Tax for speaking English

A professor from Geneva urges the EU leaders to tax Britain for language advantage. 24 October 2008. Last month’s European Day of Languages, has prompted a professor to ask: "Should there be a linguistic tax on English speakers?"

Michele Gazzola, a researcher at the economics languages and training observatory at the University of Geneva, said that English speaking countries gain huge financial advantages from not having to master Europe’s main language of communication. They should help to fund their neighbours’ efforts to learn English.

He said, "The dominance of the English language allows the United Kingdom and Ireland to considerably reduce their own spending on foreign language teaching, thus saving large sums which can be invested elsewhere."

"It is estimates that these savings combined with, amongst other things, profits from the sale of material for teaching English (in Europe alone), earn the UK between 10 and 17 billion euros (7.85 and 13.5 billion pounds) each year. Furthermore, native English speakers have the significant advantage of being able to use their mother tongue in situations where there is debate or conflict and English is used, whether it is at a European commission meeting without interpreters or an international scientific conference."

Gazzola quotes a 2005 study that estimates the UK’s savings on language education, and profits from the sale of English language teaching materials to the rest of Europe, at between $14bn and $23bn.

His solution is simple: end the controversial $7bn annual rebate that the UK receives from the EU budget and spend the money on expanding the EU’s interpreting and translation services or supporting linguistically burdened researchers.

The researcher has also suggested that changes should be made to intellectual property law, regarding European patents, for example. Non-English speaking countries should demand the right to access intellectual property produced in English, whilst paying significantly lower prices than their English-speaking neighbours.

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