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Off topic: How do you think UK leaving EU would affect our profession?
Thread poster: Balasubramaniam L.

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 01:33
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Jun 16, 2016

Should the unthinkable happen and UK decides to bid adieu to the EU next week on 23 June, how would this affect our profession? I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of crystal-gazing on this topic. One obvious fallout would be that the EU bureaucracy would no longer translate millions upon millions of words of documents into English as there would no longer be any need to do this as English would probably cease to be one of the official languages of the EU. I am sure that would have a deadly effect on agencies and translators whose staple diet is translating into English for the EU.

Do you think there would be other consequences?

What about the overall status of English in the world? Today the EU adds considerably to the prestige of the English language and contributes a lot to its internationalization. With English now ceasing to be an EU language, English would be left much diminished after UK leaves the EU. The current incentive for learning English in many European countries would also evaporate and in a generation or two, English could cease to be a relevant language in EU.

The space vacated by English could quickly be filled by French and German which would gain ascendancy, and with this, translators working in these languages could expect to reap a windfall.

Would there be any other linguistic consequences? Feel free to share your thoughts and skills at clairvoyancy.


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:03
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Very interesting point Jun 16, 2016

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

Should the unthinkable happen and UK decides to bid adieu to the EU next week on 23 June, how would this affect our profession? I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of crystal-gazing on this topic. One obvious fallout would be that the EU bureaucracy would no longer translate millions upon millions of words of documents into English as there would no longer be any need to do this as English would probably cease to be one of the official languages of the EU. I am sure that would have a deadly effect on agencies and translators whose staple diet is translating into English for the EU.

Do you think there would be other consequences?

What about the overall status of English in the world? Today the EU adds considerably to the prestige of the English language and contributes a lot to its internationalization. With English now ceasing to be an EU language, English would be left much diminished after UK leaves the EU. The current incentive for learning English in many European countries would also evaporate and in a generation or two, English could cease to be a relevant language in EU.

The space vacated by English could quickly be filled by French and German which would gain ascendancy, and with this, translators working in these languages could expect to reap a windfall.

Would there be any other linguistic consequences? Feel free to share your thoughts and skills at clairvoyancy.


Never thought about it that way. My biggest fear is that, if the Brexit becomes real, it would mean the end of the whole EU as we know it. We will loose our credibility as a "union", which on the long run would mean that everybody goes back to its own economy and the differences between "rich" and "poor" countries will grow, so a stagnation in business = less jobs for us.

Also the UK has a lot to loose. Although they in favour of a Brexit might still think so, but Britain doesn't rule the waves no more, already since a long time.

The EU for us European translators is gift from heaven.

First lets see what happens on June 23.


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Joseph Tein  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:03
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
English will not disappear Jun 16, 2016

You forget that there is also another country (named United States) that produces a lot of English documents that have to be translated, and needs translations into English. (The U.S. is much larger than the UK, by the way.) And then there is a country named Canada.

I don't think that English would be much diminished worldwide, and it still seems to me that the EU (what's left of it) would be forced to deal with England as well as those other two big countries I just mentioned.

Living on this other side of the Atlantic, however, I really don't have the best perspective on how much English is translated into European languages, but I don't see how German or French would suddenly gain ascendancy. English is also the business language in Asia, remember ... and I would think that Central and South America would also need prefer to use English to deal with the EU.

I hadn't thought of the linguistic consequences, however, and would be interested to see what European translators have to say about this.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 01:33
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
How big is the English slice in the EU linguistic pie? Jun 16, 2016

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

The EU for us European translators is gift from heaven.



Very true. EU is one of the major multi-lingual regions of the world, the other being India. The EU generates a huge volume for the translation industry. The English slice in this EU linguistic pie should be quite big. It could suddently disappear if the UK quits the EU, causing a major reshuffle in the language portfolio of the EU. I am sure it will have a dramatic impact on translators in the EU, particularly on those translators translating into English. It could wipe out a major portion of the income of such translators, especially those who subsist on translating legal documnents of the EU into English.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:03
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Not much Jun 16, 2016

As long as the Republics of Ireland and Malta remain Member States, I don't see how they could do without English as an official language. In that case, there should be no changes to the amount of English translations.

English is likely to remain one of the internal main working languages too, as all of the Nordic countries and the Netherlands absolutely depend on it. There is no way these countries' representatives are going to switch to German or French. That's simply not going to happen. English is like a sort of secondary mother tongue to them. The EU will also need English for communicating with the outside world.

Why should the status of English in the world change? It is not because of the EU that English has obtained its dominant status. The EU has very little importance in the international economy anyway, and if you ask an average Briton, you'd have a hard time getting them to agree that the EU adds prestige to anything.

It's possible the incentive for learning English in many European countries would evaporate, as you say, but in certain countries, it wouldn't make much difference compared with today, and someone who has failed to learn English properly has essentially shot themselves in the foot, as it simply limits opportunities.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 01:33
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It could be manna from heaven for English to other European language translators Jun 16, 2016

Joseph Tein wrote:

You forget that there is also another country (named United States) that produces a lot of English documents that have to be translated...


Yes, there are many such countries, Canada, NewZealand, Australia, etc. but unlike the EU, they are all mostly mono-lingual, and don't generate much translation work into English. It is the other way for them, that is they need to translated from English to other languages.

With English blinking out of the EU, the traffic in translation from English into other languages would automatically increase, especially in the EU market, and in this sense, the Brexit would have a salubrious effect on English-to-other-European-languages translators (especially German and French).

But it would be a kiss of death for translators translating from the main European languages into English.

This could also affect the overall status of English in the world, if it ceases to matter in one of the larger economic zones of the world, the EU.

But I suppose all this will play out over many years, so we translators would have plenty of time to adujst.

Also, the Brexit could fizzle out just the way the Scotland referendum fizzled out, and then we could go back to our bad old ways unconcernedly!


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:03
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
I fear.... Jun 16, 2016

... a lot of jobs indeed might disappear and/or the rates will go down and/or it will become harder to do business. Our profession goes on the flows of the EU/world economy. Just see what happened to us during the last financial crisis a few years ago.

I fear that is what is awaiting us.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:03
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
The EU Jun 16, 2016

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

Never thought about it that way. My biggest fear is that, if the Brexit becomes real, it would mean the end of the whole EU as we know it.



For some people, that's not a fear but a hope.

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

We will loose our credibility as a "union",


Again, for some people, the EU has no credibility left anyway.

Robert Rietvelt wrote:
which on the long run would mean that everybody goes back to its own economy and the differences between "rich" and "poor" countries will grow,


The euro has already been taking care of that. It has ruined southern Europe. These countries would be much better off without the German-dominated euro. They cannot prosper under the rigidities of the euro, as their countries don't work the way Germany does.

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

Also the UK has a lot to loose.


Yes, but I don't think they will. They'll take care of themselves and prosper in my opinion. The EU is today the region of any economic significance that has the lowest growth of all. The EU is stifling prosperity in waste and regulation. The results are there for all to see.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 01:33
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That is a valid point Jun 16, 2016

Thomas T. Frost wrote:

As long as the Republics of Ireland and Malta remain Member States, I don't see how they could do without English as an official language. In that case, there should be no changes to the amount of English translations.

English is likely to remain one of the internal main working languages too, as all of the Nordic countries and the Netherlands absolutely depend on it. There is no way these countries' representatives are going to switch to German or French. That's simply not going to happen. English is like a sort of secondary mother tongue to them. The EU will also need English for communicating with the outside world.


But still wouldn' the relative importance of English within the EU as an official language diminish after Brexit, for after all Ireland and Malta are certainly not in the same league economically as the UK. English would then have to settle for a status at par with some of the minor languages of Europe such as Portugues, Italian, or Greek, and German and French would begin to exert their linguistic dominance over EU.

As for the dependence of the Nordic countries on English now, that could easily shift in favour of German or French over the years as these languages get an opportunity to upstage English within the EU after UK's exit.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:03
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
The Nordics Jun 16, 2016

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

As for the dependence of the Nordic countries on English now, that could easily shift in favour of German or French over the years as these languages get an opportunity to upstage English within the EU after UK's exit.


No, that couldn't shift. That I can assure you. These countries are bathed in English. It's part of their cultures. It's not because of what some Eurocrats do in Brussels that will change. No way.

I don't see that block of countries accepting a German or French linguistic 'coup d'état' either. Their representatives would be unable to understand what was going on in daily EU dealings. It would cause a major row, and a row that would only push the citizens of these countries towards the EU exit door.

English is of such capital importance, even in Europe, that I find it extremely difficult to see how anything could change much.


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:03
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Matter of opinion Jun 16, 2016

Thomas T. Frost wrote:

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

Never thought about it that way. My biggest fear is that, if the Brexit becomes real, it would mean the end of the whole EU as we know it.



For some people, that's not a fear but a hope.

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

We will loose our credibility as a "union",


Again, for some people, the EU has no credibility left anyway.

Robert Rietvelt wrote:
which on the long run would mean that everybody goes back to its own economy and the differences between "rich" and "poor" countries will grow,


The euro has already been taking care of that. It has ruined southern Europe. These countries would be much better off without the German-dominated euro. They cannot prosper under the rigidities of the euro, as their countries don't work the way Germany does.

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

Also the UK has a lot to loose.


Yes, but I don't think they will. They'll take care of themselves and prosper in my opinion. The EU is today the region of any economic significance that has the lowest growth of all. The EU is stifling prosperity in waste and regulation. The results are there for all to see.


We are translators, not clairvoyants. As Balasubramaniam says, the Brexit could fizzle out just the way the Scotland referendum fizzled out, and then we could go back to our bad old ways unconcernedly!

So, lets wait and see.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:03
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Matter of opinion Jun 16, 2016

Indeed much of it is a matter of opinion. Throughout the EU, it is pretty much split down the middle.

What is not a matter of opinion is the massive unemployment and economic chaos across southern Europe and the euro's part in it. But that's just about the single currency.

The Single Market has made many things easier but still isn't working properly. The criticism levelled against the EU is typically on other fronts.


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Huw Watkins  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:03
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
No Jun 16, 2016

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

But still wouldn' the relative importance of English within the EU as an official language diminish after Brexit, for after all Ireland and Malta are certainly not in the same league economically as the UK. English would then have to settle for a status at par with some of the minor languages of Europe such as Portugues, Italian, or Greek, and German and French would begin to exert their linguistic dominance over EU.

As for the dependence of the Nordic countries on English now, that could easily shift in favour of German or French over the years as these languages get an opportunity to upstage English within the EU after UK's exit.


Not in terms of the promise the EU makes to make all information/laws/legislation/standards available in the official language of each of its member states. English is the official language of Ireland so the volume of EU documentation in English will not decrease significantly, if at all.

English is going to remain the lingua franca world-wide well beyond any potential Brexit, which will have little to no effect on that I feel. The UK will still remain a desirable market to do trade in. If anything, when the EU imposes a mountain of new regulations in order to deal with trading with the UK, movement of people, onerous fiscalisation and just the Brexit process in general, there may actually be a spike in translation activity over the next 10 years. Let's not forget that a Brexit wouldn't start and end on the 23rd/24th. It would take years to complete the process in reality.

As someone rightly said above, there is Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US, Ireland, Africa, India, Pakistan and the West Indies, inter alia, who all use English either natively or heavily as the lingua franca.

[Edited at 2016-06-16 16:23 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Scotland, too Jun 16, 2016

Huw Watkins wrote:
English is the official language of Ireland so the volume of EU documentation in English will not decrease significantly, if at all.

As someone rightly said above, there is Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US, Ireland, Africa, India, Pakistan and the West Indies, inter alia, who all use English either natively or heavily as the lingua franca.

If the UK votes to leave then Scotland will leave, as part of the UK. But will they be happy to stay with England in a bubble outside of the EU? I for one very much doubt it. The first thing they will do, IMO, is renew their call for independence. This time I can't see any reason for Scots voting to stay with England; they'll choose the far more powerful EU.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:03
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Other things could happen Jun 16, 2016

What if France leaves next? Or Italy? There is growing discontent in many Member States.

Or, if the UK leaves the EU, what if the Nordic bloc decide they have more in common with the UK than the French-German run, corrupt, wasteful, undemocratic, bureaucratic and inefficient EU? That's how the EU is perceived by many people, and not much is being done to address that negative image. No matter how one feels about the EU, it is, objectively, a major problem that so many feel that way, but sceptics are essentially being ignored or even mocked.

There are plenty of possibilities, and some of them could indeed affect the need for translations of EU laws.


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