The Chancellor must offer more than financial support for SME’s looking to export, starting with translation. What’s the budget for that?

In today’s budget, the Chancellor will no doubt reaffirm the importance of international trade and export for Britain’s recovering economy. But how do businesses navigate the minefield of translation?

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to provide an extra £20m worth of funding for small businesses in the form of government backed loans at lower rates of interest. On top of this, he is expected to announce plans to increase export to £1 trillion in the next ten years. This is all well and good, but SME’s who are new to exporting, such as clockmakers Smith of Derby, need much more than financial assistance. Although much of their work is still based in the UK, Smith’s find themselves exploring new business in emerging markets abroad, such as private jobs for foreign millionaires and larger projects in the Middle East and Asia’s developing cities.

Managing Director Bob Betts has steered the company in this direction as he feels businesses need to adapt to stay afloat: “We are following the cranes. To stay on top, to stay in business you have to get off your backside.” Smith’s is one of the companies who have pioneered the Chancellor’s “march of the makers” rhetoric. The importance of international trade for the British economy is set to feature again in today’s Budget, but Betts still believes the government has alot to do in order to prove to business owners that they mean what they say.

Whilst Smith’s has received plenty of help from UK Trade & Industry, the government’s export body, there are still issues that need addressing. One such issue is translation, and Betts believes that the education system needs to serve exporters better by placing more focus on developing language skills in schools. Alot of Smith’s money is spent on translation, and Betts believes that there is a mismatch between Britain’s export aspirations and its poor track record for producing school leavers who are able to speak another language, compared to other European countries: “At one end you have got business leaders saying we are now part of the world economy, and yet you’ve got schools making languages optional.”

As a translation services provider, we understand how difficult it must be for businesses such as Smith’s to overcome the language barrier when starting to trade internationally. Making foreign language study compulsory at schools will not solve this problem on its own, but the government does need to take steps to rectify the worrying trend of children leaving school without any language skills at all. Language qualifications are the foundation of the translation industry, as without them, neither agencies such as ourselves, freelancers or employees in-house will be able to offer translation services to the level we do now.