According to data from the Spanish National Institute of Statistics, only around 24% of the Spanish population speaks English. This contrasts with the number of people who say they have knowledge of English, amounting to 57% of professionals. Of this group, just 3% consider themselves bilingual, with 23% saying they have a high level.
This means that a large proportion of the population residing in Spain either has almost no knowledge of English or has a basic level. Although the number of job offers requiring English has decreased over the last three years, it continues to be an important aspect in the world of work.
The professional aspects that are affected or influenced by foreign languages are varied:
- Professional expectations: in order to get certain jobs, a good level of a foreign language, particularly English, is a must. Knowing languages is not only necessary for senior positions, but is also key for technicians and middle management.
- International trade and companies: in order to address your target audience, it is essential to speak a language that they can understand, and English is extremely useful in this regard as it is a very international language. English is also key in companies that have a multilingual workforce, as good internal communication must be ensured.
- External communication: people that work in marketing, trade, science, medicine, politics… when doing a presentation, interview or conference, they need English in order to understand questions from their audience and to be able to express themselves fluently and naturally.
Do you know these famous examples?
One example of the importance of knowing a foreign language is what happened last week to the Spanish minister Yolanda Díaz, when a journalist asked her a question in English that she did not understand and therefore could not answer. A member of the audience had to help her out and translate the question, although not being a professional interpreter, they did not translate the question correctly, leaving part of the content and reflection out.
But this isn’t the first time that this has happened to a politician.
Let’s look back at what happened in 2013 when Mariano Rajoy met with the British prime minister and the French president and could barely put a fluent sentence together: although they addressed him in English, Rajoy had to reply most of the time in Spanish, even using gestures to communicate at times.
And, of course, we all know the famous speech marked by the Spanglish phrase “a relaxing cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor” by Ana Botella, Mayor of Madrid from 2011 to 2015.
Where does the real problem lie?
Taking into account the resources we have nowadays, the real problem in these cases is not the level of English of the person in question, but rather not having sought out the right resources for the situation.
In order to work with other countries and cultures, we need to be able to reliably understand what they say without missing out on any details. And, for this, the best resource is a professional native interpreter.
A person that is professionally trained in interpreting doesn’t just translate words: they have in-depth knowledge of the culture, expressions, implications, protocols and specific features of the source and target language. This is incredibly useful when you’re not an expert in the language and you want to connect with the audience and express yourself freely, with the peace of mind that your intention, goal, message and way of expressing yourself will also be translated into the target language.
As language experts, we always advocate fluent, appropriate and correct communication. That is why our recommendation is to make sure you are covered whenever necessary.
Don’t feel 100% comfortable holding a conversation in a foreign language? That’s normal! For those occasions, we can provide native and professionally trained interpreters (https://sienstranslation.com/en/services/interpreting/) that can help you to understand what is being said and also make yourself understood.
 Randstad (2017). “El conocimiento de idiomas aumenta un 37% las posibilidades de encontrar empleo” [online]. <https://www.randstad.es/nosotros/sala-prensa/el-conocimiento-de-idiomas-aumenta-un-37-las-posibilidades-de-encontrar-empleo/>
 El Confidencial (2022). [online] <https://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/2022-02-14/idiomas-necesarias-tener-trabajo-sorprendente_3373758/>
 You can watch the video at the following link: El Mundo (2023). [Video online] https://videos.elmundo.es/v/0_dwpdt1sb-yolanda-diaz-se-queda-en-blanco-ante-una-pregunta-en-ingles-de-una-periodista?count=0
 La Sexta. “Rajoy: It’s very difficult todo esto” [online].
 ElDiario.es (2013). “El ‘relaxing cup of café con leche’ de Ana Botella, una de las meteduras de pata del año para ‘Time’” [online]. <https://www.eldiario.es/politica/relaxing-ana-botella-meteduras-time_1_5124239.html>