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US Employers Recognize the Need For Foreign Language Proficiency

Survey findings from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACFTL) with the support of Pearson LLC and Language Testing International show a rising demand for foreign language proficiency in the U.S. workplace. In fact, nine out of ten employers report a reliance on U.S.-based employees with language skills other than English, with one-third reporting a high dependency. Moreover, most employers notice an increase in the need for foreign languages over the past five years and project this trend to grow in the future. Below are some highlights from the report.

Report Highlights

  • Employers by sector that expect an increase in demand for foreign languages in the next 5 years:
    • Healthcare and social assistance sector – 64% increase
    • Employers in trade – 59% increase
    • Education services – 57% increase
    • Technical services – 55% increase
    • Construction – 54% increase

language proficiency data

What does this mean for employers?

There is a shortage of foreign language proficiency but an excess of demand, so there is a skill gap. The good news is that having a bilingual workforce improves the bottom-line, and employers are becoming aware of this. For example, using customer support in a foreign language rather than relying on the customer to speak English is better for customer retention, or if a business wants to explore global opportunities, it’s better to do so in the native language of the buyer rather than rely on the buyer to have adequate English proficiency. In fact, nearly one in four employers surveyed acknowledges losing or being unable to pursue a business opportunity over the lack of foreign language skills.

How can employers solve this gap?

Employers first need to define which functions of their business rely on foreign language usage. Additionally, they should identify any opportunities that could be achieved with foreign language usage. From there, they may want to consult with a language services provider for a needs assessment to define their businesses goals, opportunities, and weakness and to see whether a foreign language professional development program is a worthwhile investment.

What language learning programs exist for employers?

Several options exist for employers to train their employees in foreign languages, all of which are offered at ICLS. Customized group classes are a great way to train small groups of 3-6 employees to achieve specific learning outcomes and to sharpen certain skills. Typically, these classes are best suited for low intermediate – advanced speakers. For beginners, structured beginner group courses that host 4-12 employees and meet on a set schedule are a great way to teach employees the basics such as greetings, questions types, pronouns, verb conjugations and tenses, numbers, alphabets, pronunciation, and listening and writing skills. With regards to location, onsite classes are the best way to ensure attendance from employees, and online classes are a great way to bridge together employees who work in different locations.

ICLS is proud to serve employers in various sectors: government, non-profit, commercial, and education. With over 53 years of experience in the field, we’ve helped companies become bilingual and improve their positioning in their markets. Submit the form on our Corporate Language Training page to get a free consultation and see whether a foreign language professional development program is a good fit for your company.


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