Knowledge of foreign languages is one of the keys to internationalization, as to do so it’s nearly essential to know the language of the country you want to export to. In the words of the Viscount Étienne Davignon, president of the European Commission’s Business Forum, “Without mutual understanding, we are unable to live and work together”. The European Union is an alliance that values diversity; a lingua franca isn’t enough to satisfy our communication needs. Multilingualism promotes openness and tolerance, but also opens the doors to new markets and opportunities.
Each year, a significant percentage of European SMEs lose out on contracts as a direct result of their lack of linguistic and intercultural skills. These are the findings of the ELAN[ii] report, published by the European Commission in February 2007, which was the first Europe-wide study on the loss of business opportunities due to lack of linguistic skills in companies. The report is based on a sample of nearly two thousand SMEs in the EU-27 and candidate countries.11% of the SMEs in the sample say they have lost contracts as a direct result of their lack of language skills.
Doing business abroad doesn’t only entail language difficulties, there are also protocol rituals that, if participants are unaware of, can lead to a breakdown in negotiations.When dealing with western countries, these processesare somewhat simpler. But things become more complicated when dealing with Asian countries with lesser-known languages where the aforementioned rituals are just as important as what is said and covered in a meeting.[iii]
It is clear that it isn’t possible (or necessary) to be able to speak all languages, but it is very important to be able to identify the situations in which a translator, interpreter or linguistic-services agency can be an important asset to your company.There is no longer any excuse to lose out on business opportunities abroad, and even more in light of the current economic climate. The proper linguistic advisory services will make us stronger, more competitive and better prepared to tackle large-scale projects.
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