On Learning English
I see in the news that Cameron has announced he intends to make immigrants and, particularly, those on spousal visas, learn English. Well, this is a fantastic idea, a great piece of news — after all, we all want to be able to talk to each other, don’t we? I, for one, love learning about different cultures, about places far from where I live — all of humanity can be found through conversation. Often in the strangest of places.
I suppose I should mention, however, that when I was working for the DWP, in a lifetime far, far away, I have a clear memory of this news being introduced then too. “We must make immigrants and their spouses learn English,” they said, and told us this would be A Priority. Great, said we. Of course.
This “news”, that it must be a priority to make immigrants and natives learn English wherever they were found, was also old news even then. We already did just that, as we continued to do so, helping where we could. The greatest irony of this was that the government cut the money they had originally set aside to provide this exact learning.
Instead, the provision was farmed out to the private sector, as has been the way for many years. Then along comes a new minister, with a great idea — why not get these immigrants and non-English speakers to learn the language? We will threaten and cajole, bully and whine. We will stamp and stomp and talk to the press, who will take up our rallying call. And they do. Forgetting, perhaps, that this was the same nonsense spouted barely a blink of time ago. It always is.
And all that this does is make more money for those private providers — they put in their tender for an English course they already run, only now it is spun to sound new, more expensive. The public lap this up, or are outraged at the scaremongering, or somewhere in between — and it will all go around again and again and again. This is all a game, a game where people are used as playing pieces, where the rules are dictated by fear, misunderstanding, bullying, and outright lies.
I no longer want to play. And I think I am not alone in this.