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Will English always be the language of the global food industry?

Alistair Pulling, Account Manager, Ingredient Communications

On a recent business trip to Germany and the Netherlands, meeting with colleagues that work in the food ingredient industry, it was noticeable (and a relief!) that despite many differences between nationalities and cultures, the common language was English.

But will this always be the case? And what are the marketing communications implications for food ingredient companies doing business in Europe as the UK is leaving the EU?

By the way, don’t worry – this isn’t going to be yet another blog about what Brexit means for the food industry. However, a year after the UK’s referendum, Jean-Claude Juncker did make a light-hearted comment that it could have long-term implications for the way business is done in Europe.

His comment: “slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe” was not unreasonable given the circumstances. If the UK eventually does leave, the proportion of native English speakers inside the EU will fall from 14% to 1%.

And of course, Brexit is far from the most important global development shaping the language of business. The rise of China’s economy and its importance to worldwide manufacturing are impossible to ignore. That’s especially the case as the language with the most native speakers is Mandarin Chinese, followed by Spanish, and then English. However, an interesting fact is that there are now more English speakers in China than in the UK.

English is the world’s most common language, with more than a billion and a half people speakers. It’s also the fastest growing language, the one most people on the internet use, and the most commonly used language for scientific papers and research publications.

If you think about the last trade show you took part in, you might have noticed evidence of this. Exhibitors who speak English as their first language are usually a minority, but conversations between people from different nations would most likely have been in English.

With English likely to remain the world’s most common language for the foreseeable future, the ability to communicate in first-rate English is vital to your company’s public relations, media and marketing strategy.

If your business is mostly conducted across the world in English, but not by native English speakers, it may help to have a company on board that doesn’t just have first-class writers available, but which also understands the challenges and requirements of writing for a global audience. As a PR company that supports ingredients manufacturers it’s something we always factor into our work. It’s why we help our clients not just create materials such as press releases in English, but can also translate them into other languages – Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, or anything else required.

Incidentally, it’s ironic that Brexit may actually make English more common as a language for the EU!

But whatever happens within the EU, it certainly looks like English will be the most commonly used language for business for many years to come.