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IELTS Academic Reading

Time: Approximately 20 minutes


  • Answer all the questions.
  • You can change your answers at any time during the test.


  • There are 13 questions in this test.
  • Each question carries one mark.

Do not click 'Start test' until you are told to do so.

minute left
Passage 2

Read the text below and answer Question 14-26

The contribution of language to business

People say that business is all about relationships, but the truth is that business is really all about language communication. Languages make either a direct or indirect contribution to business and industry—from acquiring and retaining customers to improving employee engagement and performance. At the most fundamental level, business cannot happen without communication. This is even more true in the era of globalization. As geographic borders become porous and the world flattens, effective communication with customers, employees, partners, suppliers, and other stakeholders across the globe becomes essential to successfully running a company.

There is no universal agreement on how significant the language factor is; nor the degree of language proficiency in contribution to the success of business and industry. In large modern enterprises, people have the unique experience of working with thousands of organizations across different industries and sectors that are tackling this very problem. Companies adjust to these demographic, cultural, and economic trends and proactively build workforces with the skills and capabilities needed to grow and thrive in this multicultural and international economy. Although the combination of business functions and processes impacted by improved communication may vary from company to company, language skills consistently deliver tangible business value and results for organizations that invest in language training.

Although English is dominant for international transactions, many business people also think and deal in scores of languages. Companies that operate solely in English will miss opportunities to capitalize on the explosive growth in developing and untapped markets at home and abroad. These companies also run the risk of misunderstandings with customers, and with members of an increasingly global workforce. Moreover, travellers on business need to have different levels of language proficiency. On a basic level, they are able to use the language at the airport and to check in at the hotel. Besides, they need a high language proficiency to deal with workers at their offshore factories.

One of the biggest business advantages of a workforce that can effectively communicate in more than one language is the ability to reach new markets—both at home and abroad. On the domestic side, for example, the U.S. has become even more of a melting pot than in the past, with minorities accounting for a greater proportion of the total population. Accordingly, in domestic venues, the consumer contacts and service activities also ask for workers with good skills of different languages, such as at restaurants or in duty-free stores.

The language proficiency needed to hold a conversation is quite different from that needed for negotiating. Receptionists and telephonists are the first point of contact between firms. The language proficiency they need is to gather basic factual information. Yet negotiating well in another language is one of the most difficult skills, especially nowadays when it is often done at a distance by videoconference, teleconference or email. It is also one of the most important things to do well, with usually a clear financial penalty for doing it badly. To really master the negotiating skill, negotiators need a thorough understanding of the very many phrases they might hear during a negotiation and an ability to show fine shades in meaning in their own contributions. Similar to negotiating, certain occupations like shipping, also require unbroken and detailed communication between officials.

When it comes to negotiation, the interpreters and translators are needed. Interpreters and translators aid communication by converting messages or text from one language into another language. Although some people do both, interpreting and translating are different professions: interpreters work with spoken communication, and translators work with written communication. The selection of interpreters and translators is critical. Both the loyalty and accuracy of the interpreters and translators must be put at the top of agenda. Thus, loyalty to the speaker and the original appears to be a hallmark of professionals more so than of amateurs.

Who can judge the performance of the interpreters? A person with language proficiency is needed in the negotiating team to check on the interpreters, guaranteeing the quality and accuracy of the interpretation. Listeners are presumably listening only to the output and as such not aware of the structure of the source speech. Only an experienced expert will understand the constraints of any given situation and be in a position to judge. Only she (or he) can assess just how the speed, density and complexity of the speech will affect interpretation in any particular language combination. And even this task is not easy: interpreters are trained to listen and speak at the same time, not to listen to two different audio streams. Therefore, the check-on is best accomplished by those trained to teach or with enough experience to have mastered this skill.

Businesses may ask help from local consultants who are responsible for hiring local workers or train company managers to deal with local consumers. That was the case with CommScope, a multibillion dollar telecom equipment manufacturer with customers, employees, and partners in 18 countries across the world. In the wake of these transactions, the company began offering Jacqueline K. Crofton, a local resident, language training to key employees and executives. The goal of the training was not to make employees fluent in the new language, as much as to give them a degree of functional proficiency. "In order to advance well in new markets and with new customers, we had to be able to at least understand and communicate at a basic level, even with the use of interpreters," says David Hartsoe, manager of CommScope's Global Learning Center. In the long run, effective communication will definitely help their employees stay positive and productive.

Questions 14-19

Choose YES if the statement agrees with the claims of the writer, choose NO if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer, or choose NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this.

14 There are two types of contribution that languages make to business.
  • YES

  • NO


15 All businesses have recognized the importance of language to business.
  • YES

  • NO


16 English is the most important language for all business purposes.
  • YES

  • NO


17 Senior executives, especially, need to be fluent in the language of their trading partners.
  • YES

  • NO


18 Travellers on business need several different levels of language proficiency.
  • YES

  • NO


19 Some businesses provide interpreter training to their employees.
  • YES

  • NO


Questions 20-23

Answer the questions below. Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.

  • 20. What level of language proficiency are the workers required in the duty-free stores?
  • 21. Who are the first people the client usually has contact with in business?
  • 22. Which industry is high language proficiency essential to?
  • 23. What business are interpreters and translators needed for?

Questions 24-26

Choose the correct answer.

24 One of the most important qualities of the interpreter is
  • common sense.

  • industry knowledge and contacts.

  • appropriate reaction.

  • trustworthiness.

25 A qualified interpreter is essential to the business for
  • ensuring cultural appropriateness.

  • accuracy of information.

  • success in trading.

  • financial reasons.

26 In the writer's opinion, hiring an indigenous person to improve the dialect language proficiency of the company staff is
  • unethical.

  • unlikely.

  • sensible.

  • expensive.


Question Your Answer Correct Answer
14 YES
15 NO
16 NO
18 YES
20 good (skill)
21 receptionists and telephonists
22 shipping
23 negotiation
24 D. trustworthiness.
25 B. accuracy of information.
26 C. sensible.