LRE developed a survey to explore the language strategies of companies, to find out whether they prioritise and support language training for their employees, and also to establish the range of languages used to communicate with customers and in promotional materials. The criteria investigated are divided into three main categories: general company language strategies, internal language strategies, and external language strategies.
■ Data was collected from a selected set of companies based in cities across all countries/regions and 484 companies were surveyed in total. Four business sectors were targeted (banks, hotels, building construction companies and supermarkets). Overall, although the number of hotels participating was relatively high compared to other sectors, there was a good balance of sectors.
■ In the area of general language strategies, a quarter of the companies surveyed have an explicit languages strategy in place and over half take languages into account when recruiting. A quarter regularly encourage mobility of staff for language learning and development of intercultural awareness. However, 70% do not keep a record of staff language skills, and very few take advantage of EU programmes for language learning.
■ Widespread provision of language training is reported for business English in 27% of the companies surveyed, with 14% offering support in the national language for non-native speakers, and 12% for other languages. A relatively small percentage have reward or promotion schemes for language learning, with 11% reporting that it is widespread for
business English and only 5% for the national language and other languages. The number of companies forging partnerships with the education sector to develop the language skills of their staff also appears modest, with a quarter doing so either regularly or occasionally for English, 17% for the national language for non-native speakers, and
14% for other languages.
■ In the sectors surveyed just under half of the companies use business English widely in addition to the national language in external communications, and as many as 30% use other languages in addition to English and the national language on their websites.
■ In ranked order, German, Russian, French, Spanish and Italian emerge as the most commonly used languages other than English by the companies surveyed, reflecting the strong internal market in Europe. Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Turkish are also valued and supported by some of the companies surveyed, although perhaps higher prioritisation
of these might be expected.
The comparative findings presented above highlight a multitude of interesting trends in policies and practices for multi/plurilingualism in the European context. While some countries/regions have highly developed policies and practices in specific domains, others need to develop further if they wish to align themselves more closely with European recommendations and create more language-rich societies. Of all the language domains
researched, it is in primary and secondary education where most efforts are being made to promote multi/plurilingualism. However, in early language learning, and in the sectors of further and higher education, the media, public services and spaces and business, the LRE research findings suggest that the officially declared commitment of European countries/regions to support multi/plurilingualism still needs to be turned into action plans and practices at the local and institutional level.