Later today I will speak at an event about about the importance of multilingualism, and higher education.
I work for an institution which, as many of you will be aware, is required by law to speak 24 different languages. I represent a city which prides itself on both multiculturalism and multilingualism. So I have some idea of just how important languages are, the opportunities they create- jobs, experiences and the invaluable contribution to lifelong learning they create.
But I am concerned about what will happen to language education following the referendum. If on June 23rd Britain votes to leave the European Union, it seriously jeopardise language education.
If we cut ourselves from the continent, then we effectively prevent future generations from pursuing careers and enjoying experiences which will be accessible to the remaining member states.
And what message will it send to young people? The incentive to actively learn another language will significantly diminish.
The single market undoubtedly opens huge opportunities, but in order to thrive within that environment, to take advantage of what it offers or to set up a business, then language skills are an essential part in determining that success.
British citizens still need to acknowledge that the ‘everyone speaks English’ phenomenon is outdated.
We must embrace the so called ‘Barcelona Objective’ – an ambitious plan whereby all European school children should be able to communicate effectively in two languages in addition to their mother tongue.
But if we vote to leave the European Union, then we risk further reducing those important learning opportunities for future generations and their ability to be competent in other languages.
The European Commission has created several learning portals which allow young people to expand their horizons by travelling abroad for a few months and taking part in specific learning programmes. Such programmes are of course available to British students and we should encourage them to participate.
Learning languages is just one reason why we should vote to stay in the European Union on June 23rd. The possibilities offered as a result of embracing multiculturalism and multilingualism are endless, exciting and offer a real economic return for the country. We shouldn’t throw away the opportunities created and offered by the European Union.