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Multilingualism and SME competitiveness

Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language Skills in Enterprise. The National Centre for Languages. December 2006. Pages: 82 (available online)

This study, commissioned by the Directorate General of Education and Culture of the European Commission and carried out by the UK National Centre for Languages, analyses how language skills impact the business performance of SME’s (small and medium-sized enterprises). It ultimately suggests that businesses can exploit better opportunities and vastly increase their total exports if they invest more in inter-company language skills. The findings include the following:

  • an estimated 11% of exporting European SME’s may be losing business because of communication barriers;
  • there is a clear link between languages knowledge and export success;
  • though English is the main language for accessing export markets, companies should have cultural and linguistic knowledge of the different countries with which they deal;
  • in 15 of 29 countries surveyed, at least 50% of businesses claimed to be taking a proactive approach to enhancing multilingual communication; This should be greatly increased if business intend to enter new export markets in upcoming years.

Multilingualism Commissioner Orban intends to launch a Business Forum this year to better explore how language skills impact the European economy.

Executive Summary
Complete Study