Brexit madness – will Brexit turn the translation industry upside down?

Brexit, i.e. the process of UK exiting the European Union, causes confusion and uncertainty in many areas. This is a global event that affects all sectors, including translation. We feel its effects and we will feel them for a long time, and its name itself has already given us just a new word in our dictionaries.

Media around the world use “Brexit” to coin new words and phrases. They invent numerous word games and new expressions related to it. “Brexit” is already widely used in speech and writing, and we can guess how it will affect the translation industry.

Law, procedures and paperwork – the essence of the European Union

Be it good or bad, necessary or needless, the European Union is a group of states, whose functioning generates a huge amount of documentation. Over the years, companies dealing exclusively with the provision of linguistic services for the European Union institutions have been established. Any process, meeting, talks and preparation of documents cannot be carried out without developing relevant materials in the languages of the Member States.

As long as the United Kingdom was a self-confessed member of the community, English was the official language of the European Union. Can this change after Brexit? Maybe, but it is probably unlikely. If this happened, however, the translation industry would have a huge amount of work.

Not only has Brexit economically stirred up and destabilized the position of the Union, but it has also brought about huge uncertainty in many areas. Doubts as for the language, although they seem to be unlikely, cannot be ruled out. A change in the official language of the Union would surely be a huge revolution. Translators who until now have had a steady source of income in EU institutions would lose work. But as nature abhors a vacuum, translators dealing with some other language would have more work, so the number of orders would not change. This again would not have a big impact on the situation of translation agencies. Unless the new official language of the EU would be one not included in the first language group. Then the price for these translations would have to be increased, which could trigger a revolution in the budgets of EU and state institutions.

Position and mentality

Until now, the position of the United Kingdom in the European Union has been very strong, among others due to the language. After its leaving the EU, i.e. Brexit, dramatic changes are probable, including a change in the popularity of English, that can be, however, mitigated by the huge cultural impact that the United States has on European countries.

Such changes do not happen overnight. The dominance of the English language is huge. The new position of the United Kingdom would not be able to change it quickly. Let’s just imagine what could happen not only to the translation market but, for example, to the education system if French or Italian became the new language of the European Union.

And what about Poland?

What is happening in Brussels also has its consequences in particular Member States. There is a very large number of Polish immigrants in the United Kingdom now. Brexit is likely to force some, or even most, of them to come back to Poland.

Such a sudden migration of citizens will result in increased document production. There will also be a great number of immigrants, not only Poles, who will do everything to stay in the UK. Changing their status and conditions of stay the will surely result in additional workload for translators. To stay where they currently reside, desperate immigrants will seek to provide as many arguments as possible. Thus it will be necessary to translate certificates, declarations and other helpful documents.

What sort of revolution will be triggered by Brexit is yet unknown. We know, however, that just like any other major political or economic event, Brexit will be the source of additional work for the translation industry. And the longer the whole procedure lasts, the more translators will be needed.

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