Languages and employment, the perfect couple

Recently, the European Commission published its “Study on Foreign Language Proficiency and Employability”, which highlights the link existing between competences in languages and the employability of persons in EU countries.

This study provides an overview of the situation in the employment market which requires job seekers to be proficient in at least one foreign language drawn from those spoken in EU Member States. In addition, it examines the varied demand for languages in Member States as regards different economic sectors and job profiles.

To prepare this report, more than 800 firms were surveyed, more than 3600 online job offers were reviewed and more than 500 employers were interviewed. After an exhaustive analysis of all of the information, the following conclusions were reached:

  • English is the language most required by employers, followed by German, French and Russian.
  • The need to know a language in a company depends on the tasks to be carried out and the languages used by clients or partners.
  • Employers rarely use the standards laid down to identify the level of competence in the language that is required to cover the positions offered.
  • Recruitment managers normally check the level of competence in a foreign language during an interview, there being a wide variety of methods for doing so, from checking CVs for time spent in international employment to the possession of certificates that show proficiency in the language. However, about 50% prefer to check an applicant’s level themselves by carrying out part of the job interview in the language in question.
  • Demand for native speakers of a language exists where the language is not very common in the employment world and there are not enough non-native candidates proficient in that language.
  • At times, recruitment managers face difficulties because those seeking employment don’t speak the foreign language required sufficiently well. A third of employers have problems covering vacancies due to applicants lacking foreign language skills. Two thirds of these problems are due to the insufficient foreign language levels of job applicants and one third are due to a lack of candidates who are proficient in a specific language.
  • The ability to speak a foreign language provides a competitive advantage for both employers and those looking for work – provided it forms part of a wider range of abilities.

As regards Spain, according to the report English is the language that is most widely learned as a second language, followed by French. And English is also the language most required by companies, followed by German.