2017-11-27 13:52:01 来源:参考消息网 责任编辑:朱方雨


ittle noticed amid the political turmoil, the Government has begun the legal process to establish a post-Brexit Britain as a standalone economy.

It's the firmest sign yet of the seeming inexorability of Brexit, that business is heading towards a very different future, regardless of whether the exit is soft or hard.

The introduction of the Trade Bill is the first tangible step on that path. With it comes a hardening of planning,and in some quarters, a darkening of mood.

The proposed legislation only deals with the mechanics, however. It's very easy, reading it, to be swamped with gloom, to wonder how this newly isolated UK can really hope to pick up from where the comfort blanket afforded by membership of the EU left off.

We've got some appealing assets. Our legal system, transparency of public administration, and education are popularly cited as winning over foreign trading partners. We lead, or we're placed among the leaders, in fintech, pharma, bio-tech,financial services, and the creative industries.

There is though, one jewel we possess that is often overlooked. English. Across the world, 2 billion people are using the English language. Of those, about a quarter, or 500 million, are native English speakers – those for whom English is their first language. The rest have to learn it. And learn it they do.

There may be more native Mandarin speakers than there are native English speakers, but 350 million of the former are also learning English. No other tongue has the same draw, no other language has the same global positioning.

And it's ours. This was brought home at an event last week aimed at foreign investors. When they were being asked what they liked about doing business in Britain the one aspect upon which they could all agree was English.

Without realising it, we're sitting on gold. God forbid, if we were Bulgaria or Hungary departing the EU, what then?

What does this amount to? An enormous advantage and huge opportunity. Proficiency in English is equated around the globe with access to knowledge, with research and development, innovation and investment.

There is an argument that says our own strength in English is our undoing, that we do not see the need to learn other languages, that linguistically we lag far behind the likes of Finland, Holland and France, that we excel in what is the world's most common second language.

The danger with this approach is that we become mired in our own narrow sphere, we're not open to new ideas and thought, we don't really understand what others are thinking, and we retreat into an Anglo-bunker built on past glories. It is also true that trading partners would respect us more if we addressed them in their first language rather than rely on them to become proficient in a second.

There's no reason, though, why one has to exclude the other. We're good at English, it's what we do, who we are. It's in our DNA. But we can still learn foreign languages, while maintaining and nurturing our given hegemony in English.

However multilingual we are though, we will never be as good as we are at English. Neither do foreigners expect or want us to be. We should wake up. English is our greatest natural resource. We should thank our lucky stars we have it, and we must exploit it and sell it.


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