Just this week, I came across a new report from the British Academy, backed by the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Royal Academy of Engineering. It says that the prospect of Brexit ‘makes it even more important for the UK to have the languages needed to forge wider commercial and other links’.
I am just home from a holiday cycling around Latvia and Estonia. Apart from being lovely countries to visit, what I was most struck by was the multilingualism shown wherever we went. From big cities to country villages, we heard people move easily from Latvian to Estonian (very different languages with many internal dialects) to Russian, German and English. It was impressive. And embarrassing.
We Brits seem to have accepted the idea that we do not need to learn languages because ‘everyone speaks English anyway’. (I’ve discussed this before in past blogs – it’s just not true. Three quarters of the world’s population does not speak English.) Given that we are an island nation that needs to trade to survive, we are behaving like the proverbial ostrich.
A Call for Action
The four academies say that the UK’s poor language capacity has resulted in the loss of economic, social, cultural, and research opportunities. The economic cost of the UK’s linguistic underperformance in terms of lost trade and investment has been estimated at 3.5% of GDP. That’s before Brexit.
The report makes it clear that the UK can become what David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, describes as a ‘linguistic powerhouse’. ‘With the right policies, political will and cross-sector support, we can create hundreds of thousands of linguists – and transform the UK into a more prosperous, productive, influential nation. Embracing multilingualism would enrich us culturally and economically, improve social cohesion and enhance our wellbeing.’
You can read the full report here.
We agree. If they can do it in Latvia and Estonia – what’s stopping us? Call us to start your language journey today.