Another ‘tongue’
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A Chinese business in Georgetown
A Chinese business in Georgetown

How learning a foreign language can aid in business
GUYANA is positioned among her South American neighbours as the only English-speaking country in this part of the world, yet she is also a proud Caribbean country, as well as one of the founding-members of CARICOM.

With the veritable expectation of oil in commercial quantities, the projected increase in gold, diamond, quarrying and other natural resources, which includes bauxite; planned internal revenue collection through taxation and the like; a more diversified agricultural production, including the coconut industry; some amount of increase in tourism; and a steady influx of ‘partners-in-business’ via Cuba, Brazil and other Caribbean countries, though, perhaps, to a lesser extent, this country is quickly becoming a place where many ‘outsiders’ may want to be, especially to do business. But is Guyana prepared for this?

With all the complexities in the changing face of business there are some simple, but imperative things that should occur for success to be realised in many sectors of the economy.

Foreign language
It has become absolutely important and extremely beneficial for the people of this country (in large part) to know at least one foreign language. There is a large population of Chinese living and working here; increasingly, there seems to be a large influx of Cubans, Brazilians, and Venezuelans; others, maybe in lesser numbers from Haiti, Suriname and other Caribbean countries – many of whom speak other languages.

Clearly, with the world today being multilingual (speaking one or more foreign languages) has become very essential. At least having a working knowledge of a foreign language, in addition to one’s native language can be particularly valuable. In terms of business and even from the social aspect, being able to communicate in a foreign language helps to establish genuine connections among peoples, fosters better understanding and trust in business transactions, and generally provides a better understanding of each other’s culture.

Businessmen and women in Georgetown
A few Chinese businessmen were willing to speak with the Pepperpot Magazine, and talked about their efforts at employing persons who are able to speak at least one other foreign language, so as to communicate more effectively with foreign traders who come to purchase stocks.

“We find, especially for the Cubans and some of the Brazilians, we had to get people who could speak Spanish and Portuguese,” one Chinese businesswoman explained. “They come plenty to buy, but some [don’t] know how to talk English and they don’t know Chinese at all, so to do better business we decide to pay and get to learn to talk their language fast, fast and so now we are able to do business better and we now understand many things about each other.”

On the other hand, two Cuban businesswomen, who said that they were speaking on behalf of the others, told the Pepperpot Magazine that they were happy to do business here in Guyana, and that while they are always conscious of people who may want to “smart or rob us,” they said that they feel wanted by the people and by the government too.

“We travel on the mini-bus, walk the streets and go all over the place and people treat us well most of the time. We love Guyana and the people here, but we cannot understand how come most of them we come across can’t even speak a little Spanish,” they expressed. They went on to explain that some of them learnt how to speak a little English before coming to Guyana, while others continue to have a working knowledge of the language as they move around.

“However, we are happy that some of the people we do business with here have been making it easy for us to talk and do the business, because they have people now who we can tell anything and they understand and can also tell us things,” the ladies explained.

Hardly multilingual
While some persons interviewed by the Pepperpot Magazine agreed that knowing a foreign language can open up doors for employment opportunities, as well as for business, and can also allow persons to establish a sound grip of the global economy, almost all of them could speak only the native language, which is English.
It is a well-known fact that many organisations in Guyana, and globally, understand the importance of knowing a foreign language, and therefore tend to look for candidates with that particular skill, in order to fill some key positions.

The mining industry
The people of Guyana can hardly afford to not know a ‘foreign’ language. Apart from the businesses-mostly of a trade-nature-which operate in Georgetown and possibly elsewhere in the country, there are many other serious businesses, especially in the mining arena, where men and women will not be able to effectively communicate if there is that lack of knowledge in the area of language. The fact is that there are financial and social gains from learning a foreign language; there are even medical/health gains.

Staying competitive and successful
It must mean that to stay competitive and successful in a world where the percentage of people who speak English have barely gone over to double digits, knowing at least one other language is advantageous for social and corporate success.

One businessman posited that being able to speak many languages is not just to feel educated, but it is an indispensable tool for good business and financial success in the local and international community. Also, they agree that it aids in effective communication for good relationship-building among individuals, as well as the society at large. (

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