English remains the dominant language of international business and proficiency in English directly affects a company’s brand image, according to language training provider EF Education First.

The study of managers and directors of international businesses based in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Middle East, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the US, found that a poor level of the English language is detrimental to a brand.

Those surveyed said they perceive businesses with a poor grasp of English as local (42%), unprofessional (35%) and uncompetitive (32%). Only 9% think nothing negatively of a business where employees cannot speak good English, and almost nine in ten (89%) do have a negative view of those with poor English levels. This corresponds with the finding that more than four in five companies would consider replacing a supply chain partner with poor English language proficiency.

A massive 88% of large international businesses would consider paying more for a product or service supplied by a company with a high level of English proficiency. On average, they would be prepared to pay 16% more for such products and services.

On the other hand, a lack of good English costs the business – 60% said that they’d missed business opportunities due to poor English language skills within their organisation.

Andy Bailey, chief marketing officer at EF Corporate Solutions, said: “English is the dominant language of global business – and proficiency in English across a workforce directly impacts a company’s attractiveness, revenues and productivity. Poor English can erode brand equity, reduce customer loyalty and cut deeply into a company’s profits.

“Companies looking to expand internationally should ensure all employees have access to effective English language training to ensure they can effectively compete on the global marketplace. Good English means good business – and our research shows just how important English language skills are in today’s global economy.”

Return on investment

The research also found that employees will full professional English language skills are extremely valuable to organisations. A single employee with English language qualifications is estimated to provide an average of $128,000 additional value to a business through a combination of an increase in international sales, improvements in productivity and efficiency gains from time savings. EF said that business leaders believe that if all of their client and supplier-facing staff had strong English skills, it would result in revenue growth of up to 31% over the next five years.

Peter Burman, president at EF Corporate Solutions, said: “It’s impossible to underestimate the impact that English proficiency has on all aspects of a company’s success. Notwithstanding the regional variations in the companies we spoke to, the message across the board was clear – good English means good business. Companies that work to improve the proficiency of English language skills across their workforce will, all things being equal, tend to outperform their peers which lack that same capabilities.”