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Foreign Languages - The Gateway to the Business World

As world wide networking has exceedingly increased over the past decades, it has become more and more important to be able to communicate across different linguistic and cultural borders. This demands excellent communication competence which is key to success in career.

The key to success

Language is used to inform, to communicate and to build relationships with others. The right words influence the success in business considerably, because doing business also always means communicating. If one doesn’t know the language of ones business partner one is missing out on many opportunities to enhance the intercommunication. The knowledge of English is a basic requirement in order to be able to be internationally active. For English is the mother tongue of around 340 million people. Those who know a second foreign language have an even larger advantage.

World languages and emerging markets

Spanish plays an important role, especially in the emerging markets of Central and South America. It is the mother tongue of about 400 million people. China is already economically very important today and will for this reason also gain in linguistic influence in the future. Nethertheless, Western managers don’t demand the command of Chinese yet. Seen from a European point of view the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, and with this the Slavic languages, are of great interest. In Switzerland – next to German and English – it is mainly French and partially Italian that is demanded.

Evaluating linguistic proficiency

The European Language Portfolio allows you to asses your own language proficiency. It contains three different sections and differentiates between six levels of language proficiency, ranging from the first level, of understanding and using simple sentences in every day life (when spoken clearly and slowly), to the highest level, of understanding demanding texts and being able to converse effortlessly in any discussion. Language certificates mostly use the rating of the European Language Portfolio and are useful to document your knowledge of languages.

Language certificates

The University of Cambridge offers a range of Certificates for learners of English. Whilst for instance the PET (Preliminary English Test) is for beginners, the FCE (First Certificate in English) good, the CAE (Certificate in Advanced English) for advanced learners and the CPE (Certificate of Proficiency) proofs highest-level English language skills. For people who would like to concentrate on language used in the business world there are the BEC (Business English Certificates). Corresponding certificates can be found for French such as the DELF (Diplôme d'Etudes en Langue Française) and the DALF (Diplôme Approfondi en Langue Française). The CCIP (Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris) offers certificates specialising on commercial language.

Language schools and sojourns abroad

With the rising mass of language schools it is not always easy to find the right one. In Switzerland „eduQua“ is an approved seal of quality for educational institutes. Usually a glance at the schedule will reveal further information: language courses should offer the possibility of speaking as much as possible rather than drilling grammar, as grammar can also be learnt in self-study. Before taking part in a course you should have your present language skills tested by the school, so that they can place you accordingly. You might even be allowed to have a trial lesson. If not you can always speak with current or past students about their experiences. Of course it is best to learn a language where it is not only present in the class room but in every day life. As a sojourn abroad not only improves your language skills but also allows you to get to know new people and a new culture it is a very valuable experience.


Not only the amount of language schools has increased but also the amount of language learning material. Self-study is especially useful for acquiring a basic knowledge of grammar and for boosting ones vocabulary. Speaking can be practiced by using CDs but there is a lack of exercises for proper conversation. In order to practice conversation it is useful to form learning tandems. A tandem consists of two people of a different mother tongue whose aim is to teach each other their language. It is also always worthwhile to regularly read newspapers, watch TV or listen to podcasts in the target language.

Further information:

Language certificates in French DELF/DALF


Language certificates in German