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英国企业需要外语员工

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2017年04月10日

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Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on March 29, but much of UK business has no idea what Brexit will mean for them. During discussions in the past few weeks, I have heard of financial services companies applying for licences in EU countries in case they need to move some of their operations there. But most businesses are watching and waiting to assess what comes out of the negotiations.

特里萨•梅(Theresa May,见上图)在3月29日触发了里斯本条约第50条,但很多英国企业并不知道退欧对他们意味着什么。在过去几周的讨论中,我听说有金融服务企业正在申请欧盟国家的许可证,以备万一需要向那里转移一部分业务。但大多数企业还在观望,以评估退欧谈判的结局。

There is one thing many companies are sure of: they cannot manage without their EU staff. It is not just the numbers of EU nationals working in many industries. Some companies are also desperate to hold on to the languages those citizens speak.

有一件事是很多公司确定的:没有欧盟雇员他们就无法应付。这不仅是很多行业欧盟员工人数众多的问题。一些公司迫切需要留住欧盟雇员的外语能力。

The head of training at a fashion company, speaking on a panel I recently chaired, said it is not true that all business is now done in English. Some retailers and distributors in Spain, France and Italy did not speak English well enough to do business in it, and some probably did not see why they should.

一家时尚企业的培训主管在我最近主持的一个专家小组讨论中发言称,如今并非所有生意都用英语达成。西班牙、法国和意大利的一些零售商和分销商,英语还没有好到可以用来开展业务,有些人甚至可能看不出为什么要用英语谈生意。

You buy in your own language and you sell in your customer’s, the old saying goes. We can update the second half of this: you sell in your customer’s choice of language. These days, that is often English, but not always. If customers insist on speaking their own language, you had better have people who can talk to them.

老话说:用自己的语言买,用顾客的语言卖。我们可以更新一下后半句:你用顾客选择的语言卖。如今,被选的往往是英语,但也不总是。如果客户坚持要说自己的语言,你最好拥有能跟他们交流的员工。

Many in the UK do speak another language. The 2011 census showed that 4.2m people — 7.7 per cent of the population in England and Wales — spoke a language other than English at home. The most widely spoken of those languages was Polish, used by 546,000 people, followed by Panjabi, Urdu and Bengali.

在英国有很多人能说另一门语言。2011年人口普查显示,420万人(占英格兰和威尔士总人口的7.7%)在家不说英文。其中最广泛使用的语言是波兰语,为54.6万人所使用,其次分别是旁遮普语、乌尔都语和孟加拉语。

But the languages most in demand by UK business are French, German and Spanish, according to a survey last year by the CBI employers organisation and Pearson, the education group.

然而根据雇主组织英国工业联合会(CBI)和教育集团培生(Pearson)去年的一项调查,英国企业最需要的语言是法语、德语和西班牙语。

There are fewer speakers of those languages in England and Wales. The 2011 census showed that 147,000 spoke French as their main language; 77,000 spoke German and 120,000 Spanish. Not all of those people are available for recruitment by UK companies who need their languages skills. Many are already working, in English, in banking, information technology or the hotel and restaurant industries, and not all are adults.

英格兰和威尔士说这几门语言的人数较少。2011年的人口普查显示,14.7万人的母语是法语;7.7万人说德语;还有12万人说西班牙语。这些人并非都能被需要其语言技能的公司雇用。他们中有很多人已经用英语在银行业、IT或者酒店和餐饮行业从事工作,而且并非都是成年人。

The census includes all language speakers aged three and over. And the UK residency status of EU citizens post-Brexit is still unclear.

人口普查涵盖3岁及以上的所有语言的居民。而英国退欧之后,欧盟公民在英国的居民身份尚不确定。

So where, post-Brexit, will UK companies find their foreign language speakers? Probably not among young Britons learning foreign languages.

那么在退欧之后,英国公司该去哪里找说外语的雇员呢?大概不会去找学说外语的英国年轻人。

It is true that the UK government has made efforts to improve language teaching in schools. Almost all English primary schools were doing at least some foreign language teaching in 2015-16, according to a report by the British Council.

没错,英国政府正致力于改善中小学的外语教学。根据英国文化教育协会(British Council)的一份报告,2015-16学年,英格兰几乎所有小学都开设了外语课。

The government is pushing the teaching of languages in secondary schools too, but the report said that since 2002, the number of students taking French A-levels, the school-leaving examination, had fallen by a third. Those studying German had fallen by nearly half. More students were studying Spanish and other languages, this was not enough to compensate for the falls in French and German.

政府也在推动中学的外语教学,但该报告称,自2002年以来,在中学毕业考试A-levels中选法语的学生人数减少了三分之一。学习德语的人数减少了近一半。有更多学生学习西班牙语和其他语言,但这还不足以弥补法语和德语学习人数的减少。

Teachers said one of the reasons pupils did not want to learn languages was that it was hard. It is. Mastering another language requires huge motivation.

教师们说,学生不愿意学外语的原因之一是因为太难。没错。掌握另一门语言需要巨大的动力。

For non-English speakers, learning English yields a wealth of opportunities. Most senior jobs are unobtainable without the language. For native English speakers, the employment rewards are less obvious. You can get along in most jobs in the UK without another language. Not everyone wants to work for a fashion company with business on the continent.

对非英语人士来说,学习英语能带来大量机遇。不懂英语就无法晋升至多数高级职位。对母语是英语的人来说,职业回报没那么明显。英国的多数工作不要求你懂外语。并不是每个人都想在有欧洲大陆业务的时尚企业工作。

What else can UK companies do to recruit foreign language speakers post-Brexit? If the outcome of the negotiations means these employees need work permits, companies can apply for them. But that adds to the cost. Another speaker on the panel I chaired said it cost £4,000 to get permits for each of his company’s Indian IT specialists.

退欧之后,英国企业还能用什么办法来招聘到会说外语的人呢?如果退欧谈判的结果意味着这些雇员需要工作许可,公司可以为他们申请。但这会增加成本。上述专家小组讨论的另一名嘉宾表示,他的公司为每一名印度籍IT专家支出4000英镑的工作许可申请费用。

Companies could also move departments that need foreign language speakers to one of the remaining 27 EU countries.

公司还可以把需要外语员工的部门转移到27个欧盟成员国之一。

Best of all would be a Brexit agreement that allows EU workers to come and go as freely as they have done until now. That would be a relief to UK business of all sorts, not just those recruiting speakers of other languages.

最好的情况是达成一项退欧协议,让欧盟员工像以往那样自由流动。这将让英国各行业的企业都松一口气,而不仅仅是那些招聘外语雇员的公司。

But British prime minister Theresa May’s rhetoric suggests that is an unlikely outcome. In the meantime, employers worry and wait, and so do their foreign-language speaking staff.

但英国首相特里萨·梅的言论似乎表明这是不太可能的结果。与此同时,雇主们将焦虑等待,他们的说外语的雇员也一样。
 


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