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What opportunities could Brexit bring to the localisation industry?

Since the UK voted to leave the European Union on the 23rd June 2016, Brexit has been one of the biggest talking points, not just across the country, but the world. In fact, it was one of Google’s top global searches of 2016.

As of the 31st December 2020, the UK’s Brexit transition period has ended. So, now we’re an independent trading country, it’s time to look ahead to the future and embrace the new opportunities presented to us. With the chance to build new relationships with countries all around the world, there is the potential for a wealth of new and exciting prospects for our industry.

As a growing number of businesses set out to appeal to wider, international markets, the translation and localisation industry will play a key role in aiding global communications. As well as assisting with trade and business, the sector will also be vital for companies looking to update their internal and external post-Brexit material, and translating them into the appropriate target languages.  

With language and communication playing such an integral part in both business and personal affairs, let’s take a look at how the translation and localisation industry will be affected by Brexit, and what benefits and opportunities we will see as a result.

The role of the English language following Brexit

Following the UK’s departure, only two countries in the EU will have English as an official language: Malta and the Republic of Ireland. However, despite this fact, the presence of the English language permeates the rest of the EU, not to mention the rest of the world, and this is unlikely to change.

English has played an integral role in the EU for over two decades, providing a common language for policymakers to communicate in. With over half of EU citizens being able to speak English as either a first or second language, it’s clear to see how important the language is in bringing people together from across the member states.

Following the so-called ‘Brexit Day’, the percentage of EU citizens who were native speakers of English dropped to just 1%. However, the amount of English speakers in the union decreased by only 7%, remaining high at 44%. With this data, it’s fair to say that, despite the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the English language is unlikely to reduce in popularity.

In fact, English has even been described to have “evolved beyond being just a language”. It is an international means of communication which has truly cemented itself in the world, without having to ‘officially’ belong to a given country, and Brexit is not likely to change this fact.

So, what does this mean for businesses in the post-Brexit world? Although it’s nearly impossible for English to lose its powerful place in the world of business negotiations, this doesn’t mean other languages can be discounted. As we branch out into new markets, communicating in foreign languages will be more important to us than ever before.

Which languages will be most important to us?

Back in 2013, three years before the UK’s EU referendum, The British Council set out their predictions for which languages would be most important to the UK over the next 20 years. Based on the country’s business needs, overseas trade targets, diplomatic and security issues, and internet usage, ten languages were highlighted to be of importance. The top five were Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, German and French.

Now, when these predictions were made in 2013, the government had already proposed the idea of an EU membership referendum, but there was no way of foreseeing the road Brexit would take. However, fast forward to November 2017 and The British Council’s predicted ‘priority languages’ for the UK’s future post-Brexit were the same as the five mentioned above.  

Considering a variety of economic, geopolitical, cultural, and educational factors, The British Council identified these five priority languages as those that will help secure the UK’s future prosperity, security, and influence in the world.

If we consider the fact that Spanish is the second most widely spoken first language in the world, with over 437 million native speakers, it’s clear to see why the UK should prioritise communications in this language. However, the UK will also need to branch out beyond Europe. Mandarin, for example, is the official language of China, Taiwan, and Singapore, with over 900 million speakers.

The UK must reach out around the world in order to improve its economic position, to build trust, and to strengthen our international influence. It’s clear to see that language and communication will play an important role in solidifying these concepts.

What does this mean for localisation?  

One of the main factors that influenced the ‘leave’ vote was the opportunity for the UK to trade with countries outside of Europe, independently. With massive markets in countries like China, and with countries such as Japan and Russia also on our radar as priorities, communicating outside of the English language becomes vital.

In China, less than 1% of the overall population speak English, with that number increasing to between 10 and 15% in both Japan and Russia. So, although English may remain popular across Europe, it’s clear to see that, if the UK wants to build new trading relationships, we may have to communicate in the native language of the target country.

For businesses to adapt their content for these markets, localisation is essential. Audiences are much more likely to identify with a product or service if it relates to them and their culture, meaning that professional and accurate localisation is key. In fact, over 56% of consumers say that receiving information in their own language is more important than price. With this fact, it’s clear to see how important translating and localising content will be if businesses want to build meaningful relationships abroad in the post-Brexit world.

In fact, sealing business deals and reaching new markets is just the start of what can be achieved with effectively translated and localised content. Being able to communicate in the target country’s native language deepens the sense of cultural understanding. It will also help build and preserve long lasting, influential relationships around the world – something of paramount importance following Brexit.

So, what’s next?

The possibilities for both UK trade and the localisation industry could fit hand in hand in the post-Brexit world. It’s clear to see that as the UK solidifies new trade deals around the world, the services provided by the translation and localisation sector will be invaluable to businesses.

Not only will effective translation and localisation be key in establishing trading relationships and making sales, but also in establishing the UK’s status as an independent trading country. Being able to have meaningful communication with countries around the world in their native languages will help the UK develop strong international bonds and develop cultural understanding.

If you need to translate or localise your content, why not get in touch with us here at Matinée Multilingual today? With over thirty years’ experience in the industry, our expert team will help you deliver your message to people across the world with a professional and affordable service.

Call us on +44 (0) 118 958 4934

Or email project@matinee.co.uk