How will Brexit affect TESOL? It’s not clear yet, but it looks like a mix of good and bad–interesting times and opportunities. Some see a weakening in the role of English, but it’s ELT jobs that will be most affected. First, let’s look at English as an EU language…
English will remain an official EU language because of Ireland, and it will very likely remain an official working language, alongside French and German, too. Even after Brexit, the EU will consist of 27 countries–it is no longer the original small group in which French and German predominated. In most of the newer members of the EU, English is the first foreign language, and is the easiest way for a Finnish delegate to speak to a Spanish one, or an Estonian to speak to an Italian. See an article in the Irish Times on the legacy of the UK to the EU–the English language.
And let’s not forget that English is still the international language. The UK still exists (and even if it separates, the parts will continue to speak English), as do the USA, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The commitment in time and money which has been put into the language by learners in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa is also very real and will ensure English is still used. It’s too useful not to use; for Europe to turn its back on English, it would mean turning its back on the world.
Translation technology is a bigger future threat to English, and any other potential international language. English may be the last international language. Schools of babel fish would be the end of language learning as we know it :)
Now for the doom and gloom, and opportunities…
Although the Financial Times has recently reported that one school in the UK has laid off staff–how much this is related to Brexit, and how much it’s related to a longer term loss of market share to other English speaking countries, isn’t clear. Yet, schools in the UK are still currently looking for English teachers in large numbers, in the weeks since the referendum, the pages of TEFL job ads on popular TEFL job sites have increased.
Much will depend on negotiations, but it’s clear that Irish teachers, as members of the EU, will retain privileged job rights in the EU. If an EU company hires, it must hire applicants from member states, unless there’s a good reason not to. And there will be a good reason–not enough English teachers (from Ireland) to fill demand.
There’s likely to be an opening up of opportunities for other nationalities wishing to teach English in Europe too. So Americans, Canadians, South Africans, New Zealanders and Australians should find it easier to find employment, British teachers slightly less, because of increased competition.
Brexit and TESOL – More opportunities for some teachers
Of course, negotiations might give Britain special rights in the EU–this remains to be seen. If this happens the benefits to non-Europeans may be less.
TESOL in the UK will continue unless the British government decides to destroy it by implementing strict visa controls (which is a possibility–they’ve already inflicted some damage in this way). If the government acts wisely (hahaha…) they will offer free or cheap visas for students. So far they’ve been doing the opposite, which is probably one of the reasons for the loss of market share to other English speaking countries, where, of course, opportunities have increased. The pound is likely to be weak for a few years, so this might offset any extra expense caused by the cost of a visa. Actually, the weak pound might allow the TEFL industry to thrive.
Incidentally–British English teachers in the EU who have the chance to apply for dual nationality have a good opportunity. Holding two passports can give many advantages.
Although I believe/hope that the British economy can thrive in the long-term, in the short-term it’s likely to be less than rosy. In this case, another option is to go east; there’s still a demand for teachers in Asia…