Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo (FP)

As this country continues to sign bilateral trade agreements, pursue foreign direct investment, and attract tourists from non-traditional markets, there is an imperative need for its citizens to develop their language skills.??

This observation has come from Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who is urging Barbadians to learn a foreign language.

Pointing to airlift between Barbados and Brazil, as well as recent trade missions to Costa Rica and Panama, she stressed that for Barbadian businesses to effectively expand into those markets, knowledge of those nations’ languages was essential.

The comments follow her recent keynote address at Aruba’s Trade and Industry Association’s (ATIA) General Meeting.?? Having been invited to Aruba to discuss Barbados’ social partnership model and social dialogue procedures, the Labour Minister indicated that she was impressed with the "multilingual nature of Aruba".??

She pointed out that the majority of Aruban nationals were fluent in Papiamento (an indigenous Portuguese-based creole), Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and English.?? She also noted that the former Dutch colony required primary school children to master English and Spanish, since English is considered to be the language of international business, and because of Aruba’s close proximity to South America.??

While indicating that Barbados had introduced Spanish at the primary school level, she stressed that businesses and individuals also needed to be more aggressive in their pursuit of foreign language skills.??????

??"We are talking about developing and enhancing trade with the French Caribbean and Latin America.?? We also want to attract tourists from those countries to Barbados.?? We can’t do that and only speak English; this certainly shows that we need to be speaking more languages, specifically Spanish, French and Portuguese," Dr. Byer Suckoo emphasised.

Further noting that language skills helped companies and business persons to be more marketable, she reiterated that with Barbados’ quest to expand into Texas, Mexico and Latin America, it was critical for Barbadians to develop strong oral and practical knowledge of Spanish.

"It is envisaged that a business seeking to expand into foreign markets would initially use technology, but a business will eventually want to have a [physical] presence in those countries.?? If a company from Barbados is expanding into Brazil, for example, this creates jobs in both countries; and if Barbadians are unable to fill those positions because of language barriers, then it means that Brazilians will have to fill the jobs on both sides, because they speak English and Portuguese," she lamented.

Dr. Byer Suckoo said some "mid-life" persons have made a conscious decision to learn a language as a result.?? "More and more people are doing it in mid-life, because they realise it makes them more marketable; so you would see more mature folks enrolling in the Venezuelan Institute, the Alliance Franciaise and the Barbados Community College.?? But, it needs to be in our psyche from very early, that we as Barbadians should speak more languages.?? This country has a bright, intelligent and skilled population, but we need to develop our language skills," she stressed.

Last month, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean also called on Barbadians to learn more languages.?? She specifically urged the Accounting Students Association of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus to learn Spanish and Chinese, further noting that with the advent of free movement of people and the international context of business, possessing a foreign language is now becoming a new global reality.


Author: Shamkoe Pil??

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