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learn mandarin or get left behind, firms told

Irish people's language skills are one of the main obstacles to Irish companies getting the most out of the growing Chinese market, Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon has said.

Ms Sinnamon told the Deloitte/Enterprise Ireland CEO forum in Dublin Castle yesterday, that companies need some minimum level of Chinese in order to be taken seriously in the country, adding that "there is nobody currently learning Mandarin for Leaving Cert".

"You have to get it either yourself or recruit it. Have people with you to translate.

"You can't even make it from the airport to your hotel without having somebody there who speaks Chinese.

"There is an opportunity in China and many other high-growth markets which at this stage isn't really an optional extra for many companies; there's massive growth there and we have to capitalise on it," Ms Sinnamon said in a speech to attendees at the CEO Forum.

Also speaking was Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who said internationalisation of Irish businesses has "been the challenge over the last number of years and will remain the challenge for several years to come."

"We can meet and beat the competition in markets as far away as China or India," Minister Bruton said.