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Banking in Sri Lanka; how important is English language proficiency in this industry?

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The banking industry in Sri Lanka is a stable, vibrant, market driven industry with approximately 80 institutions operating island wide, Banking as a career has always been one of the most sought after professions in the country with youth in Sri Lanka aspiring to work in a leading bank. 

Staff functioning in the banking industry, especially at the front line, are exposed to a range of clientele – from large corporates to foreign clients; the level of communicative ability required by staff would be different in each job role of the banking industry. From the point of view of the employer, a potential candidate for employment with the right English language proficiency would have a definite advantage over others. 

What is the right level of English? To find out, the British Council carried out a benchmarking exercise for the banking industry that outlines the levels of English language required for specific job roles. 

This benchmarking study involved a detailed analysis of the job roles for one of the leading organisations in the banking sector. The exercise looked to define the levels of English required in a job role across the four skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. 

Mapping the job roles based on the English language levels, especially in industries where English is critical, helps ensure the effectiveness of an individual, company and industry. The English language levels are mapped against the globally accepted standard for English language assessment: the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

The Common European Framework of Reference plays a key role in language assessment worldwide. The framework assesses language on a scale from A for basic users up to C for the highest level of proficiency. 

Based on the CEFR, a person with an A1 level in Speaking would be able to carry out very basic conversations like greetings or asking and giving a name. Comparatively, an individual with a level of C would be able to express themselves with a high degree of accuracy even in complex situations.  

It is important to understand that each individual would have a unique English language profile across the four skills. Assessment against the established benchmark will identify skill gaps to support the recruitment, training and development of human talent through a fact-focused approach. This in turn benefits both the organisation as well as the employee. 

For example, an Executive in Corporate Banking would need to use the language fluently and spontaneously when dealing with clients. Though there may be some hesitations and inaccuracies when dealing with complex issues, it is very unlikely to cause serious difficulties in getting the message across. For this role a B2 is required for speaking, listening and understanding. When it comes to writing, however, a C1 will be required – this role will require writing letters to customers and managers will not always have time to spend on correcting grammar. The employee would have to write clear, well-structured messages and use a wide range of vocabulary. Reading in this role requires a B1 as they would have to read straightforward messages on routine matter and understand them well enough to implement what is required. 

To move into the role of Assistant Accounts Manager in Corporate Banking, the proficiency levels required change. In this role, a C1 is required for speaking, writing and listening and understanding. This is because the employee would be in the front line, dealing and maintaining relations with customers. This sometimes involves saying ‘no’ and negotiating solutions to issues. Reading requires a B2 as they would need to accurately understand all types of messages relating to their work. 

David Maynard, Deputy Country Director British Council Sri Lanka said: “Benchmarking helps industries to set standards of English and in turn improve the overall level of English in the country. This in turn helps individuals and organisations gain a competitive edge.”

For more information on how benchmarking, assessment and English language development solutions can support your organisation or industry, contact the British Council on +94 (0) 114 521521 or visit www.britishcouncil.lk/exam/aptis

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. 

We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.lk
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See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.