The Olympic Games countdown has started. There are less than 360 days left for the inauguration of the London 2012 and everybody is getting ready to receive the 216 delegations that will take part in this event. The Olympics will bring athletes and spectators from all over the world to London.

Without a doubt, language skills will be essential for smooth communication between organizers, participants and the press. Ceremonies, press conferences, drug testing and other official procedures will require translation and interpreting services of the highest standard. This Olympics Games will have two official languages, English and French. Putting aside the official event, there will be a lot of tourism from different corners of the world travelling to the English capital. Does London have the language skills to cope with this massive influx?

Being one of the world’s greatest cities, London can claim to have one of the most diverse populations on the planet. Certainly this is the most linguistically diverse city in the world with about 300 languages. But many of the languages are spoken by ethnic minorities that have settled down in London.  Only a small percentage of the English population speak a second language because they think that they don’t need it. Since last century, English has been considered a “world language” and English speakers believe that the rest of the world can speak it. While in other countries people are grateful when a foreigner speaks to them in their own language, English speaking people expect to converse in English, wherever they are in the world. Will the Olympics change English attitude toward languages?

Language Services Opportunities

Interpreters and translators will be in high demand for the Olympic Games and not only to assist the organizers and official events but to provide language skills to the Home Office, hospitals and health centres, Police and other public services that will be probably affected by the massive influx of people.

Language skills open up new opportunities; it allows people to understand other cultures better and to compete successfully in the global marketplace. The lack of languages skills can affect small and medium business in their attempt to get the most of the Olympics.

The Games is expected to bring over £2 billion additional revenue to our country. Is your company ready to take advantages of this opportunity?
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Language skill and services will be essential to ensure a pleasant stay for athletes and visitors in general. Managing Director of the translation agency KL Translations, the Olympics offer a unique opportunity to promote the value of language skills. The Games have the potential to give a fresh impetus for language learning and the event itself represents a linguistic challenge for the organizers. In recent past, Games organizing committees have gone beyond the minimal requirement of official languages. For instance, at the 2000 Sidney Games, the multilingual switchboard operated in over 50 languages.In spite of the cosmopolitan features of Britain there is a need to build up the UK’s capacity to upgrade the quality of tourism’s services in order to communicate with visitors in their own language. London should encourage the delivery of foreign language and cultural training for people working in tourism and hospitality due to the fact that these skills can help to build more responsive and long lasting customer relationships.

In a survey carried out in 2007, 94 % of London businesses acknowledged that “language skills are very important to the London economy”. Recent research from Cardiff Business School suggests improving languages could add an extra £21bn to the UK economy and that export businesses that use language skills boost their sales by 45%. The lack of investment in language skills training programs has negatively affected UK’s exports and the influx of foreign investment. Businesses bringing investment to Britain, particularly from Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands, have complained to the Foreign Office about having to recruit engineers from their home countries or elsewhere. A source said they expected people in technical or management jobs to have a good grasp of the parent company’s home language, but that was missing among British applicants.

Apparently British students do not have incentive to learn foreign languages. According to the Sunday Times, the number of teenagers taking language GCSEs has fallen by a third since 2004, when they became optional. Will the Olympics change our attitude towards language learning?

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