Mon 14th Oct 2013
NI Chamber: Language learning will translate into business growth
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce (NICC) has called for a fundamental change in approach to the importance of language learning, to ensure that the next generation of business owners are ‘born global’.
A revision of the national curriculum to ensure modern languages are compulsory until AS level, along with the implementation of financial incentives such as tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses that make a significant investment in language training, are amongst the measures called for by NICC.
Following the latest Danske Bank Export First event held in Belfast last week, Sandra Scannell, Operations & Programmes Director at NI Chamber of Commerce said:
“Despite the vast opportunities available, businesses are still reluctant to take their first steps and enter Middle Eastern markets. In recent research commissioned by the Chambers of Commerce network, almost half of businesses claimed that language barriers influence whether, when and where, to enter international markets. The research highlights that the extent of the language deficit in the UK is truly serious with up to 96% of businesses having no foreign language ability for the markets they serve.
“Businesses must therefore invest in language skills for their existing staff however government must play its part by re-establishing foreign languages as core subjects within the national curriculum. The National Curriculum must be revised so that studying a foreign language is compulsory until AS level, and introduce incentives such as tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses who make a significant investment in language training.”
Ruth Graham, Head of Trade Finance at Danske Bank, sponsors of Export First, stressed:
“The Middle East represents a huge area of opportunity for local companies. Saudi Arabia for example has recently launched the six “economic cities” initiative which is planned to be completed by 2020. These six new industrialised cities are intended to diversify the economy of Saudi Arabia, and are expected to increase per capita income levels. The six economic cities, is a part of an ambitious plan to place Saudi Arabia among the world’s top ten competitive investment destinations. The initiative will help diversify the oil-based economy by bringing direct foreign and domestic investments. This will open up opportunities in construction, healthcare and education sectors.
“There are opportunities in these Middle Eastern markets for Northern Ireland businesses, and initiatives such as the Danske Bank Export First programme are there to support them and help them overcome any barriers that may be encountered along the way.”
The recent UK-wide Chamber of Commerce survey also revealed that only 0.5% of respondents claimed to speak Russian or Chinese well enough to conduct business deals in their buyers’ tongue.