What will be the place of English post Brexit?
Since June 2016, I’ve been asked many times if Brexit will affect our core business of Business English tuition.
Will we need English?
The assumption behind this question appears to be two-fold. Firstly, people wonder whether the EU will need to communicate in English after we leave, as the UK is the only member whose official first language is English. Secondly, people wonder whether our European friends will feel that a new identity will emerge for the EU that will not be influenced by the British culture and therefore language.
It’s always important to reflect on what you do and why you do it, and of course whether what you do is still important to others. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that English is, and will remain, the most important language for international business communication, and therefore will remain vitally important for EU and non-EU countries alike.
I believe this is mainly due to the following 5 factors:
- Already predominant: English is already the predominant Lingua Franca of business, and many significant global organisations have already chosen English as their main language for corporate communication. Major corporations like Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, Nokia, Renault, Samsung and Microsoft name English as their official language of communication across all sites and countries. Their choice to use English is unlikely to change any time soon.
- Preference: English remains the language of choice for many significant professions (e.g. medicine, science, academia, technology), and years of sharing professional practice by communicating in English have created an expectation that knowledge sharing across the globe happens in English.
- Passion to learn: Individuals, not just corporations, have a strong drive to learn English and contribute to the promotion of the use of English globally. This desire comes from many sources. It includes the belief that learning English contributes to personal prosperity by giving individuals better career choices. It also comes from the desire to participate in global music, movies, fashion, technological advances and other trends which spread across the globe via the internet in English. English is the unofficial language of the internet which has created an enormous momentum behind people’s desire to learn the language.
- Demand: The demand for English is still growing. The British Council predicts at least double digit growth in demand for English in countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil and Mexico, as well as the large African countries. Apparently also the Russian government is insisting that fluent English is a requirement for civil service careers and other countries like Thailand and Kazakhstan are actively promoting the teaching of English in schools and universities as a priority.
- Maths: The numbers speak for themselves. English is the second most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin (according to Wikipedia) with 340 million people using English as their first language and an additional 510 million speakers using English as a second language. Over 50 countries in the world have English as their official language. These numbers are growing as English becomes more and more popular world-wide.
English will remain vitally important to individuals and organisations despite Brexit and other political changes happening around the world currently.
Even though there is currently a backlash against the notion of globalisation as an economic and political concept, the global need for sharing expertise, communicating in a common language for business, and for sharing cultural and technological endeavours remains. It’s those drivers that will ensure that English will remain the major way in which people share and disseminate information. It is not necessarily a perfect tool for doing so, as like all languages it has difficulties and challenges. However it appears it is most definitely the preferred tool for sharing globally.