Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shame on you for not being multi-lingual

Having just returned from a long trip to the E.U. my limited French and limitless Spanish and English didn't help me. I was at a bakery and asked for a strawberry tart - another customer corrected my pronunciation. There were about 7 people in line. I was really embarrassed.

A clerk at the French national library refused to take my order for a book unless I spoke to her in French. I spilled out a few mispronounced words and told her I was taking a class - but I had only been there a week, so what could she expect? She told me that she lived in the U.S. for two years and that those years were extremely difficult and stressful for her because of the language. She says she gets angry when she sees foreigners at the library who she believes refuse to speak French. I found out later that she also spoke fluent Spanish.

The announcements on the subway are broadcast in French, English, and Spanish - so are those on airplanes and buses.

Just about everybody speaks great English, especially people under 40 - you would think they all spent a few years in the states. But they didn't - they learned in as part of their regular education.

In contrast, some Americans tell me that people from every country should speak English since it is the most important language in the world. I here few people say that Americans should learn other languages.

So we think they should learn our language - and we go visit without a clue - and are given the wrong change (over charged), confronted in front of groups of people by bakers, their customers, store clerks.

If that is a very small taste of what it is like for immigrants who come to the U.S. or U.K. without speaking English - I can imagine what a nightmare it must be. Especially if you work 2 jobs, and get laughed at by your kids when you try to speak English. No time for a class, no encouragement from the family.


Alan Travis, home affairs editor

The Guardian - London

June 20, 2008

Protests at pre-entry English tests for spouses coming to UK

Government plans to insist that spouses should have to learn English before they are allowed into Britain to join their husbands or wives have run into a barrage of opposition and warnings that the idea could breach human rights laws.

The responses to an official consultation on the proposal published yesterday run more than two to one against, with many warning it could break up marriages because many cannot afford or access English lessons. The anonymised responses were 68 to 31 against the pre-entry English test for spouses.

Immigration lawyers have told ministers that spouses and fiancees should not be barred from joining a partner in the UK for language reasons and that the plan could breach the human rights convention's guarantees to the right to marry and have a family life.

Other immigration organisations said the measure would discriminate against those from rural areas in south Asia, where the opportunities to learn English are limited. Others argued that as EU citizens could settle in Britain without a language test it was clearly not a prerequisite for coping with life in Britain and therefore was more symbolic than practical...

The results were published as the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, unveiled the latest immigration enforcement campaign, under which employers who take on illegal migrants are named and shamed on government websites...

for complete Guardian article click here

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