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Posted by Julie Day on March 31, 2016
Speaking another language in business

Particularly in the area where I live (Torrevieja, Alicante), where half of the population is foreign, there has always been a massive debate over whether Spanish people working with the public should speak English, or, of course, any other European language.

On the one hand, you could argue that if you employ people to work with a public that mainly consists of foreigners, with the majority speaking English, as a good businessman and employer it would make sense to take on employees who speak both Spanish and English. It really makes sense if you want to attract customers, ensure that they have a pleasant experience at your business and come back again and again, preferably bringing new customers with them, or recommending your business to other people.

At the same time, those of us who weren’t born in Spain and who have made this our second home should also make the effort to learn the language. It’s not only polite, but we would expect the same from foreigners who come to live in our country of origin. And the fact is that by making the effort to learn Spanish, even if it is just the basics, you can get by much more easily and people will treat you differently.

Of course, it is much easier for us if the people that we deal with on a daily basis do speak our own language, but we shouldn’t expect it. And, with Spain almost at the bottom of the list for European countries where employees do speak another language, we should be very grateful if they do!

According to a survey carried out by human resources consultancy Randstad, Spain is very near the bottom of the list when it comes to knowing any foreign language.

As much as 49% of Spanish professionals only speak Spanish and do not speak any other language.

Spain is only exceeded by Bulgaria (61%), Hungary (63%) and Ireland (73%).

And almost 10% below Spain are countries including Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France, which all hover around the 40% mark.

The European average for the number of professionals that do not dominate a second language is 34%, which means that one out of every three Europeans don’t speak another language other than their own mother tongue.

In Germany and Austria, for example, the percentage of professionals with only one language falls to around 22%, and for those from Scandinavian countries the percentage is as low as 6%.

Returning back to Spain, out of the 51% that do speak another language, 18.6% say that their level of the foreign language is high, while 41.7% say it’s average and 39.7% admit to it being poor.

For many employers, speaking another language, especially English, is a requisite or at least extremely important when it comes to finding the right candidate for a position. In many instances, it can be the difference of obtaining a job or being looked over in favour of someone who does speak a second language.

The study has come to the conclusion that learning other languages in school is of the upmost importance. It has been revealed that in the countries where secondary school students learn two or more foreign languages, these are the countries where employees are more likely to be fluent in more than one language. In countries where students only learn one foreign language, their levels of speaking another language when they are older and working are much lower.

Source: www.idealista.com


  • Spain
  • speaking Spanish
  • foreign languages
  • employment
  • business


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