On June 23, 2016, 52% of the British citizens decided they no longer want to be a part of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty, which allows for every member state to leave the EU but not before a two-year notification period has passed, implied that the UK would need to withdrawal by the end of April 2019. With the UK’s language translation industry being worth more than one billion pounds, providing over 12 000 jobs, there have been severe concerns raised on the overall impact this change could have on the industry and Language Service Providers overall.
The uncertain outcome of the UK no longer being a part of the European Union has led to many business and industrial sectors worrying about their future presence on the global markets. In terms of the translation industry’s future, experts have provided reassurance that language translation will still be in high demand and that the industry in general is not expected to suffer from this change. However, this does not mean that Brexit won’t have an impact on the translation companies’ international relations and work force dynamics:
- An increase in Translation Work– Language Service Providers are likely to experience a significant surge in translation work, caused by the influx of thousands of documents in multiple languages, including treaties, laws, agreements. With Britain needing to establish new rules for cooperation and trade with foreign partners, the services of professional translators will be of crucial importance for the successful execution of the projects. With Brexit being such a controversial matter, it is important for every aspect of the communication between sides to be taken seriously and interpreted correctly.
- Possible dominance of non-English Languages– if we suppose that, after the United Kingdom’s withdraw, English is no longer the official language of the Union, then we can expect for other languages to take a more prominent role. It is likely that French might replace English as a dominating language, since it is being increasingly used for administrative and business correspondence. One indicator of this change could be the fact that France considers requiring from Britons in France to have a minimum knowledge in French. Therefore, it is highly likely for English to become a “language amongst equals”, and translators need to be prepared for this change by practicing their skills in other languages and learning about their use in business and economic communication.
- Possible isolationism– previously, we have emphasised the importance of globalization on the development of businesses and on the practices of Language Service Providers. However, if nationalism continues to grow in popularity, this could result in a significant decrease in work opportunities for LSPs, who specialise in providing globalizing and localizing services. That is not to say, however, that translators and interpreters will go out of business – but the landscape to which they’ve grown accustomed to will change significantly.
- Exchange rate risks– with the decreasing value of the pound, multiple experts have expressed their concern on the possible devaluation of translation services, especially within international markets such as the US one. This means that translation companies, especially those based in the UK, need to carefully manage their costs when interacting with international suppliers who do not charge in GBP. A way to manage the exchange rate risk is for translation providers to interact with companies looking to expand into foreign markets and paying in USD or EUR, thus avoiding the competitive GBP rate.
- Changes in the recruitment process- the free movement of labour remains one of the major question marks around Brexit. Up until now, UK-based companies have been able to hire native speakers who are not necessarily UK citizens, however, this might change with the country’s exit from the European Union. Depending on the negotiated terms for work and visa permits, the appeal of working in the UK might be significantly reduced and, with that, companies are facing losing valuable workforce. For translators coming from countries in the EU, working in the UK could become less of an appealing option due to Brexit and the predicted fall in demand for English translators. Moreover, UK translators who are based in foreign countries might find themselves being send home, since they’d no longer hold the same rights for working and residing in countries within the Union.
With all that being said, experts in finance within the language industry are being optimistic about the long-term effects of Brexit on the translation industry. There’s a consensus on the fact that Language Service Providers operating in the UK would have to be more flexible in terms of adjusting to the new business landscape, in order to reap the ultimate benefits from this change. As Sarah Pokorna, the Business Development Manager for Memsource said: “ I think the most important thing at the moment is for translators and industry professionals not to panic, jump to conclusions, or speculate about anything…Hopefully if Brexit is done right, it might even have some positive impacts”.