Foreign help on the line

IN THE past, "the British disease" was the readiness of employees to strike; today, the term might fairly be applied to the inability of their managers to speak a foreign language, writes Roger Trapp.

Richard Needham, Minister for Trade, said, when introducing last week's National Languages for Export campaign, that recent studies showed that "proportionately more British companies are losing trading opportunities due to language barriers than their counterparts in other EU countries."

However, language schools are booming as a result, and one has gone a step further in seeking to encourage employers into this traditionally weak area.

Communicaid International has teamed up with LinguaTel, which claims to be the country's first business-to-business on-line telephone interpreting service, to offer interpreter-assisted telephone calls, coupled with instant language teaching.

The two organisations say the service helps people learn languages more efficiently because it allows them to practise their skills in real-life situations with expert help and advice available.

Before making an overseas call, the manager contacts the interpreter to discuss likely vocabulary and sentence structure and then goes ahead - with the interpreter on-line to provide help if needed. The interpreter gives a full briefing afterwards.

The organisation has teamed up with London University's School of Slavonic and East European Studies to form SSEES-Communicaid, which provides corporate training in languages and cultures of Eastern Europe.

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