Do you Speak my Language? Supply Chain Communication
English has become the number one international language of business. This would appear to hand a significant advantage to those who already have English as their mother tongue. Many multinational corporations (MNCs), including some that do not have their origins in an English-speaking country, such as Nokia of Finland and SAP of Germany have even adopted English as their standard corporate language. Indeed, approximately 36% of global business in now done through English and despite the rise of China as an international trading nation, English is set to extend its dominance. According to a recent study English is moving from being a “marker of the elite” to becoming “a basic skill needed for the entire workforce”.
No international business person can be successful today without knowledge of English.
Various surveys and reports from the IMF, Bloomberg and the Worldwide Online Wallet (WOW) include various combinations of Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Arabic and Russian among the top five international business languages in addition to English. In a strictly hard-nosed business sense, whether or not you need to invest in these language skills within your organization depends on the markets in which your business is active, whether you are predominantly buying or selling, the sector you operate in and the position within the supply chain that you operate at.
For example, if you are a manufacturing company in U.S. procuring electronic components from East Asia, chances are that English will be the language of exchange. However, if you are a producer of processed seafood products in Scotland looking to introduce to your brands to supermarket chains in France, Italy and Spain it is highly likely that you will need people in your team with a high level of proficiency in these languages.
Through the effects of globalization and global competition, more small and medium sized companies, are now getting involved in supply chain relationships with businesses in other countries where English may not be commonly spoken at the levels they must interact with. Consequently, proficiency in languages other than English will lay strong foundations for sustainable and mutually beneficial business relationships. The top trading partners of the US include Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and Germany. This indicates which languages will be important in the future for American companies as they enter the international fray in increasing numbers.
When it comes down to it business is about people. Buying, selling, and negotiating, are activities done by individuals who must communicate with each other verbally. Knowledge of the other person’s language shows that you value the other person and their identity. This strengthens the connections and relationships that lie at the heart of successful global supply chains. Those who will be most successful in these day-to-day interactions will be those who, in addition to their hard-nosed business acumen, possess a cosmopolitan curiosity that demonstrates a genuine interest in the culture, values and language of the people they are working with around the world.
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