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Break language barriers to facilitate a literal dialogue between businesses in London
Posted by Go Up Ltd on 15 Mar 2017
English is widely accepted to be the language of business. Foreign language learning, therefore, has long been regarded with arrogance or irreverence by London’s business elite. But the convenience of being able to conduct communications in their native tongue has led to a complacency that may now damage business dealings.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages previously claimed that the UK economy lost around £50 billion a year in contracts because of lack of language skills in the workforce. In fact, one in four companies operating internationally reported having lost out on business opportunities due to sub-par language skills.
London’s language map is incredibly diverse
A truly multicultural city, London is home to one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world. Approximately one third of Londoners are foreign-born. It’s also one of the most linguistically diverse, with an estimated 300 languages spoken across the capital.
London-based translation agency Global Voices checked in with a commentary on the necessity of providing for London’s diverse linguistic map when it comes to business in the capital. In a blog post, they write that, given the city’s scale of linguistic diversity, “neglecting to cater to a non-english speaking audience in hyper-diverse London… may mean you’re missing a vital opportunity to engage.“
The US, Germany and the Netherlands were the three countries with the most UK businesses in 2012. A majority 54% of foreign-owned businesses were owned from within Europe, while roughly a third were owned from within North and South America. In total, just 1% of UK companies are foreign-owned, but they contribute 29% of UK gross value added. What’s important to remember is that the majority of these high-income businesses operate primarily in a language other than English.
Outside the business sector, London prides itself on its rich cultural heritage, and its diversity which enables different cultures and communities to come together for their mutual benefit. It’s part of the election rhetoric that helped get Sadiq Khan elected to the Mayorship in 2016, and is widely considered the explanation for why Londoners voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the European Union.
Translating business in the City
As a highly specialised trade, translation and interpretation services are increasingly in demand in the globalised marketplace and international cityscape.
Considering London’s diverse population, it surely comes as no surprise that the translation and interpretation industry has grown on average by 12% each year since 2008, and is now estimated to be worth £22.4 billion. The number of jobs for self-employed, privately-employed and agency translators and interpreters has also doubled in the past ten years.
Specialist translation agencies provide business translations across sectors as diverse as finance, technology and legal translation. This is key, given that financial services and IT helped drive up UK foreign direct investment last year, as did acquisitions of assets and shares.
In the context of current political debate, the resources of professional translators and interpreters continue to be essential for facilitating a cross-language communication in London. While Britain’s exit from the EU threatens to derail much of the city’s international business, the services of translators are being utilised to negotiate new supply chains and trade deals across the capital.
Now, more than ever before, facilitating a dialogue across language barriers is key to courting international business partners. Until London’s business elite wake up to the fact that they should be investing greater time and effort in their own foreign language skills, professional business translators and interpreters remain key to facilitating international investment in a London that may no longer boast access to the single market.