Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Parlez-vous français?

After participating in a management meeting yesterday afternoon, I thought I’d set you all a little test in understanding management speak.

Exercise One:
How many of the following terms could you explain the meaning of to a colleague:
  • Memorandum of Understanding
  • Orientation Curriculum
  • Ambassadorial Staff
  • Incorporation Documents
  • Ministry of the Interior
  • Company Registration
  • Country Representative
  • Cultural Integration and Adjustment
  • Non-Governmental Organisation
  • Emotional Health
Award yourself one mark for each that you could explain to someone.

How did you do? Above eight and you are clearly set out for a life in the higher echelons of management.
Exercise Two:
Repeat Exercise One, but this time do it in French.

Still score as highly as last time?

If you are like me, your score on Exercise Two will (malheureusement) have been substantially lower than on Exercise One.

The meeting I sat in had six participants: A resident of Niger (whose native tongue is French), An American, a Cameroonian, and three Brits. Guess who were the ones who needed serious help when translating to and from French? No marks (nul points, perhaps) for correctly guessing that it was the Brits (including me, I hasten to add).

Language courses have slipped down the league tables in our school curriculum. Since 2006, there has been a 22% fall in the numbers of teenagers taking a modern foreign language at GCSE. Clearly this means that we are raising a generation of employees who will be unable to communicate in an increasingly global (and therefore multi-lingual) workforce.

Does it matter? As a German colleague of mine once remarked: if you want to buy something from a German, it’s fine that you only speak English. But if you want to sell him something, you need to speak German, and speak it well.

Just a thought: enrolment for adult education classes will be taking place over the next few weeks. French anyone?

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