Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/06/amazon_ireland_scornfest/

Reg readers: 'Amazon in Ireland? More like Amazon in liarland!'

Speaking in forked tongues?

By Christopher Williams

Posted in CIO, 6th March 2006 12:51 GMT

A reassuringly cynical bunch, Register readers. No sooner had we reported Amazon's plans to shift customer services operations from Slough to 2005 European Capital of Culture Cork for the 'superior language skills', than the Doubting Thomas SWAT team rocked up with a whole pitcher full of scorn.

Here's Reg reader Graham Dawson's sceptical take on the announcement:

"There's another reason behind this move. Taxes. Amazon has moved their call centre to a business park next door to Cork airport because it includes the following incentives: worker training is paid for by the park, and moving there gives them 10 years without having to pay tax. If Amazon were really just worried about language skill problems, they'd hire in native speakers like any other company."

And the language numbers themselves are perhaps a touch dubious. Reader Adam Rae does the maths:

"Forty one per cent of 3m Irish people = 1.64m people who can speak conversationally a second language. Thirty per cent of 60.5m British people = 18.15m who can do likewise. Eleven times more foreign language speakers in the UK than in Ireland! And if my trusty calculator isn't lying, that's still just 24 people per sq km in Ireland compared 75 people per sq km in the UK."

And even the EU itself doesn't escape the aspersion-casting orgy. David Craven dishes out the doubt:

"That means if I bump into five Irishmen and start speaking French or German to them, two of them will understand? Leave it out! Thirty per cent of English people know a foreign language? I'd be surpirsed if 30 per cent of people could command English beyond primary school level, to be honest."

The Amazon press office today said the closure of the Slough office was not a done deal, and they were consulting with staff. Amazon said: "It's true that we are eligible for Irish government funding." The Department of Employment, Trade and Enteprise confirmed Amazon will receive government cash for the move.

The spokesman preferred to cite Irish University of the Year, the University College Cork, as a prime reason, hinting a readily available seasonal workforce is behind the decision.

In fairness to Amazon, the Slough campus of academic powerhouse Thames Valley University offers only a beginner's certificate in Spanish.

"Dos Guinness, por favor", anyone? ®