Bilingual Before Brexit?


Sean McEvoy Risk, Audit, Permanent...

After just 6 months in the recruitment industry, I noticed two important factors: firstly, an increasing fixation upon the potential negative implications of Brexit, and secondly an increase in demand for bilingual candidates. 

I have grown interested in the potential of new trade negotiations with both established and emerging nations and the resulting requirement for bilinguals. These bilingual roles may arise from those negotiating or maintaining evolving trade relations with countries outside the European Union, as the British economy adjusts to Brexit. It is this opportunity for an increasingly globalised- rather than Euro-focused-economy that has the potential to create a market for bilinguals within not just Financial Services, but a multitude of industries?

Moreover, recently, it came to my attention the UK loses about 3.5% of its GDP every year because of a lack of language skills in the workforce. These are crucial times when global connections hold more importance than they ever did. It seems essential to tackle this shortfall now before this language deficit results in the UK being impacted economically. 

Until now, we have been requested bilinguals speaking English and the following languages:

  • Arabic
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Mandarin

Moreover, validating my hypothesis, the British Council confirms that Arabic, French, German, Spanish and Mandarin are the languages which the UK would need the most during post Brexit period. However, the same research suggests that only 1/3 of Britons could hold a conversation in any other language besides English. This language deficit is costing the UK's international trade performance by about £50 billion every year. The current Brexit situation only exacerbates this situation and requires officials to show urgency if the UK wishes to be an international trading power beyond Europe. 

According to a study by Oxford University, there are 2.2 million EU workers in the UK making up to 6.6% of the total workforce. The existing language deficit would be amplified by Brexit and the UK's dependence on Anglophone export markets would increase massively. 

The UK is all set to begin a series of negotiations with other countries after Brexit. These negotiation teams would have to be packed with expert bilinguals. According to a French Exec at KPMG, for quality negotiations, the expert would need to be interculturally aware as well suggesting it requires - "reading between the lines and understanding subtle turns of phrase or cultural references. For example, Westerners need to understand that the Chinese do not like to say "no", preferring instead a vaguer "let's see". 

This current and potentially widening skills gap could present a number of opportunities for candidates looking for corporate governance jobs, but they will need some exceptional soft skills to make the cut. Even those in currently established careers could find swift progression by learning a language and making themselves indispensable as new trade and commerce is established. 

After speaking to a number of bilingual candidates and having a personal interest in learning Mandarin, I noted multiples ways through which one could learn a foreign language. In 2019 there are a plethora of routes you can take when trying to learn a new language. 

For those who are seeking flexible electronic study, two notable choices are Duolingo - with a paid and free version and a new contender Babbel. Babbel is a subscription-based language learning app and e-learning platform, which features 14 language choices. Both are excellent choices, but as they are flexible in terms of commitment, they do require commitment. I suggest setting a routine to use them for brief periods of time daily and try to supplement with additional resources. 

If you prefer more personal, human interactions, you can always apply for an evening course at one of London's Universities or colleges. University College London has a variety of evening classes you could consider. These courses are particularly useful for the certifications they provide as well as giving a structured learning plan to achieve a specific level of proficiency. 

Informal learning may be a useful alternative or supplement to the above methods. It will prove especially valuable when learning informal speech patterns that are used in daily i.e. in Mandarin rather than saying the rote-learned nĭ hăo ma, you might use nǐ chī le ma, which carries a more informal tone to the conversation. This is one of the key strengths of using informal learning to supplement academic studies, you learn how to speak casually to friends or colleagues. If you have any friends who speak the language you are seeking to learn, they are an obvious choice. 

For example, for Mandarin, you may wish to use QQ Chat / WeChat. It is a free messaging platform with a built-in translator and voice clip messaging; so you can practice your written, reading and oral skills fluidly. If you are not fortunate enough to have such connections, then you can always attend socials in London, student socials that welcome non-student attendance are especially promising (e.g. Chinese society) as you can find a language partner who may wish to begin a language exchange (where you will each teach your respective language) or hire someone as a private tutor.

Regardless of your method, learning another language has never been easier, or more valuable. So if you are interested, why not start today? That first step is the hardest but the rewards should be readily apparent by now...

At Paritas Recruitment, we are here to help you find the job desire to keep #succeedingtogether. 

I am Sean McEvoy, I specialise in Audit and Risk recruitment, so if you are looking for work or source talent in this sector, hit me up on LinkedIn. I have provided these recommendations from personal experience, as someone who has recently begun learning basic Mandarin with the aim of basic/intermediate proficiency by 2020. If you have any questions regarding the blog please feel free to reach out to me.