According to a recent study by CILT, the National Centre for Languages, business in Britain risks being overshadowed by continental competitors who are more willing to communicate in various languages. Many UK businesses believe they are as prepared as their European counterparts to meet the challenge of international communication - despite a continued over-reliance on English.

Looking on the bright side, the study also highlights good practice existing in UK-based multinationals. To develop future business leaders, GlaxoSmithKline has created an overseas placement programme for MBA recruits with languages; international law firm Eversheds offers on-site language training focused on business needs and has incorporated intercultural skills into its training plan. Other examples of good practice included in the study are AstraZeneca, the BMW Group, Deutsche Bank and Gazeley Properties.

Progressive employers are now laying on language courses for employees with a view to making them more productive. French courses and German courses are perennially popular as these two nations make up our biggest trading partners in Europe. Multinationals will sometimes encourage those who's jobs require international travel and negotiation to learn French or learn German in order to do better, more efficient business with European neighbours.

People who choose to learn Italian or learn Spanish will be glad to know that the CILT study found that employers preferred applicants with a second language to monolingual ones. Unfortunately, multilingual people aren't paid any more than their colleagues by virtue of having a second language, but their 'employability' makes job mobility easier. Spanish courses and Italian courses always prove popular with multinationals as Spanish is spoken by half of the world's population and Italy is becoming an increasingly important trading partner.

Companies with strong links to East Asia encourage their employees to learn Thai by taking Thai courses in the UK, thus making international conversation easier. The same is true of employers who deal with the former Soviet Union, who's employees learn Russian by taking Russian Courses. It is difficult to quantify the difference made to a workforce by having multilingual members, but the atmosphere is far more cosmopolitan in companies where staff are well-travelled, whatever that company's field may be.

Of course, British firms perceive less value from giving employees language training because English is the international language of business in the 21st century. German, Japanese and Scandinavian firms have encouraged employees to learn a new language for years..A number of major employers in the USA are encouraging employees to take Arabic courses with a view to aiding in the reconstruction of Iraq and shortly Iran.