RAOUL outcomes of research – employers 

One of the elements of RAOUL project work is to establish in each of the partner countries the extent to which employers really value other language competence; what languages are used for in the workplace and whether there are any incentives to learn or use languages (like increased pay; payment for training etc.). The information will be used in the motivational tool to describe and illustrate for individuals exactly how they might be required to use other languages and what real benefits they might expect from doing so. 

What have we discovered so far? How might this information be developed into a motivational tool?  

  1. Employers and other language use

There is no consistency about the way in which employers view other language competence.

Internationally owned and run companies are more likely to have language policies and to expect that employees are able to work in a language other than their mother tongue.

Smaller companies make individual decisions about whether other language competence is or is not necessary. This depends largely on the destinations they seek for the services or goods they offer.

Companies in Europe that have international workforces make extensive use of English to conduct business within and outside Europe. They may, in addition, require employees to speak other languages to enable trade with non-English speaking customers.

In the UK, whilst there is an acknowledgement that English is not really enough, it still seems that it is sufficient to prevent any wholesale commitment to language competent workforces.

There is no sign of employers taking a proactive role in preparing employees to learn the languages of future trading partners e.g. Mandarin Chinese or Arabic. The only language that is consistently mentioned in the employment context is English. 

Action: motivational tool - we could include examples from each country of the use of language in multi-national companies. It would also be useful to have case studies from niche market smaller companies who use languages extensively.

We ought to look at the use of English in work places in Europe

Include reference to a change in languages learned in Hungary when changing political situation enabled greater engagement with English speaking markets


  1. How are languages used in workplaces?

In larger companies it is not usually the case that all employees need to be able to use other languages – even in internationally owned companies. More often it is particular sections of these bigger companies that require employees to be able to function in a language other than their own. For example, marketing and sales would be an obvious place for languages to be of use if the company is trading abroad; receptionists in multi-national companies may need to be able to “meet and greet” in a range of other languages.

There is no pattern to the way that languages are applied in larger work forces i.e. not all receptionists are trained linguists, so if you wish to become a receptionist you do not necessarily have to prove that you can use another language. 

Action: motivational tool - insert case studies from German learners from Schopfheim?

List the jobs where it is essential to have linguistic competence (bilingual secretary; aircraft attendants etc) or where it might be desirable 

In companies and organisations that operate in fields where you might imagine that other language use was an essential it is not always the case that this is so. For example in Italy, those services, companies and organisations in the tourism industry do not all have a language as a pre-requisite for employment and this is true in the UK as well. 

The employees of smaller companies may make use of other language for a whole range of activities from web site creation, to trade fairs, to social events. 

Action: case study from Classicmotos UK

The motivational tool needs to demonstrate in what ways the application of another language helps employees to do their jobs (example from Germany of being able to understand what was being said in meetings when participants talk with each other in something other than German; example from the UK of Lubrizol chemists needing to find their way to meetings without getting lost) 

The conduct of business in a multi-lingual environment is frequently in English. Speakers of languages other than English may need to achieve high levels of competence in English in order to work effectively. Speakers of English will not but may need the social levels of language that permit them to engage outside and around business activity in an appropriate manner. 

There may be a general need for employees of large multi-national companies to speak other languages for “social” purposes with colleagues and business contacts. 

Action: motivational tool to include examples of how social language can be os use in a business environment 

In towns and cities that are very close to national borders there may be a more general need for people in work to operate in a number of languages because of the mobility of workers and consumers across borders. 

Action: Basel area as an example


  1. Recruitment

Unless language competence is deemed essential for a job it does not usually figure as a key requirement for employment. 

Companies and organisations seek people with specific skills and/or qualifications to carry out a task e.g. IT competence for a technician; secretarial qualifications for administrative assistants. Language competence may become a requirement of the job once started (in which case training would be put in place) or employers may make use of language competence they “discover” among people who are employed for their other job-related skills. 

There is a growing trend, particularly in the UK, of employment of foreign workers with job-related skills in areas where competent other language use is an essential of the work. This offsets the need for expensive training and ensures high levels of job and language competence – although there may be issues to do with foreign workers’ use of English. 

Action: motivational tool to make reference to how potential employees might demonstrate and describe their language competence to an employer and map what they can do to functions that they might be able carry out in a language other than their mother tongue. 

  1. Training in another language

Employers do not expect to have to train people to use another language. It is either a skill that they expect people to already have on employment or one that has to be acquired subsequently at an employee’s own cost and in his/her own time. 

In the case where an organisation or company might arrange training in another language it is still usually at some sort of cost to the employee. For example, the employee might be released from one hour’s work to attend a two hour course – the second hour being taken in his/her own time. 

Where employers have a strong reputation for training employees, language training is not usually high on their list. Training schedules are more likely to include skills than can be directly related to the work in hand. This may have something to do with the need to be able to measure the impact of training in a quantifiable way.

Action: key point for motivational tool – the responsibility is on the individual to become language competent prior to applying for work or whilst working.