Brexit: Time to Learn Another Language?

Listen up, language learners! When booking, on your online enquiry, include a message to the Sales Assistant with the code BREXIT10 explaining how learning a new language will help you personally prepare for Brexit and he/she will add 10% of extra lessons for free.


A new, post-Brexit alternative Channel crossing, perhaps? via Giphy

Brexit is coming and much like the Winter descending on Westeros, we really have no idea what that might mean; not for the average citizen nor for the businesses who might have to consider relocation of their operations due to licensing restrictions and increased overheads. In a time where bilingualism is growing more and more essential, those who can only speak English could be facing a very uncertain future indeed. Unchartered territories are upon us and it’s up to us to determine how to navigate them.

Scaremongering and hearsay

Yes, it’s an uncertain time, so of course there is a lot of speculation and naysaying about what’s really going to happen, but here are a few things that we do know for sure, at least, in this moment.

A growing number of banks including Standard Chartered and JPMorgan are outlining their plans to move to mainland Europe post-Brexit. Between just those two banks, that means around 9000 jobs, and they’re not alone; up to 13 major banks have been making similar noises over the past year. Frankfurt and Dublin are two cities who are currently seen as favourable new locations, but other European cities are surely going to have their selling points for financial institutions as well. With the UK no longer being part of the single market, yet no clear outline as to what that actually means for businesses operating in the UK, it makes sense that businesses are already planning their futures elsewhere.

Photo via MaxPixel

Here’s a quote from Deutsche Bank’s chief regulatory officer, Sylvie Matherat:

“For front office people, if you want to deal with an EU client, you need to be based in the EU. Does it mean I have to move all the front office people to Germany or not? We’re speaking of 2,000 people. We really need clarity.”

It is a valid point. So it’s fairly safe to say that given the uncertainty and upheaval Brexit is bringing, London may no longer be the financial capital that it has been for so long.

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Not just the banks

Other industries are facing upheaval, as well. Earlier this year Diageo moved its vodka production out of Scotland, threatening the jobs of around 200 employees in Fife and Glasgow. Around 40% of games companies in the UK are considering relocation following the triggering of Article 50. Gainsborough and Leeds-based Smiffys: Fancy Dress Costumes & Accessories have said they have ‘no choice’ but to move their headquarters to the EU. Even media companies such as Discovery are looking into relocation in places like Amsterdam, because their UK licences in order to access the EU will no longer be worth anything. This is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the sheer volume of business currently imagining a future overseas; it feels very much like the potential for a mass exodus.

And if anyone were to believe that Brexit wouldn’t impact relations between the UK and the US, they’ll have to think again. A survey conducted by Gowling WLG in December 2016 estimated that around 40% of US businesses, including those in the food and beverage, life sciences, and financial services sectors, were looking at moving their operations elsewhere.

Commercial language of the UK

The EU to the English language via Giphy

Here’s the thing: wherever these businesses go, there will be counterparts, partnerships and pre-existing contracts with companies still here in the UK. Are we expecting those businesses leaving the UK’s shores to set up in, say, Frankfurt, and solely communicate in English for the benefit of those back home?

Employees of these newly-located companies will no doubt be bilingual, and English will be essential for conversing with their English-speaking client bases. But for those who will emigrate with their jobs, are we to believe they won’t settle in Frankfurt and need to learn German to be part of that community, and to communicate better with their local-based colleagues? Will English continue to enjoy the dominance it has had in Europe for so long?

English is the tool used most commonly for our international business communications, but it isn’t the only language to do business in. And whilst we are unlikely to see a day when English isn’t the language of the UK, the UK’s future outside the EU does mean monolingualism has to become a thing of the past, if the UK’s economy is to continue to grow, and its influence on global business markets is going to remain relevant.

Although there is one group of people who might benefit greatly from Brexit: the UK’s pool of linguists. There are currently around 11,000 jobs listed on Indeed for French speakers, as an example of jobs requiring foreign language skills; where once they may have been overlooked in favour of French nationals living in the country, post-Brexit, a French-speaking Brit might fit one of those roles perfectly.

To reiterate from the beginning, this is unchartered territory. It may very well be that the UK’s economy will remain steady, but it does seem to appear that the view on monolingualism will have to shift. Whatever happens, the need for new languages in the marketplace will rise. For now, only time will tell.

If you are a UK citizen and want to get a head start on learning other EU languages whether for business, relocation or just trying to turn a new leaf, listen up:

When booking, on your online enquiry, include a message to the Sales Assistant with the code BREXIT10 explaining how learning a new language will help you personally prepare for Brexit and he/she will add 10% of extra lessons for free.