Languages will be more important than ever with Brexit

There is already a shortage of language skills in the UK which according to the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), “is costing the UK economy £48 billion a year”, however with Brexit looming we will no longer be able to rely on EU nationals to help fill this gap. According to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages, “We will need more UK officials with foreign language skills.”

“Language skills are vital for our exports, education, public services and diplomacy.”

Difficulty to find bilingual staff

We currently rely on the EU to negotiate trade deals, however once we leave, we will no longer be able to do this.
If it is more difficult for EU citizens to come to live and work in the UK it will then be vital for PA and secretarial staff to improve their language skills. Recruitment agencies already find a lack of candidates with good language skills the most difficult position to fill.

Britain lags far behind Europe for language skills

Whereas over half of Europeans speak a second language, only 25% of British adults speak a second language. The cliché “everyone speaks English” is no longer so true. Over 70% of the world’s population does not speak English especially true in growing economies like China and the Middle East.
Clearly, having knowledge of another language would make you stand out from other candidates.

Multilingual staff = a competitive edge

If companies here want to show the EU that they still want to do business with them, the best way would be to make sure they have the staff with the linguistic skills to continue doing business effectively. Not just managers, but administrative staff too. Bilingual staff are crucial to secure new business contracts abroad. Some UK companies expect European companies to buy their products or services after selling to them in English, a foreign language, which is unbelievable!

Improving the language skills shortage

  1. We need to invest in non-European languages such as Mandarin, Arabic and Urdu.
  2. Ensure EU nationals already here can continue their residency.
  3. Make sure the Erasmus scheme continues allowing UK students to study, work or train abroad.
  4. Promote language learning in primary schools and make sure it continues throughout schooling.
  5. Make it compulsory for students to take a GCSE in a foreign language.

Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council says, “Learning a language isn’t just a rewarding way to connect with another culture but boosts individual job prospects, as well as business and trade opportunities for the UK.”

The co-chair of APPG, Baroness Coussins said: “Brexit must make the UK’s language skills a top policy issue since language skills are vital for our exports, education, public services and diplomacy.”

Read how language-learning apps will thrive post-Brexit in this article by The Guardian.

Anyone can learn a language – see the recent blog, “7 ways to learn a language easily”.

 
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