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EU Study: Companies can grow their Business by acquiring better Foreign Language Skills


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union lose contracts worth several millions each year due to language and culture barriers. An ELAN study published by the European Union in December 2006 shows clearly that investment in foreign language skills has a significant positive impact on the competitiveness and commercial success of a company.

The ELAN study uncovered a link between the foreign language skills available within European companies and their success in the export market. A survey among nearly 2000 exporting SMEs in 29 European countries was carried out. It appears that about eleven percent of the surveyed enterprises were unsuccessful in their bids for contracts due to the lack of foreign language skills within their organisation. This lack proved to be a great obstacle when it comes to communication. The companies affected by this loss of business reported that in many cases they failed to secure contracts worth several million of Euro. The study obviously only examined cases where the company was aware that it actually or potentially lost business. The study therefore could not quantify the actual loss to businesses.

The improvement of multilingual communication is however only the first step on the road to success. In international business relationships, knowledge of the cultural environment of the target market is as important as knowledge of the actual language. In this regard, SMEs tend to encounter additional intercultural barriers that could be avoided, claims the study.

Companies who wish to meet the requirements of new markets, have however the option to contract professionals to cover their foreign language needs, and such services are available at an affordable price.

Translators have become foreign language managers

Translation agencies have gradually developed into foreign language service providers, acting as competent and flexible partners of internationally operating companies and catering for their regional trading departments.

admundi LANGUAGE SERVICES based in Bremen, Germany, offers its international business customers a range of intercultural services that could best be described as foreign language management services. They include various components from translation and interpretation to foreign language training and co-presence at trade fairs and other events. admundi LANGUAGE SERVICES also coaches individuals for negotiations or presentations. Companies avail of native speakers of their customers' languages to establish initial contacts and to look after their customer relationships.

Intelligent foreign language management helps internationally trading companies to be competitive and successful. Brigitte Focke, co-owner of admundi, supports the ELAN study conclusion that many companies forfeit business, lose contracts and disappoint their business partners and customers out of sheer ignorance, as they are unaware of the differences in mentality and culture and therefore make serious faux-pas when dealing with people from other regions of the world.

She remembers for example an automotive component supplier who suddenly and for no apparent reason was shunned by a customer in China . After contacting admundi for professional assistance, a number of misunderstandings could be clarified, and the customer was won back. admundi also offers multilingual personal assistance for participants in meetings, conferences and trade fairs, easing their encounters with other languages and cultures. Also available is one-to-one coaching for presentations or lectures aimed at an international audience.

admundi was established as a translation agency fifteen years ago by the American Neil van Siclen. Van Siclen, who is still a co-owner of the business, knows from his own experience that advertising copy only works if it is adapted to the culture of the target market. Otherwise, it will not reach the target audience and can even be counterproductive. Professional translators do not only know the language, but are also familiar with the associated culture.

Source: admundi Language Services