The Times, June 11, 2007
Make migrants learn English, says Kelly
This article by Philip Webster, political editor, presents Ruth Kelly’s argument for councils to encourage immigrants to learn English instead of routinely translating documents into foreign languages. Ms Kelly said that translation had been used too frequently and could become a “crutch” that discouraged integration. The practice enabled new immigrants to avoid learning English when they first arrived, meaning that they never did, she said.
I would wholeheartedly support this principle if it was to be applied to English-speaking migrants abroad too. It is all too easy to create ghettos abroad where only foreign native languages are spoken-but it is also such a natural reaction when being uprooted...
It is interesting to see language presented here as a unifying element and a way to prevent segregated communities to be “a spawning ground for extremism”. I somehow feel that the social and economic factors of segregation need to be addressed too.
Learning the language can be a way to improve prospects through improved education but is it really what the majority of migrants immediately aspire to? This may a long-term investment some of them cannot afford.