[EDLING:846] Language Skills are Good for Business

Francis M Hult fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Mon Jun 13 14:20:38 UTC 2005


Silicon Republic

Language skills are good for business

08.06.2005 - While there is no current evidence of a shortage of language skills, language
teaching in schools should be reviewed to ensure the future skills requirements of the
Irish economy are fully met, a new report has recommended.

Launched today by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), The Languages and
Enterprise report considers the role of languages skills in Ireland's future enterprise
development. It concludes that foreign language skills will be important to the future
health of Irish enterprise, with any deficit in this area resulting in firms falling short
of their full potential.

The report highlights the fact that current range of languages being studied in publicly
funded schools, which is dominated by French at post-primary level, has arisen in an
ad-hoc manner and owes more to historical factors than any analysis of the needs of
learners and the State.

In 2004 the breakdown of all foreign language papers taken in the Leaving Certificate was
French: 75pc, German: 20pc, Spanish: 4pc and Italian: 0.5pc. “This language profile has
not been aligned with that of the foreign markets offering the most potential for the
future,” the report states.

The document makes several key recommendations with regard to language teaching. Firstly,
a national languages policy should be formulated by the Department of Education and
Science, in collaboration with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, to
provide an integrated and coherent approach to language education. Second, the Modern
Languages in Primary Schools pilot programme should be integrated into the mainstream
curriculum and made available to all primary schools. Lastly, The Post-Primary Languages
Initiative should also be expanded and the existing language provision at post-primary
level should be reviewed in the light of the lessons learnt, to increase the quality and
value of the language learning experience for students.

The report considers the importance of foreign language skills for two key sectors of the
Irish economy, namely exporting indigenous firms and foreign-owned firms engaged in
international service activities.

It finds that many indigenous firms do value language skills highly. This may be a
chicken-and-egg scenario where SMEs do not export to foreign language markets because they
do not have language skills, and conversely they do not invest in language training
because they are not exporting to those markets. In the internationally traded services
sector, the ability to effectively communication with customers is at the heart of service
provision and the availability of language skills will increase Ireland’s attractiveness
to foreign multinationals wishing to establish such activities.

Other recommendations in the report are that the foreign language skills created by
immigration into Ireland should be seen as a valuable resource to be tapped and that IBEC
and Enterprise Ireland should build on the success of the Export Orientation Programme and
consider how it might be expanded.

"If we neglect to ensure adequate availability of foreign language skills in Ireland, the
opportunities of the global market will not be realised," commented Anne Heraty,
chairwoman of the EGFSN. "We must also continue to develop our foreign language skills to
ensure that we are not at a competitive disadvantage in terms of our ability to attract
foreign direct investment of the future.”

By Brian Skelly

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