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What about languages in the corporate world ?


Last Updated: 25 Jul 2015

We have a great number of surveys done over the last ten years, the first one being the ELAN survey, published in 2007, on the effects on the European economy of shortages of foreign language skills in enterprise.
Other surveys have been done since : the report “Les langues font nos affaires” (Languages do our business) published in 2009 by the Business Forum on Multilingualism, presided by Etienne Davignon ; the PIMLICO study published in 2011 about management strategies of languages in small and medium-sized European businesses ; the DYLAN research program (Dynamics of languages) whose business section was particularly large ; a survey published in 2011 by l’OREFQ (Observatoire régional des emplois, des formations et qualifications) in the Lorraine region ; an extension of the ELAN program undertaken in Catalonia ; the CELAN survey (Competitiveness and Employment by Linguistic Means) ; and finally the report LEMP (Language and Employment), to be published shortly. This list is far from complete. We should add to it the works led by Professor Claude Truchot for the British Council, particularly as part of a France-Québec cooperation, and those led by Professor François Grin at the University of Geneva.
There are thus a wealth of means to know both the linguistic practices and needs of businesses that we can cross with a great number of observations and testimonies.
What these surveys tell is that :
- languages are important for the businesses ;
- English is important, but is not enough ;
- all the company functions are concerned by the issue of language but not to the same degree and in the same manner ;
- the determining factor of the choice of language is the client, the supplier, the partner, hence the idea that the business language is the client’s language ;
- languages are a real competitiveness issue for businesses.
On this basis, we could draw up the ideal profile for the individual and for the businesses.
For an individual, it could be said that the ideal manager is someone speaking several languages, understanding the intercultural dynamics at work and knowing how to transform this understanding into a superior capacity to manage men. This kind of abilities is still underdeveloped in the management schools but it is a significant asset, also outside the professional field. For a business it is a rare ability whose beneficial effects are numerous :
- on the information flow : the flow is quicker and of a better quality,
- on the quality of work conditions ;
- on the quality of human relationships, the identity of each being respected ;
- on individual productivity : the worker who feels good works better ;
- on the relationship with partners, suppliers and clients : the business language is first of all the client’s language ;
- on the quality of decision making; it is easier to measure the costs of training than the costs of a bad decision ;

- on creativity because it is known that bilinguals and plurilinguals are generally more creative and more competent in negotiation, etc.
All these assets have of course a value for businesses. It is thus not surprising that it should result in better remuneration. Candidates with plurilingual abilities have a significant advantage over others with only English in addition to their native language.

but it is a significant asset, also outside the professional field. For a business it is a rare ability whose beneficial effects are numerous :

- on the information flow : the flow is quicker and of a better quality,

- on the quality of work conditions ;

- on the quality of human relationships, the identity of each being respected ;

- on individual productivity : the worker who feels good works better ;

- on the relationship with partners, suppliers and clients : the business language is first of all the client’s language ;

- on the quality of decision making; it is easier to measure the costs of training than the costs of a bad decision ;