The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages recently launched a document called “Brexit and Languages: A checklist for Government negotiators and officials”. This lays out four key language-specific objectives of the Brexit process:
- To guarantee residency status for EU nationals already living in the UK and safeguarding future recruitment of EU citizens to address the shortage of language skills.
The APPG says that around 35% of modern foreign language (MFL) teachers and 85% of MFL assistants in UK schools are non-UK EU nationals, and that without them MFL teaching would collapse.
This is because the UK does not produce enough languages graduates to fill the teacher shortage. Given that the government wants GCSE students to get an EBacc – a selection of school subjects that includes a language – there is already an estimated shortage of 3,500 teachers.
Around a third of public service interpreters working in UK courts, police stations and the NHS are non-UK EU nationals. Without them, large numbers of people would have justice or health care delayed or denied.
- Ensure access to and participation in the Erasmus+ programme
This is because employers prefer graduates to have spent a year abroad acquiring language and intercultural skills. This is true both of linguists and graduates in other disciplines. Norway and Switzerland have this concession from the EU, so there is hope that the UK can negotiate the same
Without Erasmus+, UK graduates would be disadvantaged in a global labour market. Erasmus+ also plays a crucial role in supplying language recruits to teaching and research in schools and universities.
The quality and value of MFL degrees will be diminished if the year abroad element is removed.
- A commitment to legislate to keep the rights to Interpretation and Translation enshrined in the 2010 European Directive on the Right in Criminal Proceedings
This is because natural justice and the human rights of individual defendants and witnesses will suffer if good quality interpreting services are not guaranteed.
- A post-Brexit plan at all levels of education (from primary school, up to post-graduate research and not forgetting apprenticeships), for business and the civil service. This needs to include specific actions to ensure the UK produces sufficient linguists to meet its future requirements as a leader in global free trade and on the international stage
This is because the UK’s language skills deficit is currently estimated to cost 3.5% of GDP. EU officials with language skills are able to carry out trade negotiations and other key functions but in the future we will need UK officials with language skills.
The UK education system must provide a much wider range of languages and capitalise on over 1 million pupils who are bilingual.
83% of SMEs operate only in English – more than half of them say language skills would help expand business opportunities and build export growth.
Research by the British Academy demonstrates that without such a cross-government languages strategy, the UK will be unable to meet its security, defence and diplomacy requirements.
Accutranslate regrets that language skills have been underfunded for years in the UK, leaving us so short of translators and interpreters at this time. We urge the Government to reverse the decline in languages – it won’t help in the short term, but in the medium and long term, it will be vital.