ASEAN countries disadvantaged by poor English skills
English is now the global language of business and the official language of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)— as the regions’ leaders have opted to heed the advice of leaders from multinational companies.
Multinational companies such as – Tokyo headquartered Rakuten, Lenovo, Audi, Lufthansa, Daimler-Chrysler, Nokia, Renault, Samsung, and Microsoft – to name just a few, have mandated English as their official language.
Adopting a common mode of speech isn’t just a good idea; it’s a must for any company that wants to be a serious competitive contender in the international business arena, these business leaders say.
Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Japan's biggest e-retailer, Rakuten, who is reported by US Forbes magazine as one of the globe’s leading businessmen having a net worth of US$7 billion, is one of them.
As far back as 2010 he announced the company’s goal was to become the number one global computer services company and simultaneously mandated English as the company’s official language.
The dictate affected some 7,100 Japanese employees, he said at the time, declaring the expanded world view the English language offers as essential to the company’s long-term success.
Today, Rakuten is the leading challenger to Amazon.com in both the US and European markets.
Lenovo, headquartered in Brazil, is another one of the growing number of multinationals from the non-Anglophone world that have made English their official language, according to the company’s CEO Yang Yuanqing.
He made the decision to adopt English as the official language of the company in 2005 following the lead of Singapore, a small company with global ambitions, and today virtually all of the company’s business is conducted in English.
Audi may use a German phrase - Vorsprung durch Technik, or progress through engineering – in its advertisements, but it is impossible to progress through its company’s management ranks without good English.
When Christoph Franz became boss of Lufthansa in 2011 he made English its official language even though all but a handful of the airline's 50 most senior managers were German.
There are obvious reasons why multinational companies want a common language business leaders say – as it makes it easier to recruit top global talent, reach global markets, assemble global production teams and integrate foreign acquisitions.
A worldwide study concluded by Canadian Research firm Ipsos in mid-2015 indicated that 25% of all jobs everywhere require employees to interact with people in other countries, increasing to 50% for many countries in the ASEAN region.
Of these jobs, two-thirds require employees to communicate fluently in English, the study concluded.
One reason English is the dominant language of business and of the Internet is that it is the native language in over more than 60 nations, and increasingly the official secondary language elsewhere.
While companies in native English-speaking countries are at a distinct advantage, so are those in countries where English proficiency is high such as Singapore, Malaysia, Scandinavia, and the Netherlands.
Businesses in other nations such as many in ASEAN where English proficiency is significantly lower (or virtually non-existent) such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia-are conversely disadvantaged, the survey concluded.