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Brussels seeks projects for promoting multilingualism in business

16:07 25/04/2022

BeTalky, an initiative of the Brussels-Capital Region that aims to promote multilingualism in the Belgian capital, has put out a call for new projects this year.

The 2022 focus is on businesses and the self-employed, with the project call managed by business association Beci together with the Brussels government.

“With this project call we want to encourage the business world to invest in multilingualism,” said minister Sven Gatz, who is responsible for the promotion of multilingualism in the Brussels Region.

“Language facilitates valuable connections and stimulates contacts. Knowledge of languages makes people rich and curious. A multilingual company encourages greater cultural involvement and wider tolerance, also in the workplace,” he pointed out.

Research shows that it’s mainly a combination of Dutch, French and English that is used in the Brussels business world, with the most frequently used languages being French and Dutch. 

The use of both languages is largely complementary: three quarters of Brussels companies use at least both languages for internal communication, and nine out of 10 companies do so for communication with the outside world.  

English important for international communications

“This does not mean that we should underestimate the importance of English as a language of international communication: more than 80% of companies use it for external communication,” a statement from Gatz’ office said. 

“English thus plays an important role for Brussels companies, though only in combination with French and Dutch.”

The minister’s office said that companies with not enough multilingual employees lose markets and are less competitive, citing a European Commission study which revealed that 11% of 2,000 companies said they had lost at least one contract because of the lack of language skills in their company. 

Half of these companies said they would need new language skills in the coming years, a situation which is recognised by business association Beci. 

“For the diversity policy that Beci has been promoting for years, we use the slogan 'Diversity means Performance'. This applies equally to a multilingualism policy,” said secretary general Jan De Brabanter.

“And let us be just as ambitious: it does not stop with a sufficient knowledge of French and Dutch. Let the multiculturalism of Brussels be the lever for entrepreneurs and merchants to address the widest possible audience: in English, German or any other language to welcome everyone, serve everyone and attract the talents we need to make Brussels even more attractive.”

The project call runs until 30 June and has a budget of €200,000. Organisations can submit applications up to €30,000.

 

Written by Helen Lyons