Sanako is a Finnish Educational Tech company helping schools and language teachers to improve language teaching efficiency and results.
In an earlier blogpost, we explored how language learning was the ultimate 21st Century skill. We identified how language skills could increase opportunities for learners and support their economic and skill development. This blog post explores why national governments support nationwide language learning initiatives and why such investment makes strong economic sense. It also outlines how Sanako works with national and regional governments to implement and deliver such programs.
Multilingualism equals enhanced competitiveness
One of the major reasons why individuals choose to learn a new language is because it helps them to build connections with different people in different countries. Being able to communicate with someone in their own language is incredibly powerful and opens doors to new opportunities.
The same is also true for countries and according to the World Economic Forum, languages play a key role in building trade relations. A 2011 study of small and medium-size companies in Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden found that those which invested more in languages were able to export more goods and gained better access to new emerging markets. German companies, it found, which invested heavily in multilingual staff added 10 new export countries to their market. Those companies who invested less said they had missed out on contracts.
This impact is even more marked at the national level. Academic research has shown that countries where a high proportion of the population speaks more than one language are able to generate a higher percentage of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from international trade. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is Switzerland, where it is estimated that the country’s multilingualism accounts for up to 10% of national GDP.
The opposite is, of course, also true and monolingual countries, particularly for those who are English-speaking. This can mean that they miss out on international business opportunities, particularly as the world’s fastest growing economies (e.g. China and India) are not English-speaking. As leading US economist Larry Summers commented in 2017:
“If your strategy is to trade only with people that speak English - that’s going to be a poor strategy.”
This is further reinforced by research from the UK which estimates that it loses out on significant national earnings (equivalent to £48 billion or 3.5% of its GDP every year), because of the population’s poor language skills.
The UK’s failure to encourage language learning at a young age also has an impact on the earning potential of its citizens. There is a significant body of research illustrating how language learning can boost earning power, even if additional languages are not used for work. In Florida, for example, workers who speak both Spanish and English earn $7,000 per year more than those who only speak English. According to a Canadian study, bilingual men earn 3.6% and bilingual women earn 6.6% more than their English-only peers.
Steps towards future development
Given these positive economic impacts, national governments may also be motivated to deploy language learning programs to unlock the potential of migrant communities and to ensure smooth integration with local communities. Indeed this is an explicit objective of the EU’s European Strategy for Multilingualism or ESM, which seeks to “strengthen social cohesion, the integration of migrants, and intercultural dialogue.” Research across the EU also highlights that migrants’ labour income can be significantly increased with improved proficiency in the language(s) of the host country - by 27% in Spain (Budría and Swedberg 2012), 7.3% in Germany (Dustmann 1994), and 21% to 23% in the UK (Dustmann and Fabbri 2003).
After a year dominated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s also important to note that finding a solution to this global public health emergency has required exceptional international collaboration, cooperation and understanding. Issues such as the economy, environment and poverty can only be resolved with a similar approach. Ensuring that national populations have the right language skill sets to contribute to and lead the response will therefore be of vital importance for national governments in the coming years.
Sanako has a strong record of working with regional and national governments to support such national language learning and teaching programmes. This includes the Romanian Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sports who selected Sanako to equip 200 teacher training centres with its Study 1200 language lab solutions. This market-leading technology was also deployed by the regional Ministry of Education of Castilla y Leon in Spain to equip more than 100 schools across this region of Northwestern Spain.