Brexit and kids

A parents guide: Is speaking English enough?

Brexit. Yep, you hoped to escape it in a children’s language blog. Sorry to get political…. I won’t labour the point for long!

During the build up to the June 2016 Brexit referendum Ukip leader Nigel Farage complained, “In many parts of England you don’t hear English spoken any more”. A 2013 programme created by the Greater London Authority meanwhile, dubbed ‘English – the Key to Integration in London’, is an initiative to ensure non-English speakers have access to the right opportunities in the nation’s capital. From xenophobic quips to worthwhile outreach, the goal remains the same; we need to focus on speaking English and only English in the UK. I mean, after all, we voted out, so we don’t need to worry about French and Spanish any more, do we?

Well, hold on there…

The Language Skills Deficit

Here is another, perspective: The UK is experiencing a ‘Language Skills Deficit’. Effectively, by being monolingual, Britons are widening our knowledge gap, affecting our ability to mix with other cultures, diminishing our opportunities for cross-border learning and, critically, damaging our future employment and business prospects.

Let me illustrate the problem:    

·         Think the UK is multilingual? Think again! We rank third in a list of least multilingual countries in the world. Only Australia and the US are ranked lower. That being said, congratulations to the 14.4% of us that do have the ability to speak more than one language!

·         One study found our inability to move beyond our native tongue is costing the British economy almost 50 BILLION pounds per year! Business growth, export, understanding foreign regulation, entering new markets and many more. “Oh, everyone speaks English though” you might think? Well, not true, and even if they did, it doesn’t mean everyone should!

·         Back to Brexit (stay with me) and it has been estimated that the most important languages once the UK leaves the EU will be Spanish, Mandarin, French, Arabic and German. Trade, culture and even international safety could be at stake in the future. Dramatic? Maybe. With good reason? Yes!

·         Singapore, The Netherlands and Switzerland – stable economies, thriving in industry for years. India, South Africa and Malaysia – emerging and advancing, taking advantage of technology to expand rapidly. These countries also have at least FOUR official languages each! Oh, and English is one of them in each case. Enough said?

Deux is better than One

This list just scratches the surface. Maybe one or two of these resonated with you. Perhaps studying in Paris, providing social media content in Dubai or exporting to Mexico City never crossed your mind? However, in an increasingly online world, there is a good chance your children will need to follow a path like this to flourish. An extra language can only help.

What next?

As a parent, you can give your children the tools today to be part of a global environment tomorrow. The world is getting smaller with every new discovery, and by being multilingual, it is easier to find your niche within it. 

Being bilingual goes a long way to improving cultural awareness and respecting differences. Diversify your child’s options in life with another language.

Interactions can build understanding, trustful relationships across borders. More than ever this is truly a required skill.

Start young. It is well-documented that learning a language from a young age creates strong transferable skills in life – listening, observation, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

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