The government is right to keep up its language barriers

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 3 August 2011 in Diary
After a woman challenges the European Convention over the UK ban on immigrants not speaking the language, Francesca Preece argues why learning English is not just a necessity but more importantly a sign of respect

You might have seen last week’s furore over a certain Rashida Chapti.

For those who didn’t, here’s a recap. Mrs Chapti has launched a legal battle over the UK’s decision not to allow her husband, currently living in India, to join her to live in the UK. Such is the potency of Theresa May’s new law banning immigrants who don’t speak our native tongue that Mr Chapti has been prevented from checking in to the UK.

Not taking it lying down, Mrs Chapti – who doesn’t speak much English herself despite being here for six years - proceeded to then fight this ‘racist rule’ in court by claiming that learning English was an infringement of her and her husband’s human rights to a private and family life.

As we say in English, what a load of codswallop!

Learning the language is such a chore that if she and her husband win their battle, she says it won’t be on their to do list. 

In their eyes, it’s not necessary as he can get a job as a machinist – apparently being able to communicate effectively in a workplace isn’t that necessary!

It probably is quite easy these days to work in a country without muttering a single word of the country’s language of choice (one such person worked in McDonalds on London’s Oxford Street and bluntly said ‘no English’ to a friend of mine), but that does not make it right.

It is this poor attitude that angers me the most. Who gave her ‘the right’ to choose not to? And how on earth is learning a language an infringement of ‘private and family life’? Last time I checked it was a necessity.

The message is clear, whatever language it is in, that learning the lingo is vital. Not just because of fitting in, integration, being able to work and so on, but also out of respect.

The likes of Salou and Marbella have been ruined by this lack of respect. Years of holidaying and retired Brits taking up residence for sun, sea and sand have left the towns shadows of themselves. The lack of effort and will to even attempt an ‘hola’ or ‘gracias’ has resulted in these artificial and unnatural Little Britains.

Eastenders is shown on the telly, bars and pubs serve English grub and signs only feature English.

It saddens me that people can think so poorly of a country that they refuse to participate fully in the things that make it different from another.

Of course everyone has the right to follow whichever creed or cultural practices but this shouldn’t be to the detriment of others. The cultures of the aforementioned Spanish towns on the Costa Dorada have been left to wither and die as waves of disrespectful tourists refuse to attempt to fit in.

Speaking the lingo is the first step to integration. How can this woman not see this? Is she inadvertently suggesting that she seeks not to connect with the country that welcomed her into its community?

She says that it is too expensive, and impractical for a man his age - 57 - to master English.  But older people are quite capable of acquiring new skills and languages. Of course it will be difficult, but if your heart is set on something then you will strive to achieve it at all costs. You’re not written off at 57.

What is really stopping him? I’d be happy to send over a copy of the Rosetta Stone or an English-made-easy book if it will help.

Language should not be seen as optional and I am glad that this government has recognised this.

It isn’t discriminatory to ask a migrant to learn their new country’s language, it’s just common sense. This legislation will help new citizens to settle in and aid wider integration. Anything that works towards this aim should be applauded, not shunned.

So, sorry Rashida Chapti, I’m with the government on this one.

Tags: Immigration, India, Language, Rashida Chapti

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