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Modern languages and intercultural communication in the workplace, could we do better?

Posted: 12th November 2018

It goes without saying that English has become the predominant language in the Business world. However, it is not the only one and what could be seen as a strength has proved to be a true Achille’s heel for some companies in a globalised world; the international competitors are most of the time able to speak English whereas UK companies sometimes struggle to communicate in their potential customers’ languages and understand the associated cultures. Did you know for instance for that the biggest employers’ dissatisfactions with applicants were not only the foreign language skills, (bottom last) but also the international cultural awareness (in the bottom three), according to a 2017 CBI survey?

Maybe this is where we can support you. Here at Edinburgh Napier University, the Languages and Intercultural Communication Group, based in the Business School, believes that a closer collaboration with companies could help address these issues. This is one of the reasons we would like to reinforce our links with the industry in Scotland.

As a team of experts in the field of intercultural business communication, we can provide intercultural training sessions to organisations and are keen to expand our activities further. In these sessions, we focus on exploring people’s own intercultural awareness; enhancing their understandings of cultural differences and diversity in the workplaces; developing their intercultural competence as well as implementing appropriate work practices. We can develop a bespoke package for a company in a number of ways, e.g. a ‘train the trainer’ programme for identified people, or we can develop and run an online or blended programme. Furthermore, we, as experienced business-related language specialists, could look at your communication material.

But you can help too. A collaboration is always an opportunity for us to deepen our industry knowledge. We like to get the best possible understanding of what really matters for you, as a company, as far as language is concerned, the contexts in which our students’ language skills is used in their future careers. Such collaboration can take several forms: a visit to your company, a talk in our Craiglockhart campus, possible translation of material etc. It gives our final-year undergraduate and Master students an even better exposure to languages in the workplace to enhance our student experience and employability, but also provide you with a more suited future workforce.

The contacts could be with (1) companies which have dealings with Chinese-, French-, Spanish- and German-speaking countries and (2) companies with a culturally diverse workforce which would be interested in links with students on our MSc Intercultural Business Communication who have training in intercultural business contexts. We are interested in developing short-term placements for highly skilled individuals, too.

So, if you want to build a brighter future for the UK industry, if you think that your company can benefit from our expertise to help breaking through foreign markets and/or if you wish to have an impact on our student experience, your future workforce, we would be delighted to hear from you.


Christine Penman

Senior Lecturer, The Business School


Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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