If The UK Leaves The EU, So Will The English Language?

As the upcoming Referendum to decide whether the UK will leave or remain in the EU approaches, more questions regarding the stability of the Union arise. Not only in matters of business, integration, financial services, immigration, and freedom of movement for British citizens, but also whether or not the English language will continue being the “official” language of the EU.

Whether people like it or not, English has undeniably become the dominant language in Europe, for many reasons. One of them is that it has already been set as the “official” language for international business trade worldwide. Although some Europe-based international entities have other official working languages; i.e., the International Criminal Court (ICC), based out of The Hague in the Netherlands, where English and French are the working languages; English is still the language everyone “should” speak to be able to wander freely with no “linguistic limitations” within Europe.

There are some people who believe English should be the official language of the EU, given that it is easy to learn, hence providing a sense of unity within the Union and also helping boost Europe’s economy. For example, if an Italian person wanted to move to Hungary, without knowing how to speak Hungarian, they could still do so and survive by just speaking English and could most likely find a job anywhere. Although most people already speak English as a foreign language in Europe, many remain adamant about not wanting to “lose” their native language – which would not happen anyway, since we are talking about having English as a unifying language in the continent, not replacing a country’s own language.

Nonetheless, English has become a global language, and its influence as today’s “Lingua Franca,” over other largely-spoken languages does not seem to be fading any time soon. We can see how other languages have adopted English words and terms which are widely used across Europe (and the world for that matter), but if the UK were to leave, would the rest of Europe see this as an opportunity to maybe establish another main language over English? We are well aware that English is the dominant language worldwide, but how would the translation industry in Europe be affected should another language become more powerful in the EU? What language would replace it? Would it be easier to find translators who have the knowledge to work with these other languages? Will MT-related developments play a bigger role in terms of introducing new main languages?

These are all questions waiting to be answered, but only time and election votes will tell…