November 14, 2017

The British Council has published its Languages for the Future report, outlining the foreign languages that it deems fundamental for the UK to become a truly global nation post-Brexit.

The report highlights some startling, yet perhaps unsurprising statistics about the UK’s linguistic capabilities. Less than one-third of surveyed 18-34 year olds in the country speak any foreign language sufficiently well to hold a basic conversation.

Breaking those languages down further revealed that around 15% could converse in French, and less than 10% German or Spanish.

The UK has built up a reputation for having a blinkered approach to language learning, verging on arrogance. At SQN, thankfully, our percentages are more representative of a communications agency with an international client base.

Covering German, French and Italian at a level we’d class as ‘professional proficiency’, with a conversational ability in others, we are better placed than many to operate globally, and especially across Europe. We have languages and linguistics at the heart of our agency.

Two of our major clients are based in Germany, with parent companies in Asia. The international composition of their respective workforces reinforces the need to appreciate not only language barriers but also working cultures and practices. Speaking a language is really just the first step, albeit an important one.

Our agency name, Sine Qua Non, was chosen deliberately to convey our linguistic DNA; it has served us well over the years. The nomenclature has relevance and resonance. Some of our team studied Latin for several years before going onto obtain degrees in modern foreign languages. Our senior team have lived and worked abroad, developing a first-hand appreciation for international relationships.

In a landscape cluttered with agencies all trying to tell stories, engage audiences and build relationships, only those with cultural empathy and language skills will truly succeed.