Affirming that the command of English in the workplace is essential is now taken for granted. Nowadays, at least scholastic knowledge of this language is required for any profession, even those that apparently have nothing to do with foreign trade.

Even more so, the employees of an export company are required to have this proficiency in both a written and oral form, to a more or less detailed extent, depending on the role they play within the company itself.

Very often, in a globalized society like ours, we hear: “When you speak English well, you’re fine”. But is it really so?


In my personal experience, first as a foreign sales employee and currently as an area manager, I realize every day that English, although essential, is not enough.

Of course, by now (almost) everyone understands it and many are able to speak it quite fluently, but in this case we have to do a finer reasoning. In today’s highly competitive business world, it’s the details that make the difference. It is not enough to know how to do what everyone else can do. To stand out from competitors and ensure that the customer’s choice falls on us and our company, we need that “something more”. This role can be played, in fact, through the mastery of a specific foreign language.

Let’s imagine having to choose between two renowned restaurants: both serve excellent food, but while in one the waiters are courteous and smiling, the environment clean and cared for, the chairs comfortable, the atmosphere welcoming – in the other the staff is rude , the place unkempt and the food eaten on shaky stools. Where do we prefer to have our dinner?

Even in a business environment, with the same product quality, it will be precisely the details that guides the customer’s choice.


When a company decides to focus on certain markets, it is essential to develop a strategy. Addressing a specific market and mastering the language of the country of reference can play a decisive role in the presence of a company in that area. The customer who has the opportunity to speak their mother tongue is certainly more at ease, more relaxed, and this leads them (often even subconsciously) to have a more open and positive attitude towards the speaker.

In light of these arguments, I feel I can firmly maintain that knowledge of the English language is not always enough for companies that deal with exports. In my opinion, the use at a good level of the language in the country with which we do business is a fundamental factor when you want to have a significant and lasting presence on a market.

Arianna Reffo is area manager at VLS Technologies, filtration and treatment of food liquids. Arianna, who speaks English, German and French, is the author of this post.

On the topic of target markets and strategies, I invite you to read my book Exporting in 7 Steps.