential requirements.
To compare the two sets of respective data (Skills v. Needs), the main points of reference in defining the desiderata for any training programme, is to identify the company’s skills shortfall. This shortfall can then be translated into a training
programme which can be gauged, monitored, assessed and reviewed as appropriate.
If not by this stage, the services of a consultant linguist should now be enlisted. That consultant’s task would be to identify not only the appropriate methodologies to be employed but also the content, perhaps even budget. The consultant’s recommendations would be expected to cover such topics as:
– Identification of Trainees
Considerations: Job/person specification/functions and corresponding language requirements; bonus and incentive schemes.
– Delivery of Training
Considerations: Residential or non-residential; in-company or off-site; self-disciplined, partially or fully tutored; tele-guided; open/distance learning; individual or in-group; evening, morning, lunch-time, twilight or week-end.
– Intensity of Training
Considerations: Intensive, extended (drip-fed) or on-going.
– Content of Training
Considerations: Language for specific purpose; ratio between the linguistic and para -linguistic (e.g. cultural/social awareness and Business Culture/ X-cultural Training); initial and refresher courses; competences and grades.
– Monitoring, Assessment and Evaluation
Considerations: Targets, progression and achievement; cost- effectiveness .
Considerations: Identification; outside contract or company
Team; free-lance or dedicated; selection procedures.
If employing young foreign nationals, be aware that they may have the foreign language skills and full awareness of their own culture, but they may not understand English very well and/or may not understand your company’s product/service/culture …
– In-house Resources (Resource Centres)
Considerations: Location, mission, management, materials, methodology, (incl. references and retrieval systems) and staffing.
Considerations: Staff development (professional progression), external v. internal awards, identification of appropriate standards and awarding bodies.
– Translation and Interpreting
Considerations: In-company, freelance or company contracts; PR and marketing. Be aware of the dangers of internet/online translating programs like Google Translate etc.
– Additional Services
Considerations: Budgeting; policy considerations; trade/profession conferencing. For many companies foreign language and related training will be a new, but essential consideration. Every company’s future will depend on it. Not to communicate effectively is not to respond to the demands of the day. To ignore the demands of the day is to close windows on the world.
(Please note that we can be engaged to provide all the services identified or otherwise implied above)