English Proficiency Weaknesses in the Workplace

International workforces tend to have weaker English skills than the adult populations as a whole, according to a survey of 115,000 employees carried out by Education First (EF), the world leader in international education.

The EF English Proficiency Index for Companies (EPIc), the most comprehensive global study of its kind, provides national and international benchmarks for worforce English, an invaluable resource that allows the evaluation of companies’ communicative competitiveness.

‘The EF EPIc measures English proficiency levels in 18 industries and 24 countries’, says Carl Layton, communications manager at EF. The full study, complete, with statistical data and a list of participating factors, can be downloaded from the EF website. ‘English is emerging as the global language for communication and has been cited as the major language of international business. This isn’t a statistic any any industry can ignore if it wants to be competitive.

In fact, English is one of the most spoken languages in the world, secondly only to Mandarin. It is estimated more than 300 million people speak English as their native language, with another 300 million who use it as a second language, and yet another 100 million who list English as a foreign language.

Recent statistical data also reports that more than 70% of all mail is written in English. It is the language of science, aviation, computing, diplomacy and tourism.

‘It’s well on its way to becoming the world’s unofficial international language’, says Layton, adding that in this modern age of globalization, especially, communication is of paramount importance — and that means international business must conform to this universally-accepted language.

‘Globalization is a reality’, he says. ‘And business executives must embrace this reality. Studies show, proficiency in English is a mandatory requirement for any professional working in a global business environment. The EPIc report takes a hard rock at where some of the world’s leading countries sit in terms of English speaking and writing skills in the workplace’.

Historically, large-scale surveys of language and literacy skills reveals that the workforce as a whole needs to be constantly upgraded with respect to the appropiate skills required. International educators such as EF provide appropiate professional development to assist with this industry-wide weakness, but for true change, collaboration of all invested parties is required.

As indicated in the EPIc study, released in 2012, workplace English is weakest in Russia, Denmark, and Japan. Layton says this vulnerability must be addressed by each of the country’s business leaders if they are serious about achieving the much sought-after commercial success.

Other the key findings of the EPIc study suggest that in most cases, middle management speaks better English than both their superiors and subordinates, and, as expected, English proficiency varies considerably in different industries.

The travel, tourism, and consulting industries excel in English proficiency, while retail and various public sector industries lack appropiate workplace English skills.

‘Our goal is to create meningful dialogue in the international business arena by determining how we can help alleviate some of the language barriers that currently exist’, says Layton. ‘The EPIc study is a critical starting point from which to initiate that discussion’.





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