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Should UK citizens learn a new language after Brexit?

Languages Brexit

Once Brexit officially kicks off, the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union - perhaps even with the rest of the world - will fundamentally change. This means that the extra language you’ve been wanting to learn might come in handy in a post-Brexit society.

Last year, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker addressed his public in French at the State of the Union conference in Florence. He said this was because he wanted the French public, who were nearing important elections in their own country, to understand his words on the importance of the European Union. However, he also added that English had been losing its importance in Europe ever since the UK voted to leave the EU.

A recent article in The Guardian states that 75% of UK residents only speak English and are thus considered monolingual. Yet if we look at the global population, only 6% are native English speakers. Moreover, three quarters of the global population cannot speak English.

After Brexit, the European Union will have no countries left that chose English as their official working language. Despite widespread use of English in Ireland and Malta, both countries respectively chose Irish and Maltese as their official language when entering the European Union. Moreover, after Brexit only roughly five million people (or rather 1% of the population) in the European Union will have English as their native language.

With this in mind, is it time to sign up for those language classes, download Duolingo or perhaps even find yourself an exotic international lover? And if so, what language should you chose?

No thanks, English will remain important

It is not written in stone that English will be used less among the politicians of the European Union. Actually, EU politicians have recently assured people that English would remain the main language in European politics, followed by French and German. English has been used as a means of communication for years, so why would that change simply because the UK is leaving?

However, some may argue that the European Union will forge their own version of English; an idea that you could say is already in motion. This formation of a new kind of English has been noted down and updated over time by European Court of Auditors senior translator Jeremy Gardner, in a guide on misused words and expression in EU publications.

Moreover, there are those who dare to suggest the European Union might chose to adopt the American spelling in their own version of “Euro-English”. It has already taken on its own new definitions such as eventual as a synonym for possible or possibly, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself having trouble understanding some of the English spoken in Europe in a few decades’ time!

So maybe learn French? Mais oui, bien sûr !

Even more so than today, French was once one of the key languages in the early stages of the European Union. However, after the Scandinavian countries joined, for whom English is their second language, the importance of English increased among the European Union – quelle horreur !

This was not forgotten by French politicians and, nowadays, it is thought that some of them are eager to give their native language back the importance it once had among the EU countries. Indeed you might think they are slowly succeeding already, as EU politicians are using the French-sounding word Berlaymont when referring to bureaucracy. However, this is actually due to a building named Berlaymont rather than patriotic politicians enforcing French sounding words.

Maybe Deutsch? Deutschland ist ganz geil!

What about learning German? Germany is one of the key countries in the European Union and it seems as though it will remain as such, especially now that German chancellor Angela Merkel has been sworn in for another term. It is safe to say it’s no secret that she takes a very pro-EU stance.

Furthermore, the German economy has been growing steadily the past couple of years. And it keeps growing ‘despite evidence that the euro area economy has lost some of its expansionary pace’, as Bloomberg states.

Other languages for a post-Brexit Brit?

If you’re not feeling a connection with either French or German, there are plenty of other options on the table. According to the British Council, an organisation specialising in international cultural and educational opportunities, the list of top languages not only includes French and German, but also Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic.

Or maybe you can even opt for a less common language like Irish or Luxembourgish.

Whatever you decide on, don’t wait too long choosing. While you consider learning a new language that might be useful post-Brexit, Euro-English continues to develop!

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