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meeting business language

In today’s global economy, businesses are increasingly operating in multicultural environments, with companies conducting business with counterparts from different countries and cultures. In such a context, effective communication is crucial, and language barriers can significantly impact a business’s success or failure. While it may be tempting to rely on English as a common language, can you afford not to speak the language of the country you work with? This is a question that companies operating in Italy and Spain should seriously consider.

In Italy, English is not widely spoken, with only 21% of the population speaking English fluently, according to a 2019 Eurobarometer survey. Furthermore, a study by the European Commission revealed that Italian companies that conduct international business and speak the language of the country they are working with achieve better results than those that do not. For example, companies that do not speak the local language have a 25% lower chance of exporting their products or services.

Similarly, in Spain, only 22% of the population speaks English fluently. Still, it is a country that heavily relies on international trade, and being able to communicate effectively with foreign partners is critical. Research by the Spanish Confederation of Employers and Industries (CEOE) suggests that Spanish companies that do not speak the language of the country they are working with experience a 30% drop in exports, while those that invest in language training for their employees can increase their export sales by 45%.

language for business la danteThe importance of language proficiency in business cannot be overstated. Speaking the local language allows for smoother communication and builds trust between parties. It also helps to understand the culture and customs of the country, which can be critical in building successful relationships. By speaking the local language, businesses can gain a competitive advantage over those that do not.

Moreover, language proficiency can also improve employee morale and job satisfaction. Employees who can speak the local language are more likely to feel integrated into the local community and can develop closer relationships with colleagues and clients.

In recent years, Italy and Spain have recognized the importance of English for business and have taken steps to promote language learning. In Italy, the government has launched initiatives to improve English language proficiency, and English has been made a compulsory subject in schools. In Spain, the government has launched the “Plan for the Promotion of Language Learning,” which aims to increase language proficiency levels, particularly in English.

However, companies cannot rely solely on government initiatives to bridge the language gap. It is the responsibility of companies to invest in language training for their employees. This investment can include language courses, hiring bilingual employees, or using language learning software.

In conclusion, can you afford not to speak the language of the country you work with? For companies operating in Italy and Spain, the answer is no. In today’s global economy, language proficiency is essential for business success. Speaking the local language can improve communication, build trust, and increase sales. Companies must invest in language training for their employees to remain competitive in the international market.



Dott.ssa Giulia Portuese, BA, OSI
Director and founder, La Dante in Cambridge, European Cultural Centre