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UK Businesses Refuse to Offer Language Learning despite EU Enlargement

Survey Reveals Large Gap that Threatens Economic Growth

• Most employees have not been offered language learning opportunity
• Scottish businesses worst offenders at offering language learning
• More London businesses offer language learning than any other region

26th September 2006 – European Day of Languages – It seems that the UK is determined to remain a monolingual island society when it comes to embracing European business opportunities. According to a new YouGov survey of 2500 UK employees commissioned by Rosetta Stone, 80% of employees have never been offered the opportunity to learn a second language at work, despite EU expansion and tougher competition from European businesses.

Scottish businesses are the worst offenders - only 8% of Scottish employees had been offered language learning by their employers, with this figure rising to 15% in London.

This reluctance to offer language training perhaps explains why the UK was recently ranked bottom of the league table of 28 countries for language ability by CILT, the national languages centre and why, according to the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), 20% of UK businesses have lost business opportunities because of their failure to embrace new language skills.

The YouGov survey also revealed that the majority of business executives are apathetic and not at all phased by their dismal language skills. Just 7% (2% in Scotland) of respondents believed language skills are the most important factor to consider if their company relocated overseas, with factors such as political instability (23%) and the country’s infrastructure (11%) scoring more highly. In line with the BCC research, several respondents also cited lost business opportunities caused by language barriers.

Surprisingly, despite factors such as a boom in trade with Russia (exports to Russia in 2005 reached an all-time high of £1.8bn according to UK Trade and Investment) and the EU accession of major Eastern European countries such as Poland in 2004, respondents do not equate learning Russian or Polish with economic success. Only 2% of executives questioned felt that it was important to learn one of these languages. Instead French and German were considered the most relevant languages to business success each securing a fifth of the votes.

In terms of ease of learning, Russian was considered the most difficult language to learn by 37% of respondents, compared to French and German which received just 1% and 2% of the vote respectively. 9% of respondents believe that Welsh is the most difficult language to learn.

James Pitman, UK Managing Director commented, “Our survey clearly shows that UK businesses are stuck in a time warp in terms of language learning and are strangely apathetic about the situation. In 2007, the EU is expected to expand again and it is therefore shocking that 80% of businesses still refuse to offer any language training to their staff. It is little wonder they are losing business opportunities.”

“Language learning is suffering in secondary education equally, which has been compounded by the government’s ending of compulsory language learning. This year’s GCSE results showed a 13.2% decrease in the number of pupils taking French and 14.2% taking German from 2005. Yet with cost effective methods like online language learning widely available, there is no excuse for lack of language learning in schools and businesses in the UK. As research from the British Chamber of Commerce shows, there is a direct link between UK business success and language skills so from an economic perspective, failure to embrace languages is a risk that is simply not worth taking.”


For further information, summary of key findings or a free 30-day journalist trial in the language of your choice please contact:

Heather Baker/Kathryn Hughes
hbl media
020 7612 1830

About Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is the leading provider of online and CD-Rom based language-learning courses. The courses are based on a Dynamic Immersion methodology which means that they are fully interactive and use thousands of real-life colour images to convey the meaning of each spoken and written phrase in the program. The program’s carefully sequenced structure, written texts and extensive use of native speakers helps the user to attain proficiency quickly, without memorisation, translation or tedious grammar drills. Teaching 30 languages to millions of people in over 150 countries worldwide, Rosetta Stone is the key to language learning success.

James Pitman
Managing Director, EMEA
Rosetta Stone
01753 834 520