Let me turn to the two underpinning pieces of research which have led to the development of the LCA which have been critical in its initiation, design and development. The ELAN Study undertaken in 2006 found that a significant amount of business was being lost in Europe as a result of a lack of language skills. Across the sample of some 2000 SMEs, 11% had lost a contract as a result of a lack of language skills. The survey identified situations where companies were aware of the business lost or potentially lost due to language and/or cultural barriers, but the real figure was likely to have been under-reported.
In summary, the ELAN research told us:
- Nearly 1million European companies may have lost a contract for lack of foreign languages;
- Average loss per business over three years adds up to at least €325,000;
- Total loss could be in the region of €100 billion pa;
- 40% of companies expected to acquire new language skills in the near future.
From the research, four characteristics of companies were found to be associated with higher performance in international trade: namely, the employment of native speakers; recruiting employees with existing language skills; using professional interpreters and translators; and having a language management plan (or strategy) in place. SMEs investing in these four elements achieved export sales nearly 45% higher than those not making any of these investments.
Stephen Hagen (Prof)
Director, Semantica Ltd.,