British Chamber of Commerce calls for better language skills

- By Jo

Over 60% of British trade is with non-English speaking countriesI saw today that the British Chamber of Commerce is calling for changes in the “approach to the importance of language learning” to ensure that Britain remains competitive in business in the future.  This important body has even suggested that language learning should be compulsory until AS level so that we can better conduct business abroad.  As a country we are currently seriously underperforming in business as a result of poor language skills.
In their press release the BCC highlights the current problems for British businesses on the global stage:

  • Knowledge of other languages is a critical skill for exporters. 62% of non-exporters that are likely to consider trading internationally in the future see proficiency in foreign languages – or lack thereof – as a barrier to do so.
  • Even when business owners claim some language knowledge, very few speak well enough to conduct deals in their buyers’ language, and this is doubly important when conducting business outside the largest cities and administrative centres.
  • French remains the most commonly spoken language, with 71% of business owners claiming some knowledge. However, only five per cent are able to converse fluently enough in French to conduct business deals in that language.
  • When looking at other trading partners in the eurozone, 57% spoke no German, 65% no Spanish, and 76% no Italian.
    Looking at faster-growing markets outside the eurozone, the problem is even more acute: 95% of business owners have no knowledge whatsoever of either Russian or Chinese, despite these two economies forecast by the IMF to grow by 3.4% and 7.75% respectively. Less than one per cent feel that they can converse fluently in either language.

(British Chamber of Commerce  – 10/06/13)

I have provided a link to their full press release below, which makes for interesting reading:

Yet another reason to keep up those language lessons, hey?



Natural gifts?

- By Jo

Children more skilled at second languagesChildren are definitely more skilled at picking up a second language than adults. In fact, researchers have proven that this is the case. According to the ‘critical period hypothesis’ there is a certain time in a child’s life in which second language acquisition skills are at their peak. During this time, children have an almost universal success rate of achieving near fluency and perfect accents in foreign languages!

There is some disagreement as to when this period is – some say that it ends at the age of 6 or 7 and others think it lasts a bit longer, extending through puberty. However, experts agree that once that period is over, it becomes a lot harder for a person to learn a new language.

Nevertheless, it is important to stress that just because a child becomes fluent in, say, Italian, does not mean that he or she will be speaking that language as an adult. Without opportunities for continued exposure to the language and practice, the child’s abilities and fluency diminish. Also, I must stress that this does not mean that adults are incapable of achieving fluency in a language. So, just because your parents didn’t introduce you to Russian aged 8, does not mean you can’t learn it now - it may just take a little more motivation and hard work – but the process can be a lot of fun and the results extremely satisfying!


Bonne chance!

- By Jo

We have well and truly entered the school exam period now! Good luck to all who are taking exams, in languages or other subjects over the next few weeks.


Don't panic... highlight!

- By Jo

When reading in a foreign language, what do you do first?

a. panic
b. find a dictionary and look up things
c. try and work it out for yourself
d. use an online translation site

OK, so those of you who chose answers 'a' or 'd' are incorrect! The first rule of attempting to read in a foreign language is not to panic...

I would also urge you not to use an online translation site – not only is it quite likely you'll get some odd translations, but it'll also probably take far too much time. Whatever the situation, your first port of call should always be yourself!  You can always rely on yourself (honestly you can!). Have a read through the text. Rather than concentrating on what you don't know, concentrate on what you do. In fact, go ahead get a highlighter pen and highlight everything you know.

After you've done that, have a look at the text again. Is there anything that you can guess the meaning of? Maybe some words look a bit like English (we call these cognates) or are similar other words you know in the foreign language. For example, can you guess the meaning of the German word 'allergisch' ? (Answers are below for those playing along). If you're lucky enough to have a second highlighting pen in a different colour, then go ahead and highlight those words too. Now, hopefully your text will be looking very pretty (that is unless you've used orange and pink together - they clash dreadfully!).

Have a look at the text again and see if you can perhaps guess what the text is about. Often you will have some idea, even if it's a vague one. For example, I highlighted the words for 'sister', 'aunt' and 'grandfather', so it's likely the text is about the family. To be a good linguist you have to fine tune your detective skills and keep your wits about you. Take a guess; what do you think the text is likely to say based on what you know, and based on the context? Most of the time you do not need to know what every single word means. In fact, if you are taking an exam (and I hate to tell you this) it is highly likely that you will not know every single word anyway.

Of course, I'm not suggesting for one minute that you never use a dictionary ever again; just don't rely on it. Use your brain first and your dictionary to check afterwards; and when you do check, make a note of any new words and LEARN them. Vocabulary is key! The more you know the better. Pay particular attention to little words that you keep seeing time and time again. Check them out and learn them. I would recommend keeping a little vocabulary book, and testing yourself on it weekly. It may seem boring, but it will pay off when you're next doing some reading (...and maybe you'll be highlighting more of those words you know next time!)

If get used to relying on yourself in this way, and you get learning your vocab too, it'll make things a lot easier if you are taking an exam.

Above all, have confidence in yourself and remember: you are pretty clever when you want to be!


By the way 'allergisch' means 'allergic'. Did you get that right? I told you that you were clever.


What's in a name?

- By Jo

...that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet...

So, I begin this week's blog with a quote from the Bard himself... and why not, after all I've decided to talk to you about names, or more precisely the name 'Linguipod'. Like all parents when naming their children, it was a decision which we didn't take lightly. Anyway, after much consideration the name Linguipod was chosen; and we think it rather suits our new bundle of joy! Linguipod is dynamic, fun and funky. She is friendly and approachable, but also pretty clever. She loves wearing green and pink and lots of other bright colours too.... (Okay, I'll stop there, before you think me completely crazy).

The name for our site is a combination of a cut down version of the word 'linguist' and pod (of course). We envisage our pod as a wonderful cocoon of top quality friendly language tutors. Our pod is also a highly evolved technological masterpiece which is deceptively simple to use... (We have some clever people working here at Linguipod towers). Anyway, we hope you like our name, and we're sure you'll like using our site, whether you're a tutor or student.


I recently discovered that 'Lingui' is a province in China. Maybe that's a subject for a future blog post. Pods in Lingui. Lingui pods? I think I'll stop here...