English, the ‘International’ Language – but for how long?

The ‘supremacy’ of English in the world of trade is a good excuse for native English-speakers not to learn another language. Let’s face it, why bother when you can go abroad and everyone there speaks English? The British don’t seem to be born linguists anyway, do they? And so on and so forth… We’ve all heard it and we’ve heard it all.

This complacency costs the UK £7.3bn each year in lost trade, which former Treasury Economic Adviser James Foreman-Peck calls “the tax on trade”. 75% of the UK trade takes place with countries where English is not the first language. (English is the first language for 6% of the world population only.) As Willy Brandt says, “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.”

Last year, the EU recruited for 308 jobs in Brussels, needless to say with language skills as a must. Only 1.5% of the applicants were British; 7 were successful. Can we expect to have an influence on the EU if we do not have a stronger presence in its offices?

Being insular isolates us culturally, economically and politically, and with the BRIC countries growing fast, the days of the English language’s ‘supremacy’ are counted.


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