By Geoffrey Bowden, General Secretary of the Association of Translation Companies

The UK is, at its heart, an outward-facing trading nation and British businesses feature across the world in nearly every market. However, we are missing out on significant export opportunities to an estimated £48bn a year because of poor language skills. This is 3.5 per cent of GDP and poses a substantial issue that needs to be overcome if we are to balance the trade deficit.

Language investment is the key to success


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A project funded by the AHRC has been looking at the history of Modern Foreign Language teaching in the UK and its future in education.

Who should learn languages? “The answer has changed hugely over time in terms of gender, class and academic ability,” says Nicola McLelland, professor in German and the history of linguistics at the University of Nottingham. “At different times, people have fervently believed different things are true.” Page from  German text book

This week's official budget documents and Office for National Budget Responsibility forecasts reveal that high levels of net inward migration are a significant factor in fuelling Britain's economic recovery, as reported by The Guardian this morning.

Secondary schools are taking young adults out of foreign language classes with the sole purpose of protecting their positions in league tables, according to a report by the Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) Education Trust and the British Council. 

If you thought it was a challenge to launch a business in your own country, try expanding your operations overseas. While taking in cultural, financial, and legal considerations are all important, overcoming the language barrier is arguably the most difficult challenge every day.

If you can’t communicate with your international customers and team members, then how can you expect to grow your brand? And since 96% of the world's consumers reside outside the U.S., you can see why breaking down the language barrier is so vital.

Overcoming the language barrier can help your brand grow, but it won't be easy in the beginning. Here are 10 tips to get started:

Does your business need to brush up on its language skills in order to boost its exports to international markets?

A new study suggests that exporters are significantly more likely to experience success if they have people who are able to communicate in the language of the markets to which they are seeking to sell.

That may seem like an obvious point, but the report, which is sponsored by the Association of Translation Companies, suggests that poor language skills could be costing British firms as much as £48 billion a year in lost exports. Those firms that have good language skills are making export sales that account for a much higher proportion of their total turnover, the ATC says.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said the most "striking" deficiencies were in languages used in unstable parts of the world.

Further spending cuts to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) could be "disastrous and costly", they added.

The FCO said there was a "renewed focus on languages as a diplomatic skill" despite cost-saving measures.

According to the committee, the department had been dealt a "tough hand" with its funding since the 2010 spending review, adding that ministers and officials had "on the whole, played it skilfully".

A new study by Professor Foreman-Peck and Dr Peng Zhou launched today in the House of Commons1 in partnership with the Association of Translation Companies (ATC), shows in stark detail the impact of in-house language capabilities on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that export.

Poor home-grown language skills hitting export markets hard 

As the general election approaches, a campaign has been launched by The Movement Against Xenophobia to highlight the positive impact of migrants, to help "celebrate, not vilify" the contribution of immigration to the UK. Through a series of posters and billboards on the London Underground and railway stations across the country, the posters state 'I am an immigrant', accompanied by the job descriptions of real migrants living and working in the UK.

Friday, 06 February 2015 14:20

The translation industry Say what?

TALK into your phone in any of the big European languages and a Google app can now turn your words into a foreign language, either in text form or as an electronic voice. Skype, an internet-telephony service, said recently that it would offer much the same (in English and Spanish only). But claims that such technological marvels will spell the end of old-fashioned translation businesses are premature.

Software can give the gist of a foreign tongue, but for business use (if executives are sensible), rough is not enough. And polyglot programs are a pinprick in a vast industry. The business of translation, interpreting and software localisation (revising websites, apps and the like for use in a foreign language) generates revenues of $37 billion a year, reckons Common Sense Advisory (CSA), a consulting firm.

Friday, 06 February 2015 10:23

Oscars 2015: The foreign language contenders

The Academy Award for best foreign language film doesn't get a lot of attention on Oscar night - and some films remain little seen even when they win. But for some recent releases, such as Amour, winning the Oscar helped bring mainstream success.



ResearchMoz recently added report titled “Translation Services (Global) - Industry Report” to its collection. It delivers the most recent financial data on the translation services market. The figures provided in this report are used to create a unique and authoritative analysis of the global translation services market. A 360-degree overview of the industry along with an evaluation of the top players has been presented in this study using a series of graphical charts as well as detailed textual elaborations.


Markus Witte, CEO and co-founder of language-learning tool Babbel, doesn’t like disclosing user numbers. He thinks they’re a “pure vanity metric”. One thing he didn’t mind sharing? In January of this year, the Babbel app crossed 100,000 downloads a day.


News that the euro has tumbled against the pound hitting an 11-year low has sparked concerns over the export potential for UK businesses, according to the Association of Translation Companies (ATC).

The euro weakened to $1.1115 against the dollar last weekend, while the pound reached a seven-year high of €1.34.



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