£48bn Lost Due To Language Barriers

SMEs Are Missing Out On Billions Of Pounds Per Year Because Of Poor Language Skills

13.08.2014

Steven Beahan, Partner | +44 (0)114 294 7868
SMEs across the UK are losing out on as much as £48 billion per year because of poor language skills, it has emerged.
 
Research provided to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by Cardiff University's Business School calculated that better language skills could result in as much as a 3.5 per cent boost in productivity.
 
While bigger companies find it easy to trade with foreign partners because of their large employee base and ability to source new staff with language skills through the use of recruitment agencies, SMEs have routinely found this more difficult.
 
The Association of Translation Companies (ATC) has now launched a campaign to educate smaller firms about the benefits of targeting their products at foreign markets.
 
Geoffrey Bowden, general secretary of the ATC, said: "Only being able to communicate in English creates a number of problems for businesses selling into other countries.
 
"First, it creates a competitive disadvantage because customers prefer to use their own language when doing business.
 
"However, several other significant issues arise, including the ability to develop strong business contacts, accuracy in any required legal documents and avoiding potential confusion which can lead to mis-selling of products or services."
 
The ATC is now aiming to liaise with the UK Trade and Investment organisation to make sure that SMEs are made aware of the benefits of exporting to foreign language markets.
 
This is not the first time the government has joined efforts to try and get more SMEs to increase their sales to other countries.
 
As part of its Plan for Growth, which was published as part of the 2011 Budget, the coalition outlined its commitment to helping smaller companies get the most out of rapidly developing economies in South America and the Far East.
 
However, the UK's trade deficit remains stubbornly wide and many SMEs still struggle to access the help they need to sell abroad, according to Labour.

Expert Opinion
With studies indicating that more and more small businesses are looking to develop export links in light of the improving economy, this research provides an interesting insight into some of the issues which could be holding some of them back.

"As with any area of business, companies need to carefully plan out how they intend to make their ambitions a reality – including any pitfalls which they may encounter along the way. As well as language issues, businesses should also be aware of any key regulatory or compliance issues which they may need to handle as things develop.

"SMEs cannot underestimate the important role that legal expertise can play in ensuring that they are meeting all of their responsibilities and are in a prime position to thrive."
Steven Beahan, Partner