Translation and the English language post-Brexit

The United Kingdom is the 10th largest export economy in the world; in 2016 the UK exported $404 billion worth of goods, however, over recent years the exports of the UK have decreased at a rate of 12%. The decline in exports could fall even lower post-Brexit, and therefore have a significant impact on the UK’s economy, especially as the EU receives 43% of the UK’s exports.

There are several barriers preventing the UK from getting the trade deal that it wants, as the European Union needs to ensure that it defends the benefits of membership, and therefore negotiations have been ongoing for some time.

It will take around two years for the UK to leave the EU, and there is a lot of uncertainty on the impact of trade and export. The UK may end up with a deal that doesn’t include access to the common market or a previously offered free trade agreement, which could mean that UK exporters may face pressure to lower prices, in order to appeal to EU buyers, who will have to pay taxes on goods imported from the UK.

How could translation benefit the UK economy?

The question is, could the use of translation minimise the decline in exports post-Brexit? 56% of people spend more time on sites in their own language than in English, and translation has proven to be a revenue driver, which has a direct impact on the sales cycle of your business.

Translation may be the extra mile that businesses need to go, to ensure that consumers still buy from them, even with additional taxes on top of the original cost. Obviously, translation poses an additional cost, but one that could pay off in the long-term, considering the impact that translation has on a user’s decision.

Translation could directly impact and strengthen the UK’s export economy, as companies learn the importance of communicating with potential customers in their mother tongue.

Will English still be as important within the EU post-Brexit?

English will remain as an official language of the EU after Britain leaves, but the EU still has 23 other official and working languages, and speakers of English as a second language outnumber native English speakers by 2:1.

Whilst it is unlikely that English would be removed completely from the EU, attitudes and preferences will ultimately change once Brexit has come into effect.

Let’s not forget that Britain is the worst country in Europe when it comes to multilingualism; only 38% of Brits speak a second language, compared to 94% in the Netherlands and 91% in Sweden. What’s more, official EU policy has multilingualism at its core: it recommends that “every European citizen should master two other languages in addition to their mother tongue” – something Britain has failed to support.

Due to France being a dominant country in the EU, the French language may become more widespread in the EU, as it is already heavily used in EU administration. In the past, commissioners, officials and spokespeople spoke French, however, this all changed once the Warsaw pact countries, including Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland, joined the European Union in 2004, and English became the lingua franca.

Post-Brexit, English may begin to lose importance.

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