Being a linguist in Brexit Britain

By Freya Richold

Over three years ago, our country voted to leave the European Union. I was fifteen years old at the time and so, like millions of teenagers, could not vote. I am now nineteen, and the country has finally left and has entered a period of the unknown. This will greatly affect many lives, and it is worth reminding ourselves that many young people had no say in the process. Things such as our freedom to live, travel and work in other EU countries may be hindered.  I am not here to argue that the decision was wrong for Great Britain, but that the decision was wrong for me. 

I have always adored travelling, and over the summer I was lucky enough to travel around Europe with a group of friends. We worked our way from Amsterdam, down through France and Switzerland, ending in sunny Italy. I loved every minute.

At the time, I had an offer to do English Literature and French at University, with the later hope of working in Journalism or publishing. Yet as I was in Europe, I realised that more important to me than writing was travel, and languages. I experienced the thrill of talking to people in Paris, understanding what was going on around me, and best of all, that wonderful sensation when you speak French to a French person, and they speak French back! After battling through A-level French, I realised for the first time that I could live speaking this language, that I could live in one of these beautiful French cities, with good weather, good food, and good beaches.

The UK was leaving the EU, but that didn’t mean I had to stay in the UK.

When I got home, I set about seeing if there was any possibility of a life in Europe, a job I could get there, a way to travel there a lot? The most obvious answer was languages. I learnt that I loved languages, and if I spoke languages, I had a chance. 

Despite this thought process being full of illusions and grandiose plans, I still firmly believe that life for me will be in Europe. And so, a few weeks before I was set to go to university, I phoned them up, and changed to a course in French, beginners’ Spanish and Translation. To date this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am looking forward to my year abroad, and considering a career in translation or interpreting, an industry in which English natives are sought after. 

Since being at university, Brexit has become an inevitable reality, leading to more hate crime, less tolerance of immigration, and an even worse attitude to learning modern languages. However, there are still linguists in Great Britain, and they still love languages, cultures, travel, and Europe. Perhaps careers in Modern Languages will be even more desired after we leave, with an increased need of communication with other countries. Perhaps we will need more language teachers to fill the gaps left by those who decided to go back home, feeling that they weren’t welcome here anymore. Perhaps other Modern Languages students will seek careers on the continent, as I hope to do. 

We cannot know what will happen over the next few years, never mind decades! We cannot decide the future of our country anymore than by continuing to vote for what we believe in and spreading awareness of the things we believe to be important. However, we can determine our own futures. Of course, the unexpected may always happen, hindering our plans. The Brexit vote may make my plan of moving to Europe more difficult, but it should not stop me. Anyone else with plans for the future should not be stopped either; the future is yours, do with it what you will.  

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