The formal negotiations between UK and EU to separate the Kingdom from the Union are now well underway. Looking forward, it is rather clear to see that things simply won’t be the same. The new relationship between United Kingdom and European Union will most likely compel trade and political communications to be conducted on a completely new level, and it is unlikely that it’ll be always done in English, as it so was very often before.
Once the UK leaves the EU, there will be no state within the Union where English is the lead official language (Gaelic in Ireland). Therefore, in order to trade with the EU, it will be essential for the UK to have negotiators who are fluent in other European languages such as German, Spanish or French.
Recently, the Foreign and Common Wealth office and the Ministry of Defence have opened an in-house training centre for their staff where they can take language lessons in up to 80 different languages. This only shows that such institutions are recognising the gap in job market which will occur due to restrictions of the number of immigrants entering the country. The need for visas will radically decrease the number of workers who can come to the UK to fill jobs British people are either unwilling or unable to do.
Global English (?)
Language learning is a major part of education systems in majority of European Countries. Children learn different languages throughout their school years and are then able to take their knowledge further with higher education. Unfortunately, in the United Kingdom children do not learn languages with as much intensity as it so happens in Europe.
The idea of English being a global language is often the reason why a number of young people abandon language learning, considering it as boring and unnecessary in the long run. Sadly, reports show that since 2002, the number of university students applying for language related courses has decreased by 16%. Shockingly, at secondary school level the number of students preparing for a language GCSEs has dropped by a distressing 41%. Additionally, the number of students taking German, French and Spanish at A-level has dropped by 22% overall. German, the language hit mostly, declined by over 45%.
This lack of language skills which is later brought across all employment sectors, is costing the UK economy an estimated £48 billion each year. Yet, although the number of UK students learning languages is falling, there still aren’t enough highly qualified language teachers to meet the current demand. In fact, roughly 3,500 additional language teachers are needed in in order to provide high standard of learning for students. Along with the English Baccalaureate failing to fully involve young people with languages, the lack of highly qualified teachers might just be another reason for a declining number of language learners.
Although English currently still remains the key language in Europe, across not only politics, but also across a number, or perhaps all, business sectors and corporate levels, this may change in the future. Brexit will not only affect the UK, but also all European countries and as UK won’t be part of the ‘everyday’ life in the EU, English might be replaced by another common language. Still, it’s difficult to imagine a Greek and a Finn discussing business in a language different to English or without the help of professional translation agency.
What are your thoughts? Is now just the perfect time to learn a foreign language? Could this help you or your children in future careers? Let us know!