30 August 2018

Why French May Save Your Business


French is one of the most in-demand languages amongst UK firms. There has always been a close French connection to the UK, and the CBI/Pearson Educations and Skills Survey indicates that 51% of UK businesses desire French from their newest employees.

Speaking the language of our fine European neighbour may not be top of your business agenda right now, but there are several compelling reasons for introducing French language learning into your company. Read on to discover the many benefits of learning French for business.

Expand your reach into multiple territories

French is one of the most widespread languages in the world, with over 50 countries conversing in its romantic tones. It is, in fact, the third most widely spoken language in terms of the number of countries (eclipsed only by English and Arabic). Along with this global reach, it is also the second most popular language for people to learn (after English). There may not be a similar number of native French speakers as native English speakers out there, but French creates an undeniable buzz across the world with its formidable global reach. Not to mention that French has been, for a good amount of time, the language of diplomacy on top of it becoming a lingua franca.

To delve a little deeper, consider where it is spoken outside France. French is an official language in Canada, where it is commonly spoken across large areas of the country, and it is also an official language in countries closer to home, such as Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. In total, 29 countries declare French to be an official language, with many of the remaining tally in Africa and the Caribbean. If any of these countries or regions appear on your global market hitlist, French may be a great entry point to help you build relationships overseas.

French is closely related to English, giving you a good head start

It can be a little galling to be told that a language is easy to learn, especially if you find the idea daunting (or terrifying!) in the first place. Nonetheless, we cautiously declare that French is indeed relatively easy to learn compared to some other languages. For starters, it shares the same alphabet as English, so everything looks similar, even if the accents on some words seem less familiar.

Another important point to note, however, is that a lot of English words are derived from French. You may be surprised at just how many familiar words are recognisable in your French dictionary. Brunette, omelette, couture, fiancé, bouquet, and even the familiar business term ‘entrepreneur’ are all French words that have entered the English language. Even the grammar follows some familiar rules!

Say hello to the other romance languages

Imagine that you and your team have been polishing your French skills for a while now, and you can hold conversations comfortably with new and established business partners. Your business may already feel the benefits of this popular second language across your professional networks and maybe you have successfully extended your network beyond France itself, perhaps to Montreal or even Madagascar! If this is the case, where do you go from here to capitalise on this success?

One idea would be to tackle another language with your team, as you should now have a solid foundation for similar languages. In this case, it might be a manageable leap to go from French to one of the other ‘romance’ languages (derived from Latin). If you see an opportunity in Spain, Portugal, or one of the many South American countries that speak these languages, then perhaps you can encourage your team to grow their skills in these languages too – a natural step from French. Or maybe your opportunities are more local – Italian is also a close relative of French, so your team could be wining and dining customers in Milan or Rome before you know it. Any of these languages could be the hurdle to taking your business to the next level of expansion.

If you are not convinced, consider that the British Council believes that Spanish is the number one language the UK will need after Brexit (according to its Languages for the Future report, where French places third). Italian and Portuguese are also in the top 10 – with Italian at 6th, just shy of the top 5. These major romance languages are in demand, so starting with French could open the gates to the others for your team.

French could save your business post-Brexit

Once Britain leaves the EU, there will be a lot more jobs that require negotiation with our European neighbours. Businesses with the ability to converse in their native languages will have the advantage amongst UK businesses seeking to do business with or within the EU.

Languages may be highly valued by UK businesses, but sadly the next generation of business professionals is thin on language expertise. Only 14% of UK-based 18-34 year olds can hold a basic conversation in French – but if you think that sounds bad, consider that this is a fair showing versus German (8%) and Spanish (7%)! However you slice it, the crop of promising future recruits does not appear to have the language skills that UK businesses need to thrive after Brexit.

Of course, this does not need to be an obstacle to business success. Yes, language skills are crucial for businesses more than ever in this globalised world, but we are confident that this expertise can be developed within your organisation – giving you the pick of the top recruits based on the many other skills they can bring to the table. With all these great reasons to learn French, maybe our European neighbours offer an excellent starting point for you to build up your team’s languages skills – after all, France will undoubtedly remain pivotal to the UK’s success after Brexit.

The French Investment

By assessing language learning needs within your organisation, you can understand the skills gaps required to drive your business forward. If you are willing to invest in professional language training – and offer your colleagues the time and opportunity to develop their language skills – those seemingly out-of-reach markets, near or far, can become perfectly accessible. Investing for success really is a mantra to keep in mind for positive language learning outcomes.

Learning a new language is an investment of time, energy and money, but the results could be incredibly rewarding and create exciting opportunities for your business. Our diverse range of language courses for businesses can be tailored to suit your requirements, whether you are interested in French or a wealth of other languages. Contact Simon & Simon today to find out how we can help your organisation develop the language skills you need to succeed, after Brexit and beyond.

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