Language Institute seeking to extend services to Guyana’s business sector

President of the Language Institute Cecily Bernard concedes to having become increasingly aware that in a global economic climate where Guyana’s business community continues to come under growing pressure to explore opportunities for new, non-conventional markets, possession of foreign language services that are readily available to the business sector have become a necessity rather than just an advantage.

In the absence of foreign-language competency a number of communication problems can arise in international trade including misunderstanding of contracts, inability to grasp foreign economic policies, and problems associated with cultural differences in language when business terms need to be translated.

In Europe, a Business Platform for Multilingualism (BPfM) has already been created to address the importance of multilingual competence for increased opportunities on the labour market and the contribution of language skills to the competitiveness of the EU economy. As part of the platform, initiatives have been launched including ‘Languages for Jobs’ and ‘Languages mean Business,’ which specifically target small and medium sized companies.

The Language Institute President Cecily Bernard
The Language Institute President Cecily Bernard

The awareness that Guyana continues to lag behind in this particular sphere of language services has pushed the Language Institute to embark on a mission designed to ensure that insofar as a recognition of the nexus between language and the furtherance of international business is concerned, Guyana is not left too far behind.

Having already established a reputation as an efficient service provider in the conventional areas of translation and interpretation, Bernard says, the institute’s Lot 5 First Avenue, Subryanville Secretariat is currently busying itself with moving to another level. It is, she says, a matter of gearing the institute to better respond to what she perceives to be the business sector’s broader needs as far as language requirements are concerned, particularly in the area of furthering the country’s trade and commercial interests.

In an interview with the Stabroek Business earlier this week the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs interpreter and translator has correctly discerned that these days, more than ever before, there is a need for both the public and private sectors to develop a facility with languages in the furtherance Guyana’s economic ties with the hemisphere, in the first place, and further afield with the rest of the international community. That is a truism that echoes previous official pronouncements about the language-related challenges associated with the country’s failure to take full advantage of both the cultural and commercial opportunities that can derive from expanded ties with the Americas.

These concerns have arisen sporadically, on occasion when the country – either the state or the private sector – has had reason for significant interaction with states that speak other languages. It has not, for instance, been uncommon, for official visits to Guyana from representatives of countries whose native language is not English to give rise to worry over the adequacy of interpreting and translation services.

These days, the discourse has drifted into the private sector at a time when there is a stronger focus on expanding non-traditional markets for Guyana’s exports, notably rice, in the hemisphere.

Bernard believes that having already established what she says is “a solid reputation” in Guyana as well as in the immediately neighbouring countries—Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil—for “quality service” and given its work with foreign embassies, regionally, a point has been reached where the Language Institute must pay a more focused interest on reaching out to the business sector.

Not that this is an entirely new venture for the institute. Bernard explains that it has provided services to the private sector based primarily on referrals by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Such referrals have also seen the Language Institute work with the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest). “This year,” she says, “we are making our own moves.”

In furtherance of this objective, Bernard says, the Language Institute has already been seeking to better position itself to enhance its intimacy with the business community by becoming a member of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (GCCI).

The demand for foreign language services in the local business community is reflected in the evidence of private sector interest in further cementing existing ties in this hemisphere, well as seeking out new trading and commercial opportunities elsewhere in the Americas. In recent years, both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and local business support organizations have cited the need to actualize the potential that inheres in a number of bilateral cooperation agreements concluded with Brazil and Colombia. It is the need for a reliable language resource to facilitate the necessary bilateral discourses at the business level that the Language Institute is seeking to exploit.

Bernard also alludes to what she says is a continually emerging market among Guyanese returning home from neighbouring countries, primarily Venezuela and Suriname as well as Brazilians coming to Guyana to pursue mostly business interests.

Beyond the hemisphere, Bernard says, the Language Institute has already begun to shape a response to the imperative of globalization that has already seen Guyana seek to consolidate already existing business and commercial interests with its conventional partners in Europe as well as extend those interests further. Accordingly, the institute is seeking to further build capacity in other areas of service provision. Bernard says that while the institute is currently working with GTT to provide language-related service-delivery to conferences it is seeking to acquire its own booths and other equipment associated with the provision of those services.

Meanwhile, in order to further enhance its relevance as a service provider in the business sector the Language Institute is focusing its attention of studying the business cultures and customs of other countries in its own quest to deepen the relationship between language services and enhancing the efficiency of business transactions.

At home, the Language Institute is also focused on further building capacity in language skills. Bernard says the institute is in the final phase of its discourses with the National Accreditation Council and anticipates that by July this year it will be in a position to offer courses in Spanish, French and Portuguese up to CAPE level. Setting aside the job opportunities that could result for participants in these programmes, Bernard says that the institute will also be launching courses that will allow for, non-academic, conversational programmes customized to meet some of the  basic communication requirements of visitors to Guyana.

The longer-term aim of the Language Institute, it would seem, is to create a multifaceted languages service resource that can, among other things, respond to the various demands which a globalized economy will continue to impose on Guyana. It is a challenge, Bernard says, which the Language Institute finds exciting.

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