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Business case

Business case

‘It is vital for UK business to develop capabilities in languages and intercultural awareness to compete successfully in the global market.’ Peter M Mathews, Black Country Metals Ltd and President of Black Country Chamber of Commerce

  • The UK continues to be over-reliant, compared to the rest of the world, on business with countries which can speak English
  • Trade figures from 2008 reinforce the adage that you can buy in your language but you must sell in the language of the customer.  Of our top 10 trading partners, there are only two where the balance of trade between imports and exports is in our favour: the USA and Ireland
  • Export businesses that are proactive in their use of language and cultural skills achieve on average 45% more sales (British Chambers of Commerce)
  • Rebalancing the UK’s trade with non-English speaking countries could add £21 billion per year to UK GDP (Costing Babel, Cardiff Business School, 2008)
  • The growth of the global economy and interconnection of economies create new market opportunities for the UK
  • Without the language and intercultural skills needed to compete successfully with the rapidly developing economies of Brazil, Russia China and India for example, businesses will face increasing challenges of adapting to competition
  • Four out of five UK businesses plan to grow over the next 12 months and nearly half of those are looking to international trade to make that a reality.  Two thirds of businesses cite foreign languages as a barrier and eight out of ten feel challenged by differences in culture and etiquette (Business without Boundaries, HSBC, Dec 2008)
  • In e-commerce, customers prefer to buy from websites in their own language even if the price is higher. (Common Sense Advisory)


For more information on the impact of language skills on the UK economy, download a copy of Talking World Class (pdf, 5.30MB), or order a hard copy from our online shop.

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