Ideally positioned at the crossroads of the Americas, The Bahamas has benefitted from its many natural advantages. However, a key ingredient of its success has been and will always be found in the capacity of its people. “As we seek to expand economic opportunities for Bahamians we have to ensure that we are ready to participate in a global job market that is demanding, exacting and highly competitive,” says BFSB’s CEO Tanya McCartney. “And in this regard language skills is a high priority.”

Language teachers know that it is not enough to spend an hour or two a week in class, even when this is sustained through high school. While students learn basic grammar and words, and are able to converse, they are often far from fluent when they graduate. “As we create a road map for The Bahamas in 2040, we should envision all of our children leaving school fluent in at least one additional language,” said Miss McCartney. “Without anything more, they would already be more competitive on the whole than students from even the most developed economies.”

BFSB is playing a role in sparking a sea change in the way language training is viewed in The Bahamas. BFSB started its own Language Learning Initiative in 2012 with the launch of its Livemocha programme which was then transitioned to Rosetta Stone when Livemocha was acquired by the brand in 2013. That programme has enrolled more than 170 financial services learners interested in expanding their knowledge of a foreign language and eventually gaining fluency.

“While learning a language online is not as effective as total immersion, Rosetta Stone has an excellent track record of producing persons who are able to speak fluently even though there is a longer time period required to gain such fluency,” said BFSB’s CEO. “We know that starting this process earlier with persons who have not yet entered the job market, could be a small start to achieving the vision of a Bilingual Bahamas. With its partners, BFSB committed resources to sponsor 166 students who attended our nation’s Government schools to participate in the Rosetta Stone Programme for the 2015-2016 School Year. The programme allows us to track the students’ progress as they achieve different levels of proficiency. It provides expectations for learning, and it is this time commitment that really yields the results that we seek.”

“We do not want to mandate the best way to teach languages, we only wish to provide an additional resource to assist educators in accomplishing their very important goals.”

Bilingual employees are immediately more marketable and according to some studies can command as much as 10% to 15% more in compensation just by virtue of the skill. Indeed, the experience of employees who enter the job market with an additional language has been that this skill is so valuable that employers prioritize it above other more technical skills. This is certainly not a phenomenon confined to the financial services sector; tourism, manufacturing, retail, all benefit from the ability to converse with customers in their language.