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Opportunity knocks ... for SMEs with language skills

24 September 2010, 20:23 CET
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This year's European Day of Languages highlights the potential and the challenges of multilingualism for the EU's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). First launched in 2001, this annual celebration of Europe's linguistic diversity will again translate into a broad range of events organised on and around 26 September.

Keynote events include a conference on 'Languages for SMEs' in Brussels on 24 September. Approximately 150 entrepreneurs, business organisations and representatives of national and local administrations are expected to attend this gathering, which will showcase success stories from around Europe. These include testimonies from several thriving businesses which attribute a major part of their spectacular growth to their linguistic abilities.

Preparing to address the conference and participate in a round-table discussion on languages, competitiveness and employability, Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, stressed the importance of overcoming linguistic barriers. 'Europeans are increasingly aware of the difference that foreign language skills can make in their lives,' she said. 'As well as being a practical asset for an individual's personal development, languages mean more business for companies, giving them a competitive edge and opening up export markets.' The European Commission's Lifelong Learning Programme supports language activities and projects to the tune of EUR 50 million each year.

The conference also provides an opportunity to flag up the intricacies of conducting business in an unfamiliar language. Contracts lost due to a lack of language skills are estimated to cost Europe's SMEs millions of euro. A survey of nearly 2,000 businesses in 2007, initiated by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Education and Culture, revealed that as many as 11% of the respondents had experienced such situations.

These findings reflect the importance and the potential of language training for Europe's human resources. 'Improving the overall level of language skills in Europe will also contribute to our Europe 2020 strategy for smart and inclusive growth,' said the Commissioner, 'and multilingualism is a crucial part of our flagship initiatives Youth on the Move and the Agenda for New Skills and Jobs.'

To spread this message, events are scheduled in all EU Member States, with each contribution approaching the topic in its own unique fashion. From the polyglot performances of primary school pupils in the German capital city of Berlin to a multilingual rap concert in Denmark and special radio broadcasts in Bulgaria, local offerings in honour of Europe's linguistic riches will be as diverse as the EU's 23 official and 40 regional and minority languages.

Other highlights include storytelling in Finland, a round table on multilingualism and enterprise in Paris France, high-profile talks in Italy exploring the contribution of languages to European integration, and screenings of European films in their original languages in Warsaw, Poland. A complete programme listing the plans for the European Day of Languages 2010 is available online.

For more information, please visit:

European Commission Multilingualism

Study on the 'Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language Skills in Enterprise'

Source: Community R&D Information Service (CORDIS)

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