Lack of language skills cost UK businesses £50billion a year

21 January 2015
Lack of language skills cost UK businesses £50billion a year
Before 2004 it was compulsory to take a foreign language at GCSE level, this is no longer the case. Despite many attempts to encourage students to take foreign language GCSEs, the numbers are still dwindling and the few that do choose to study a language are unlikely to take this on to A-Level. Achieving an A-Level in your chosen language is a standard prerequisite for continuing with your linguistic choices at university. It is no surprise therefore, that the number of people studying languages to degree level has also seen a significant decrease in recent years. It’s causing a bit of a problem for businesses. In fact, UK businesses lose an estimated £50 billion every year to competitors for a lack of employees with the necessary language skills(!) To analyse the reasons behind this, the Guardian carried out a recent survey with students aged 14 to 24, it reveals some interesting points of view on language learning. It would appear that students do not feel they learn enough of the language in their lessons, with nearly half (48%) of those surveyed saying that learning a language is too difficult… It’s true, grammar is a pain. It’s really hard and sometimes a small grammatical error can cause huge personal embarrassment, but as we have always said, conversation is the best way to learn a language and to improve your skills and self-confidence. Coincidentally, the students agree! 35% rated a language exchange abroad as something that would encourage them to learn a language and a similar number also found talking to native speakers a great help!

32% encouraged by conversation with native speakers.

Perhaps at this vital stage of a student’s life and learning, they need some more motivation; more opportunities to speak to native speakers and more engaging activities, both at home and abroad to encourage them to learn another language. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be happening enough. It’s no secret that students leaving university with a language degree are much more employable than their monolingual peers, the European Commission have written reports on it! Lack of language skills cost UK businesses 50billion a year2There are so many benefits to speaking another language; it’s hard to understand why people are seemingly less interested in what is an incredibly enriching experience. Businesses feel the same way, they are specifically looking for people who have spent time living abroad and speaking another language, or have been brought up in a bilingual environment. These are the people they want in their increasingly multilingual offices. ready for workWith youth unemployment at the horribly high rate of 16.6% for 16 – 25 year olds at the end of last year and under-employment affecting thousands, these extra skills can really make a difference to the person reading your CV. Despite the number of fantastic translation apps and web services out there, nothing truly compares to a native speaker’s interpretation of a document or a simple face to face conversation. Time to step away from Google Translate and ask a local, don’t you think?

One Month Old Today!

13 January 2015
One Month Old Today!

Pillow Talk

12 January 2015
Pillow Talk
Caroline and Manu.

They met in 2012 in Siena, Italy when Caroline was there on her Erasmus placement. In July 2013 they got engaged and in January 2015 they are getting married!

They are not the first couple to meet during an Erasmus placement; in fact an estimated 1 million babies have been born to Erasmus couples since 1987.

When I was studying Italian at uni, one of my teachers actually suggested we all start dating Italians to improve our language skills and our accents. I think his sentence was something along the lines of;

“There’s no better way of learning a language than through pillow talk!”
Reckon he had a point.

Connecting with people from all over the world is one of the most exciting and important things that someone can do and how much better to be able to do so in their language?! Even better if they are incredibly gorgeous and interested in discussing the benefits of goose feather versus hollow-fibre or memory foam…

It’s no wonder that this unique, once in a lifetime experience that brings people together across Europe for studying opportunities actually brings people together forever. Whether it is in the form of friendship or something more, you will never forget your Erasmus experience or the people you meet along the way.

It’s all about making that first move and getting chatting, maybe even igniting a bit of romance. So let’s do it, the next person you see/hear speaking a language you are learning, go and say hi your way!


To find out more about Erasmus, click here.

Scary, lonely London

08 January 2015
Scary, lonely London
Ever felt lonely in this super city? Well you’re not alone. 1 in 10 people feel the same way. London CAN be daunting, it’s full of umbrella-dodging commuters, elbowing their way through the narrow streets with one goal: to make that tube, the next one won’t come for two more minutes!

As someone coming from another town, city or country, you can be easily led into believing London is unfriendly, aggressive and full of close-minded people, a city tarted up with the most amazing architecture in the world. Well you hit the nail on the head about the architecture, but the rest; you couldn’t be further from the truth. London is full of friendly people just like me and you. With London, you really need to make the most of it; there’s no end to the number of social activities out there. It’s better to share a moment and laugh with someone rather than laughing alone. For one thing, it makes you look like less of a nutter and much more approachable.

This is why we created a very simple solution to make you stand out from the crowd whilst still blending into the friendly, loving place that London is. We are saying: “Come say hi; I’m approachable; I want to make new friends; I want to meet new people; I want to feel like a local…” In a city with over 8.6 million inhabitants, how hard can it be? Before the time of apps that tell you a potential friend is 1.1km away, you actually had to say “hi!” to someone’s face and you knew pretty much straight away if you’d hit it off, now we read endless messages and waste our time on people who might not even want to meet up and refuse to send that all important second picture to show you that they are who they say they are.

Feel like a local:

I’ve written before about seeing the same people, day in, day out, at the same time, in the same place and how it made me think about how we could get people talking without freaking them out. A simple conversation every now and then or even just the once, makes you immediately feel like part of a community; a local.

I’m a sociable guy and I am lucky to have some super friends from all around the globe to hang out with. I’m a foodie and I love my wine so it would be great to go out for a bite to eat, or even better, to get invited around for food at the neighbours’ or to go to the local bar for a glass of something special. Knowing that London is made up of lots of little villages, going out in your local area and neighbouring boroughs will educate you on the community around you and could give you a few new cooking skills to try out as well as finding you some new friends.

A conversation starter:

A conversation starterHow can we all make each other feel happier and safer in this city? By having a conversation! How can we break the ice? This was a bit more difficult. We had to think what is an inoffensive, obvious, but not ‘in your face’ visual aid that’s not expensive and useful at the same time? A tote bag – everybody has one and for some reason they grab your attention. But we needed more than that, so I thought about what makes this city great… Of course, it’s made up of people from all over the globe.

We researched the twenty most commonly spoken languages in London and came up with the “London Edition” of Chatter Bags. We’ve even left a space for any languages not on the list, additions so far have included; “Aussie”, “Estonian” and even “Northern”. Next to each language is a tick-box in which you simply: tick for “I speak fluently”; dash for “I speak a little”; or leave blank for “I don’t speak… yet”.

You can’t always tell what languages someone might speak just by looking at them.

Now you can! Chatter Bags is a proven ice-breaker, so start that conversation. No excuses! :-)

Should Londoners Learn English?

06 January 2015
Should Londoners Learn English?
Today, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said in an interview on LBC: “I think everybody in London, everybody who comes to work in our economy, should be able to speak English.”

Here’s our take…

English – second language for 1.7 million Londoners
Being able to speak the native language of the city you are living in makes for an easier working environment, it also gives you a better opportunity to get the job you came to this amazing city to do.

Having worked in the hospitality industry for over 12 years, I’ve met amazing people from all over the world looking at the bright lights of this mega-city with the hope of fulfilling their dreams, but they are often held back by their language ability. I’ve worked with some guys that were architects in their own countries and are working here as kitchen porters, scrubbing pots and floors to earn an honest wage.

For roughly 22% of London residents – or 1.7 million, English is a second language. Given the multicultural nature of our wonderful country, how would you know which languages someone speaks without talking to someone?

Boris also raises the point that, “People can be tuned into their own community and not feel the need to speak the common language of this city, of this country,” He sees this as a “wasted opportunity for these people.”

It is true that sometimes newcomers to London find it hard to make friends outside of a local community or language group, this can restrict the number and intensity of experiences available to them. However, encouraging integration and communication within and between communities helps us to educate ourselves and our children on the diversity of cultures and languages out there.

Perhaps we should encourage Londoners to learn more languages and expand their language abilities, rather than focusing our attention on English and the people for whom it is not a first language. This can be done through the fantastic medium of speech and a few well-organised meet-ups!

It is important to remember that learning another language is beneficial at any age. In fact, it has been proven to:

Make your brain bigger
Make you sharper
Make you happy
Make you concentrate better in the classroom
Make you better at maths
London’s charm comes from the variety of languages spoken here. They keep this city moving.

All we have to do is make conversation.

made to make conversation