Learning a foreign language could boost your business prospects, says University of Suffolk lecturer
As the UK gears up for Brexit, a key message to businesses has been that they must look to forge stronger links with trading partners abroad.
One way that companies can enhance their chances of developing lasting relations with counterparts overseas is to encourage sales and business development staff to learn the language of the destination they are targeting, so says Gloria Picton, a lecturer at the University of Suffolk who teaches Spanish to business students.
And people don’t have to be fluent to make a difference, she believes - just having the ability to carry out key business formalities in a foreign tongue is enough to strengthen bonds and break down cultural boundaries.
Home-grown language skills
“There’s a barrier in England, people say that they are not very good at learning new languages but I think it is a false concept because English people can learn a language like Spanish very quickly,” says Gloria
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“In two hours they can learn enough Spanish to say who they are, their name and introduce themselves. Because of the phonetic differences - it’s easier for an English-speaker to learn Spanish than vice-versa.
“If you want to promote your own country the best way you can do it is by learning about the language and the culture of the country you are doing business with.
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“UK businesses are saying they need people who can speak English and another foreign language - at the moment they are using foreigners but after Brexit they will have to grow more of these skills at home.”
Originally from Seville in Spain where she studied business at university, Gloria first came to the UK to work in international banking in London. Her move into language teaching came later after she began to start a family.
Now at the University of Suffolk in Ipswich she oversees an innovative approach that gives students the option to learn Spanish as an additional study to their main degree subject.
“If a business student learns a language then it opens up new options - such as working in business tourism or events.
We are looking at using Spanish in a practical way - we are not aiming for perfect grammatical language but giving people tools, such as how to write a CV, how to do a presentation, how to write a cover letter or how to introduce themselves formally and informally.”
Gloria says there are 21 countries where Spanish is the official language, as well as destinations like the US where Spanish is still widely spoken by the hispanic and latino population, and Brazil where, although the official language is Portuguese, people speak Spanish because that is the main language of the region.
She added: “Because English is the international language of business we have got lazy in our attitudes towards learning another language. But in a post-Brexit world, we must learn to look outwards more.”