Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What Does Brexit Mean for the English Language?

Last Thursday, the United Kingdom headed to the polls to decide whether or not the country wanted to remain part of the European Union. In the end, in a very close referendum, 51.9% of voters were in favour of leaving the EU.

There are plenty of ramifications for the UK, politically, economically, etc. However, one thing that is concerning to us at The Lingua File is the fact that English may take a dramatic step down on a political scale. Of course, English is an official language in Ireland, so it will retain its official status within the EU. However, the population of Ireland is around 4.5 million, while the UK is home to around 65 million people. There's no way that this giant loss of native speakers is not going to affect EU policy.

The EU is going to make an example of the UK when negotiations formally begin, since few member states want to make leaving the EU look favourable, for fear of losing more members. In that event, English as an official language will seem fairly insignificant.

I can't imagine that English will be affected on a global scale. The language is the lingua franca in many countries around the world, but within the institutions of the EU, it will lose a huge amount of clout when the UK leaves.

Regardless of what the EU chooses to do about the working languages within the union, the language situation within the UK is worrying. The EU has heavily promoted language learning within the UK, and with the country moving away from Europe politically, it certainly makes me concerned for the already worrying state of language learning within the country. If just over half of the British population has decided they're better off without Europe, they may also think they're better off without their languages.

Is Brexit good or bad for language learning within the UK? Has it changed the English language's status within Europe? Tell us what you think in the comments below.