Languages for business

One good reason to learn languages is to do business in other countries. If you are able to conduct meetings and negotiations, and provide sales and marketing materials in the language of your clients and customers, the chances of selling your products and services are much higher than if you can’t. You could rely on interpreters, but that would cost more and probably slow things done, so it’s better if you can do things yourself.

According to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), quite a number of British companies – 11% of those surveyed – do not export to Europe due to language barriers, and a further 5% cited cultural barriers as an excuse for not exporting. The BCC estimates that the average small business in missing out on up to £250,000 of annual orders as a result of being unable to do business in other languages.

Traditionally British companies export to countries where English is spoken, or at least widely studied as a second or foreign language. Some also prefer to do business with countries with a similar culture. Exports to places where relatively little English is spoken, such as Spain, Italy and Latin America, tend to be much lower.

A study in the USA found that those with a minimal knowledge of English are six times less likely to buy things from websites in English than those with a good level of English, and that people are more likely to buy from and are willing to pay extra on websites in their own language.