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The Warsaw Voice » Business » February 27, 2015
Business & Economy
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Polish Workers Proficient in English: Report
February 27, 2015   
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Polish workers speak better English than their counterparts in Germany or Switzerland, and Polish companies outperform firms in most other countries in terms of employee proficiency in English, according to a report by international language training company Education First.

The reports examines the level of English proficiency in businesses from more than 30 countries. It ranks Poland in seventh place worldwide, behind Nordic countries, the Netherlands and Belgium, but ahead of powerhouses such as Switzerland and Germany.

According to Piotr Majdan, Country Manager at Education First in Poland, high English proficiency in Poland reflects the fact that the country is now a much more open society than 25 years ago under communism. There was large-scale migration of Poles to Britain after Poland joined the European Union in 2004, which has now reversed to some extent, Majdan says—many Poles have returned home. The time they spent working in Britain has considerably improved their English proficiency.

The Education First report, which follows an earlier study in 2012, measures English proficiency levels in 22 industries and 32 countries, in companies with annual sales ranging from under $1 million to over $100 billion. The report aims to set national and international benchmarks for workforce English against which individuals and companies can evaluate their capabilities. It also seeks to assess why companies in some countries and sectors perform better than others, and to highlight examples of best practice.

The study is based on research conducted in 2013. A total of 105,093 employees of companies and governments from more than 30 countries—40 percent from Europe, 35 percent from Asia, 23 percent from the Americas, and 2 percent from the Middle East—took an English proficiency test and completed a questionnaire.

It is now widely accepted that English is the de-facto language for international business, the report notes. Increased use of English in the workplace is driven primarily by the continuing integration of global economies and businesses, with a growing number of companies becoming international, selling, producing and providing services on multiple markets. As the world becomes much more integrated, the report says, there is a greater need for businesses to communicate frequently and seamlessly across borders, with customers, colleagues, suppliers and partners outside their home markets. Moreover, as businesses become increasingly internet-driven, digital content has become a critical component of every industry, with 56 percent of all online content in English. The companies that thrive in these conditions are the ones whose employees have the skills and training to communicate efficiently across borders. Another key consideration for companies is fostering innovation: in an increasingly competitive economy, global businesses need to innovate faster to keep up with customers and competitors. To do this, they require a healthy internal culture of conversation, collaboration, and creativity. This is underpinned by a company-wide ability to communicate across borders in English.

Overall, the report concludes that there is a wide gap between the most and least proficient national workforces in English. North European countries continue to set the standard for English language proficiency of employees, while most emerging markets plus France and Italy have low-proficiency workforces. Low proficiency in English among employees adversely affects the investment appeal and competitiveness of a country, the report says. It adds that small businesses tend to exhibit lower proficiency in English than large enterprises, which may hinder their ability to expand in a globalized economy.

Founded in 1965, Education First is an international education company that specializes in language training, educational travel, cultural exchange and academic degree programs.

Grzegorz Siwicki
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