Posts Tagged ‘elocution’

Ed’s right on integration and the need to speak English, but we need practical policies to make this a reality

28/12/2012, 10:11:03 AM

by Dan McCurry

Today, Ed Miliband promised that in 2013 we will see some concrete policies that define what being a one nation party means. Good. We need them. There are many areas the detail is necessary, not least on integration.

Before Christmas, Ed made a good speech on the subject. He struck the right notes in a measured manner, acknowledging the benefits migrant communities have brought to Britain while stressing the importance of the basics such as everyone speaking English. So far, so good.

Now we need to explain what this means in practice. For those that can’t speak English, what will we do?

A practical example. In my experience, if I can’t understand my Bangladeshi client, when I’m filling out the legal aid form, then I just pass them the pen and ask them to fill in their own details. In the box marked “place of birth”, quite often, they will write, “London hospital, Whitechapel”.

Born in this country, but with language skills so bad that they cannot be understood when speaking their own name and address, the issue is lack of exposure to the English language, during the early years, before the age of three. Without good English, their life outcome will suffer considerably, yet this someone who was born in this country.

Thankfully, these days it is less and less frequent for younger Bangladeshis to suffer from this problem. They are so surrounded by English speaking aunts and uncles that the issue no longer arises.

However, it is tragic for the Bangladeshi community that it wasn’t until the third generation, that the majority of the community could speak the language of the nation of their birth fluently. And it remains a major issue for many in the first and second generations of the community.

Ed Miliband says that Labour made mistakes by believing that these things will sort themselves out. People used to say that integration will happen naturally with the generation born here. But that was wishful thinking. Many who were born here, were held back before the age of three, by the problem that they were expected to solve by virtue of being born here.


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