No, They Don't All Speak English!

A thought from Mark directed at UK exporters….

I love this job – but it can be hard to explain to others in social situations sometimes! Two recent illustrations: an acquaintance at an evening class, on hearing that we are a translation company, said “they all speak English on the continent don’t they!” Secondly pub landlord comedian Al Murray on hearing that a member of his audience was a Spanish translator quipped: “they all speak English, you’re surplus to requirements you are mate!!”

NO! According to some latest figures, approx. 56% of the population of Germany can speak English to some degree as a second language – a Eurobaromoter survey from back in 1994 gave the figure as 35%, so maybe there is a trend there. In the Spain the recent figure is 27% and the 1994 figure is 13%. Whilst these figures are not particularly scientific, there may be a trend to more people speaking English as a second language – but clearly this ability does not extend to the majority of the population in many key European markets.

So the key questions for UK exporters are: do the people receiving my communications speak and read English, and then are they more likely to purchase from me if I communicate in the receiver’s language? The answer to the second question is very probably yes: people are more likely to buy in their own language.

The graph below is taken from Wikipedia, and shows the approximate percentage of the population that speak English as a second language in each country.


P.S. According to figures released recently by fellow ATC members LTC, the UK translation industry is now worth between €636 and €641 million. Also please see our own website for some figures on how much business is done in different languages around the world