With the referendum held on 23rd June 2016, for the first time in the history of the European Union, a member country voted to leave. An unprecedented challenge, which could have repercussions on the predominance of English as an official language within the EU.
In the wake of Great Britain’s vote to leave the EU (Brexit), there is great uncertainty regarding the economic and political ramifications of this decision. London is predicted to lose its status as Europe’s financial hub to Paris or Frankfurt, and several multinationals have already announced the possible relocation of their City headquarters to another European capital.
But debate also extends to the future of the English language.
The use of English at virtually every level within European institutions has brought countless benefits. Suffice to consider how this choice has facilitated relations with the United States, Australia and nearly every other country in this age of globalisation. English has become the most commonly studied language in schools, overtaking French, for example, which was studied by a greater number of people in the post-war period and is still valued in diplomatic circles.
51.5% of European Union citizens speak English as a first or second language, compared to 32% for German and 26% for French, and this has led to it being the de facto official language of the EU. Nonetheless, English currently enjoys co-official language status in just two nations of the EU, nations which, incidentally, have tiny populations: Ireland (population 4.6 million) and Malta (population of less than half a million).
Many people are left wondering what developments will spring from this situation in the future and what the consequences will be. It is a heated debate that looks set to continue at length.
As for the translation and localisation market, according to the latest predictions there will be a general wane in the predominance of English in favour of other European languages. So we can expect some changes with respect to the trend of recent years, but also new opportunities for those who are ready to grasp them. We are ready!