Drowned out by the many multilinguals

That the English language is now dominant in the world should make life easier for its native speakers, one might think. Alas no. It means everyone else is at least bilingual and in a globalized market, more employable

The World Today Published 5 December 2014 Updated 19 February 2021 4 minute READ

Michael Worton CBE

Emeritus Professor of Arts and lately Vice-Provost, University College London

In October, the British Academy organized a symposium on the UK’s problem with language learning. The meeting was entitled ‘Born Global’ to reflect the fact that people born in Britain live in a country which aspires to be a key player in the globalized world. Yet in one important way they are marginalized by, and indeed alienated from, the world that surrounds them. They are essentially monolingual.

An executive director at Goldman Sachs encapsulated in stark terms one of the issues stemming from Britain’s problem with language learning.

‘I work for a multinational organization which employs talented people globally. The global market is filled with candidates who speak English and another language, and as monolinguals, most British candidates begin at a disadvantage. Global companies with global customers and clients will always prefer those who speak more than one language’.

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