Above: Barbados Labour Minister Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo (UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Barbados is urging its workforce to develop its foreign language skills, as the country seeks to sign bilateral trade agreements, pursue foreign direct investment and attract tourists from new markets.
The call is coming from Barbados Labour Minister Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, who is pointing to recent agreements and interaction between Barbados and Latin American countries, including trade missions to Costa Rica and Panama.
The Minister was recently on a visit to Aruba, where she said she was impressed with the country’s “multilingual nature.”
A majority of Aruban nationals are fluent in languages including Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages, with Spanish particularly important given the country’s proximity to Latin America.
“We are talking about developing and enhancing trade with the French Caribbean and Latin America,” Byer-Suckoo said. “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.”
Barbados, which is looking to expand its market into Texas, Mexico and Latin America, will be more marketable with a multi-lingual work force, she said.
“If a company from Barbados is expanding into Brazil, for example, this creates jobs in both countries,” she said. “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.”