Following Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent promise that the Brexit divorce proceedings will be put in motion by the end of March 2017, people are starting to wonder how we will be impacted here in the UK. One of these uncertainties is the future role of the English language within the EU, and how foreign language learning will be impacted here in Britain. Whilst it is impossible to tell what the UK will look like once it has separated from the EU institution of which it has been a member for 43 years, the debate surrounding the importance of language learning has been given new life. What does this mean for us as a multicultural nation?
One fact which cannot be disputed is the popularity of English as a second language within the European countries and its role as lingua franca within the EU framework. However, once the UK leaves the EU, the number of countries with English as their nominated national language will drop to zero, with the Republic of Ireland choosing Gaelic and Malta choosing Maltese. The status of English as a working language during the day-to-day workings in the European Commission, alongside French and German, could be revoked. Therefore, the very act of leaving the EU requires language proficiency with the need to use English interpreters and translators able to communicate these complex debates in and out of different languages.
However, it is once we consider the linguistic needs of our nation after we have left the EU and are looking out towards the wider global marketplace that we start to see the extent to which language competence is required. One of the main arguments ‘Vote Leave’ used leading up to the referendum was the possibility of creating new trade deals with countries outside of the EU. Whether or not this is possible, we will need competent linguists to access these markets. The old saying comes to mind; if you want to buy something, you can use any language, but if you want to sell something, you must use theirs. To negotiate these delicate dealings in this vast marketplace, we must cater to their linguistic needs. Perhaps this will be the biggest impact that Brexit has on language learning in an educational setting, the increase in popularity of the non-European languages, Mandarin, Russian and Japanese for example. The importance for us Britons, on this small island, to be able to communicate with the global economic giants cannot be understated if we are to succeed financially.
But, in truth, no one really knows what the ramifications of Brexit will be. All we know is that we must continue to work with our neighbours, both in the EU and further afield, and languages are at the very core of this work. They help bridge the gap between minds, creating a sense of oneness, regardless of our political position. Language immersion is a key way of achieving this, helping broaden cultural horizons and allowing people to experience a way of life which is different to their own. The future begins with multilingualism and multiculturalism.
Here at Adaptable Travel we pride ourselves on our language school trips, in which we place immersion at the very heart of the organisation, allowing the students to hear and practise the language with native speakers. They will get to know the culture of the country that they study, and will be able to discover it for themselves. Now more than ever, in this current unclear political landscape, what we must focus on and actively practise is an idea of unity without borders, and this begins with travel.
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