Romania’s Multilingual Culture – A Major Contributor to Contact Center Development in Romania
By Gregoire Vigroux
In this article, I’m going to analyze why and how Romanians’ multilingual culture has turned Romania into a favorite contact center hub of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies.
Romanians have a strong aptitude for speaking foreign languages, primarily English, French, Italian, German and Spanish
Romanians are known internationally for their strong aptitude for speaking European languages; primarily English, followed by French, Italian, Spanish and German. In the past 10 years, around 20 multilingual major call centers and BPO organizations have come to operate in Romania, finding here a large multilingual pool which they have drawn upon to serve millions of customers across Europe and the USA.
Recent statistics show that English is now spoken by 8 million Romanians, French by 4.7 million and German, Italian and Spanish by 1.5-2.5 million (sources: OIF, Goethe Institute, British Council, Cervantes Institute). These numbers are very high, given that Romania has a population of 21 million.
In the next part of the article I’m going to examine the major factors contributing to Romanians’ proficiency in foreign languages.
The main contributor to Romanians’ linguistic proficiency is education. English, French, Spanish, Italian and German are all taught in schools. In secondary and high schools, foreign language classes are compulsory. As a result, before entering university, most Romanians already speak two languages fluently and they usually continue to study these languages at university.
The most prestigious universities in the country offer 100% foreign language-speaking educational tracks through to Master’s degree. For example, in Bucharest the Polytechnics University and the ASE (Academy of Economic Studies) have separate divisions in English, French and German. These universities not only offer foreign language-speaking tracks locally, but have also built strong partnerships with universities abroad and send students on Erasmus programs.
According to the Romanian Ministry of Education, roughly 50,000 Romanian students are currently studying abroad, with 5,000 new students leaving each year. Over 12,000 Romanian students choose France, Germany, the US or Italy as their alma mater destinations. Although France and Germany remain top destinations for Romanian students, universities in Spain and Italy have also become popular in the last few years.
Most Romanians studying abroad come back to their country equipped with advanced level skills in foreign languages, as well as with a very good cultural understanding of the country in which they have lived and studied. This linguistic and cultural understanding translates into a skilled workforce that can underpin the development of the BPO industry in the country.
Modern Romanian culture has been heavily influenced by Western culture and languages over the last 250 years. Historically, French was the predominant foreign language taught in Romania, although English has since superseded it. Still, Romania is one of the most important French-speaking countries in Europe. The country joined the OIF (the World Organization of French-speaking countries) in 1992. Romanian, after all, is a Latin language, belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family, and has much in common not only with French, but also Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
The large pool of foreign language speakers in Romania is one of the country’s main assets
Romania’s multilingual labor pool hasn’t gone unnoticed by multinational BPO organizations seeking to provide support to their international customers across Europe and North America. As a result, Romania is now positioned among the leading industry contact center hubs throughout Europe.
Development of the BPO industry in Romania now translates into the development of the economy and improved living standard for a large part of the Romanian population. And that’s great news for all those who, like me, love this country and believe it has a bright future!
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