Last Friday the leader of the Labour Party (Millipede Jr for those who might have forgotten) stood up in Tooting to give a speech on immigration.
As part of this verbal diarrhea he said that:
…he promised the party would in future help immigrants learn English. It will also consider barring immigrants from some public sector jobs unless they can speak the language properly.
And later he clarified his point via the BBC:
“What I’m talking about today is also the issue of integration, which is when people are here, how do you ensure that they are part of British society?
“That’s about learning English, it’s about making sure that you don’t have slum housing where you have maybe ten, 20, 30 people all packed in a house working in a local factory or somewhere. That’s bad for them and bad for their neighbours – and also making sure that we don’t have workplaces that are segregated.”
Whilst I suspect that barring those with a poor of standard of English from jobs is probably against some piece legislation (EU perhaps and not applicable to non-EU passport holders? Someone will no doubt correct me!) I actually agree with the general point that he is trying to make about wanting immigrants to be able to speak the language.
Without checking with various colleagues who have taken up citizenship over the last few years, I seem to recall that part of the process was an English test. IIRC the Australian cricketer Stewart Law, when asked at the time of his taking up British citizenship how his English was, said something along the lines of ‘You are kidding, right?’ (I’m undoubtably paraphrasing that!)
No such requirement is necessary for those who don’t plan to take up this option but Millipede suggesting (quelle surprise!) throwing more stolen money at the problem by giving immigrants langauge classes.
And that is where he and I part company.
As a fan of open borders (boo hiss etc)* I have no problems with people moving wherever they may wish to. However learning the lingo should be the responsibility of the immigrant and paid for out of their own pocket. The State can assist in this process by not publishing government paperwork in anything other the English (also Welsh, Gaelic etc in the appropriate areas) meaning that if you want to interact with the bureaucracy – a sadly inevitable part of life – then you either have to be competent in the local language, ask a friend who is (at least) bi-lingual or hire an interpreter. Seeing as how the latter is likely to be a costly option long-term and friends are likely to start thinking ‘learn the bloody langauge, will you?’ after a while being able to communicate will become necessary.
A solution which saves trees, cuts down on government expenditure and ensures people have to be motivated? Sounds like a good one to me.