German President Joachim Gauck recently shared his vision for Europe. An interesting aspect of that vision was his proposal to use one language – English – throughout the European Union. A recent study conducted among employers in the Netherlands on behalf of the Maastricht University (UM) Language Centre showed that both English and the language spoken in the country of establishment – Dutch – are important for local as well as international employers.
The study included companies and organizations in the fields of medicine, finance, services, manufacturing, higher education, consulting, government and law, many of them operating internationally. The study’s objective was to investigate how important language skills are when recruiting young university graduates. Maastricht University uses the results to revise the its language policy.
Demand for language skills in manufacturing
Sixty percent of employers indicated that language skills play a role in selecting young university graduates. There are, however, large differences between sectors: 90 percent in the manufacturing and services sector, but only 23 percent in the health sector.
Seventy-nine percent of employers even said it was essential that employees speak Dutch. This has important implications for international students who want to work in the Netherlands: to increase their opportunities, it is highly recommended that they learn Dutch.
Proficiency in more than two languages
Approximately half of the employers do attach value to the ability to speak an extra third language, though most do not need it in their daily practice. This suggests that the competence in 3 languages is associated with certain positive qualities, such as intelligence and versatility. There is not one clear specific language that employers value specifically, though German and French score highest.
Although one might expect that a certified proof in many cases will at least be positive, more that 50% of all participating companies attach no value to certification.
For those university graduates who are planning to work at a university or college, certified proof of language competences does not seem to be very important. Most of these employers do not value language certifications. This is mostly because these employers presume that the language skills of a university graduate are sufficiently developed.
The complete study of the Maastricht University Language Center can be found here.