Overseas brides and learning English


by Sunny
22nd February, 2007 at 3:10 pm    

Last week the Manchester Evening News wrote of a young Pakistani bride who managed to escape from home after months of abuse from her husband and in-laws.

Over the course of six months, she was treated as a slave, deprived of food and water and banned from speaking to relatives back home.

She was often punched, kicked and dragged by her hair by her husband and even his mother. On several occasions, she was so badly injured she required hospital treatment. But staff failed to realise what was happening and allowed the husband’s relatives to act as translators.

On her blog, the journalist Ciara Leeming writes more (thanks to Ally for the link).

For anyone who has done a bit of research around this area, stories such as this are not new. For me and many others, helping brides who come to the UK learn English is one of the key areas of empowerment. Yesterday the Commission for Cohesion made a similar suggestion – immigrants and brides coming to the UK should learn English to help integration. It makes sense, as Rehna Azim points out on CIF today, but it’s more important for me that learning English is seen as a tool of empowerment, especially for brides since they’ve come to a country where they have no one.

On Monday the BBC Asian Network will be airing a documentary authored and presented by me at 6:30pm on, co-incidentally, the very same issue. You can download and listen to the trailer. I’m also writing various articles that I will link in due course.

Regular readers will know that I’ve never been in favour of sweeping social problems underneath the carpet, pretending as if any discussion will demonise people and make things worse. If anything, inaction over these pressing issues makes things worse and means that thousands of women continue to be abandoned by society (and especially the Asian community) every year. That to me is more unacceptable.


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  1. Jagdeep — on 22nd February, 2007 at 3:20 pm  

    For me and many others, helping brides who come to the UK learn English is one of the key areas of empowerment. Yesterday the Commission for Cohesion made a similar suggestion – immigrants and brides coming to the UK should learn English to help integration

    True that.

    You know it’s amazing that this should even need saying. It is also related to how children of them succeed or not at school.

  2. Jagdeep — on 22nd February, 2007 at 3:24 pm  

    Ciara Leeming and Ally’s replies are interesting reading too.

  3. sonia — on 22nd February, 2007 at 4:19 pm  

    rehna azim puts things positively it’s interesting reading her stuff. im currently chuckling at the comments on her other thread’ ‘eastern girls with western boys’

  4. raz — on 22nd February, 2007 at 5:18 pm  

    Despicable

  5. Kulvinder — on 22nd February, 2007 at 5:50 pm  

    Although i obviously welcome any initiative that helps people communicate to whomever they want, i would tentatively say its becoming less of a problem (note: that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a problem). English is already the language of business, aviation and to a large extent science. Its literally becoming the international language. IIRC teaching of english is compulsory in most of India.

    The debate about learning the national language is more important in the other european nations.

  6. Ciara — on 22nd February, 2007 at 7:15 pm  

    Hi Sunny,
    it’s brilliant that someone’s looking at this problem and vital it comes from within the Asian community.
    Issues like this one are so delicate that it can be difficult not to get tied up in knots and fan the flames of prejudice.
    I was truly shocked by the orchestrated cruelty the woman I met went through but inspired by her courage in speaking out.
    As you point out, it was the language barrier which meant she could not escape the relationship.
    I have more from that interview which didn’t make the paper and hope to develop the story further for another outlet.
    I will be listening with interest on Monday evening.

  7. Kulvinder — on 22nd February, 2007 at 9:53 pm  

    For what its worth, i don’t think dull classroom lessons would be the best way of teaching english or giving context of its use. I’d be interested to know if any novel ways of teaching it have come up. Language development and interaction aren’t discrete steps that come one after the other but overlapping processes. It’s more important to give a reassuring and guiding hand in an alien culture than to teach them what a past participle is.

  8. douglas clark — on 23rd February, 2007 at 12:06 am  

    Kulvinder,

    I don’t know what a past participle is. The point is that knowing a language can empower someone. You really do have a down on education, don’t you? What gives?

  9. Don — on 23rd February, 2007 at 12:44 am  

    Kulvinder,

    You are in danger of sounding like an under-informed, pretentious twerp.

    ‘I’d be interested to know if any novel ways of teaching it have come up.’

    How interested? Interested enough to do some basic research before commenting? Not that interested.

    ‘ Language development and interaction aren’t discrete steps that come one after the other but overlapping processes.’

    Oh, do tell. Yep, all those language teachers out there, just fixated on transformational grammar and correct terminology. Or just possibly not, just maybe aware of the people they are helping.

  10. Kulvinder — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:14 am  

    I think the education system is rubbish. I’m not against self-improvement. Of course i support these women in their desire to connect with different people.

  11. Kulvinder — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:17 am  

    How interested? Interested enough to do some basic research before commenting? Not that interested.

    Oh, do tell. Yep, all those language teachers out there, just fixated on transformational grammar and correct terminology. Or just possibly not, just maybe aware of the people they are helping.

    I put my hands up thats anecdotal experience from my french lessons. All through school and a few i took at uni.

  12. Tahir — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:26 am  

    What i don’t get is that the goverment is going on and on about immigrants and people whose English is second language need to ‘integrate’ etc and yet the government is busy slashing all DfES budgets for ESOL training – English langiage training for people whom English is a seocnd language – what’s that about? Apparently the Home Office and DfES are arguing that too many foreigners are using ESOL classes as an excuse to stay in the country, yet, aanyone who knows ESOL knows that these are short courses, often in the day, life-long learning and adult education centres – hardly what will get you a student visa to enter the country.

    ESOL provision is the one thing that is supposed to be heopling low-income bangladeshi and pakistani women and men to gain language skills – and at a time when we want these women to ‘integrate’ so their children don’t become ‘terrotist’ we slash all relevant funding for langduage support. Fine example of joined up government.

    Or perhaps we are serious about nurturing and growing our own discontent.

  13. Chris Stiles — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:26 am  

    Kulvinder –


    I think the education system is rubbish.

    Yes, unfortunately the education system is unable to make people do what they don’t want to do. How do you suggest it be organised?

    Grammar aside, there is always an irreducible component of effort involved. Learning a language doesn’t start and end with a wonderful scheme of self discovery that helps you conjugate automagically. Love may make the world go around – but it doesn’t help you any with – say – Hungarian, even when you would like to know what your other half is saying when she swears at you.

    There are issues to be sorted out – not least the paradoxically poor provision of English teaching, but what you mention isn’t one of them.

  14. Kulvinder — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:28 am  

    btw i was serious about this

    ‘I’d be interested to know if any novel ways of teaching it have come up.’

    I would be interested to know!!! Why did that post irk you :( im not claiming to know anything about the subject! Since the thread was about helping people interact with another culture, i thought that perhaps it was more important to just interact with them rather than have ‘classroom lessons’. I haven’t done any research on the area, and i never claimed to have. I was thinking out loud.

  15. Tahir — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:32 am  

    sorry for all picklers who are interested in this topic.

    But how can brides learn English if the ways to learn English in this country are being cut back?? No logic. The original article should’ve picked this up as a big problem – obviously the Commissioner for Social Cohesion won’t point this out – as it’s a New Labour mouth-piece.

    T

  16. Kulvinder — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:39 am  

    Yes, unfortunately the education system is unable to make people do what they don’t want to do. How do you suggest it be organised?

    At the risk or repeating everything already said in the other thread, don’t make them do what they don’t want to do.

    Since you’re not going to accept that and the abolition of a system is unthinkable id say every school would be free to follow whatever ‘process of learning’ it wanted. So any school would be free to choose GCSEs/IBs/Highers/US style SATS – rather than have it dictated to them. The ‘processes of learning’ would be privatised – basically products – that the schools would buy. So a school could choose say the STEP tests for certain subjects and something developed by the various Waldorf organisations in another.

  17. Kulvinder — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:48 am  

    In the absence of an anarchist solution (which as i said is too radical for people) a corporatist solution seems best. Schools buy ‘examination systems’ as products from anywhere they wish, parents enroll their children at a school based on their agreement/disagreement with the school’s choice. Every school would be a private institution that was given X amount to spend per head. They would be allowed to make a profit. Incentive for competition could be increased by allowing the creation of new schools in the area, so for instance if you convince a minimum amount of parents to join your soon to be open school (say 50 for the sake of argument) you get funding for it.

    It isn’t a perfect market solution but i think its better than the monolith we have at the moment.

  18. Kulvinder — on 23rd February, 2007 at 2:00 am  

    btw i know schools can choose different examination boards but thats within a framework of the ‘national curriculum’

  19. douglas clark — on 23rd February, 2007 at 9:34 am  

    I think Tahir has made the most salient point on this thread. It is all smoke and mirrors with this government. If we are serious about equality then these courses should have priority in funding and the Colonel Blimps at the Home Office should be called to account.

  20. G. Tingey — on 23rd February, 2007 at 9:36 am  

    Wrong on one (no-so-minor) point, though ..
    NOT “the Asian community”
    Since the Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, Parsees, Bhuddists etc seem to manage OK.
    It is the muslims (again) because of what their religion (blackmailing, bullying and threatening – like all religions) says about the status of women.

    An extreme example of this was seen in Pakistasn a few days back, by the murder of a government minister, for not wearing a head-covering (!)

  21. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 9:43 am  

    As someone that came to this country as a 13-year-old Bangladeshi with a pathetic grasp of English, I found regular beatings in public school soon helped me go all Karate Kid with the language to then get A1 distinction in both English language and Eng Lit just to go ha! to the the bullies.

    I learned everything through memorising Duran Duran lyrics, reading the Beano and watching The Young Ones

    It probably shows, huh?

  22. ally — on 23rd February, 2007 at 9:58 am  

    Hi everyone. I was trying to comment on this all afternoon yesterday but the system kept crashing on me.

    Couple of points…

    On ESOL provision – the slashing of course funding is a disgrace and a scandal, but something many people may not realise is that nobody is allowed onto an ESOL course for THREE YEARS after they arrive (legitimately) in the country. This means firstly that the excuses given about people using ESOL courses as a flag of convenience to get entry into the country is nonsense – it can’t be done. You need a legal residence status to even qualify for a course. It also means that the most vulnerable (as in this domestic violence case) are refused help at the time when help is most needed.

    Secondly, on the domestic violence issue – as I said on Ciara’s blog (hi Ciara, BTW!) I think it is vital that the media covers this issue, but we do have to be very wary of making it look like an Asian / Muslim / Pakistani problem. It’s not. There is one domestic violence call to the police EVERY MINUTE in the UK and most of these are not from Asian households. It is important that we (journalists / broadcasters / bloggers / whoever) stress that when we discuss the issue.

    Women like this one have enough to deal with already without being turned into political footballs in the Great MultiCulti Wars.

  23. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 10:32 am  

    “but we do have to be very wary of making it look like an Asian / Muslim / Pakistani problem. It’s not. There is one domestic violence call to the police EVERY MINUTE in the UK and most of these are not from Asian households.”

    Anything to do with the possibility that the Asian women in question don’t know the language enough to pick up the phone?

  24. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 10:58 am  

    send ‘em to the pub to have conversation classes…

  25. sabinaahmed — on 23rd February, 2007 at 11:41 am  

    I agree with Kismet. There is one point we seem to be forgetting is that the families and the guardians of these young brides do not facilitate their learning of the language.Despite the cuts there are organisations and provisions. In the county I live, (south-west of England)there has been an influx of young brides from the Phillipines,they or rather their husbands (mostly white english men)are very keen for them to learn the language.As soon as the girls arrive here they join the local technical college`s “english as a foriegn language” courses, pay a small fee and are very regular attenders.
    Where as we have the local Indian resturant owners, who have a large family, have married from “back home”and are hostile to care workers from the local authority who want these women to atttend prent craft or meetings which allow them to learn about child vaccination, milestones and antenatal classes. I have as a volunteer visited such families, where husbands /mother-in-laws slam the door in your face.Is it not a case that the husbands and other amily members who themselves have not learnt the language,are worried that these young women might become better than themseleves and this will upset the hierachy in the family?

  26. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 11:47 am  

    sabina makes a good point, and additionally, the fact that the bride usually hadn’t much say in the marriage she entered – puts her in the position of having to build up a relationship with a strange man who is suddenly her husband – so it largely will depend on what kind of bloke he is, and what kind of family he has – i.e. can he stand up to his mother! ( which is what it seems to come down to – the archenemy the dreaded ‘mother-in-law’..ching ching! so whichever way it goes, there will be the added dimension of ‘arranged marriages’ which will crop up in discussions on how to deal with these complex issues, given how the ‘community’ will be up in arms if it seems like an attack on ‘arranged marriages’ or whatever.

  27. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 11:49 am  

    Sabina, you’re so right about the attitude of those that want to keep women down. My good lady works in a refuge. There have been cases where men have threatened careworkers because they ‘betrayed’ them by organising accomodation and benefits for their errant wives. In their tiny little minds, these women would never have managed to stand on their own two feet without these meddling careworkers speaking on their behalf. What they fail to take into account is that these battered, abused ‘brainwashed by social services’ women aren’t that weak afterall. They ran away from the abuse and sought to seek help in the first place.

    We have a duty to send out the message to those very communities: yes women, you can get help. No moustached man, you’re not going to heaven, you’re going to prison

  28. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 11:52 am  

    the manchester evening news clearly hasn’t heard of the stereotypical vicious mother-in-law judging from the wording they use..” She was often punched, kicked and dragged by her hair by her husband and even his mother”

    they sound suprised that eventhe mother was beating the girl up. i suppose that’s because they’re framing it as just ‘gender’ violence which seems to imply that women aren’t part of the aggression. the problem is the familial oppression is then ignored if it’s portrayed as just a ‘man-on-woman’ domestic violence. of course this then goes back to people getting upset that familial authority being challenged.

    big pandora’s box innit.

  29. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 11:53 am  

    Oh a little NLP fact for those that use and abuse the glorious English language, in case you’re ever in trouble, don’t shout ‘help’, shout ‘fire’. People are much more likely to come to your aid

  30. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 11:53 am  

    wussy men – i blame their mothers.

  31. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 12:07 pm  

    And I blame their mothers on their fathers :-)

  32. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 12:10 pm  

    yes kismet, exactly, and their mother-in-laws and so on and so forth! it’s a cycle – a big vicious cycle that keeps propagating. young women get a nasty deal and probably that’s why they become a bit vicious when they can dole it out to someone else (it’s my turn now sort of thinking)

    that’s why its’ important to realize the overall web everyone becomes trapped in and perpetuating.

  33. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 12:23 pm  

    Crazy isn’t it? Kid gets beaten by dad, grows up and beats own child.

    You know that bit when kids scream: ‘I’m never going to be anything like you dad’

    Shame they can’t stick to that.

  34. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 12:30 pm  

    33. yep – “you know im gonna be like you dad, you know im gonna be like you..”

  35. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 12:36 pm  

    My kids will grow up to be accountants, I just know it. No dad, you can stick your crack up your arse, I’m hoping they’ll say

  36. ally — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:20 pm  

    Sonia, Kismet & Sabina

    The situations you describe are doubtless prevalent, but they are far from the whole story. In the bits of Manchester where I live and work there are waiting lists of a year or more for women-only ESOL courses (many of whom are ‘brides’). The courses in our community centre here are enormously popular with recently arrived female immigrants, and I don’t just mean ESOL, I mean keep-fit, dressmaking, IT skills etc etc etc. The local family centre run a parenting course that is mostly taken up by Muslim mothers. I’ve even had women with very little English approaching me (white bloke) to get involved with the community magazine.

    People, bless ‘em, come in all shapes, sizes and varieties, and I get a tad fed-up of people who discuss any section of the community (whether Pakistani brides, Afro-Caribbean teenagers, white working classes or whoever) as if they were monolithic, predictable or easily pigeon-holed.

    If you suggested to my friends Asifa or Tahira that as Muslim women they are oppressed or lacking free agency, they’d most probably knock you to the ground and happy slap you.

  37. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:31 pm  

    The thing is Ally, we’re not speaking out on behalf of Asifa and Tahira. This is in aid of women who can’t stand up for themselves…

  38. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 1:33 pm  

    And seeing as the topic here is about learning english to empower oneself, the fact that everyone’s singling out Asian women is more than logical. The victimised english women can speak it

  39. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 2:36 pm  

    ally, all due respect and i get what you’re saying but you i think are also unnecessarily reading too much in what i am saying. as an asian girl i have plenty of agency but im not going to pretend i haven’t had a hard time from parental authority and precisely because of that i have had to be strong and outspoken! there’s no point though in me being afraid to brush something under the carpet about the fact there are extra difficulties with a certain kind of familial authority. it’s not pigeon holing – a lot of people engage with that but i can’t be bothered. i don’t see why you’re thinking somehow that means i think female muslims don’t have “agency”.

  40. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 2:43 pm  

    precisely because we have agency we can challenge familial authority when it is suppressive. and it’s silly to think in the first place that it’s ‘race-based’. it’s everywhere to different degrees and in different stages. victorian englad had similar kinds of familial authority – and women had to speak about that to get past it to a certain extent. i come from bangladesh where there is a big problem with it still even now. so i cant see its politically incorrect when i can easily see the same types of social institutions reproducing what i feel is a problem. and yes the world won’t end if i say that as a foreigner in england i can see plenty of immigrant asians whose situations with family authority is the same as or sometimes even worse than for some people in the indian sub-continent, because of diasporic desires of the elder generation to keep hanging on what they imagine their homeland is still like.

  41. Sunny — on 23rd February, 2007 at 2:43 pm  

    But how can brides learn English if the ways to learn English in this country are being cut back?? No logic.

    I make this point in my documentary. I also made the same point about the cutting of funding of ESOL classes when Tony Blair made his speech about multi-culturalism in December. See here:
    http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/sunny_hundal/2006/12/post_749.html

  42. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 2:45 pm  

    and if any ‘female muslim’ wants to come and bat me down they’re more than welcome, i’ll do a bit of batting myself.

  43. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 2:47 pm  

    and ally, actually i don’t just see this as a “female problem” like a lot of the others seem to. for me my concerns are more on a ‘generational level’ i.e. older generation making it harder for both young men and women. what i was pointing out wasn’t to invalidate what you were yourself saying, but to highlight that the familial context in which this abuse happens is significant.

  44. ally — on 23rd February, 2007 at 2:53 pm  

    I take your points people. The posts I was referring to were really:

    Kismet: “There have been cases where men have threatened careworkers because they ‘betrayed’ them by organising accomodation and benefits for their errant wives. In their tiny little minds, these women would never have managed to stand on their own two feet without these meddling careworkers speaking on their behalf.”

    …which is so familiar it is almost funny. It is exactly what all abusive husbands say about their wives who end up in hostels after being ‘led astray’ by meddling social workers or whoever. Race, religion and language have nothing to do with it.

    and:

    Sabina: “Where as we have the local Indian resturant owners, who have a large family, have married from “back home”and are hostile to care workers from the local authority who want these women to atttend prent craft or meetings which allow them to learn about child vaccination, milestones and antenatal classes. I have as a volunteer visited such families, where husbands /mother-in-laws slam the door in your face.”

    I don’t deny your experience, but I could find you about fifty examples of Asian (mostly Pakistani and Bangladeshi) women in the next room, right now, who do not meet that description and nor do their families.

    Sonia – err… couldn’t find anything you’ve said that I disagree with, so please accept my wholesale apologies ;-)

  45. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:03 pm  

    Again Ally, it is not ‘exactly what all abusive husbands say about their wives who end up in hostels’

    The abusive husbands of non-Asians don’t say: ‘she wouldn’t have been able to sort out housing and benefits because she can’t speak english’

  46. ally — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:12 pm  

    No, they say something like: “But she was perfectly happy and had nothing to complain about until these bloody meddling careworker lesbians started putting crazy ideas in her head”

    …which you must surely agree adds up to exactly the same thing?

  47. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:13 pm  

    ally what you say is valid. im glad there are women out there who aren’t in such shitty situations|! aren’t you? so you know perfectly well that because not all women are being abused by their husbands or families is no reason to examine the societal contexts of the ones who are. in any case, women aren’t the only ones who are ‘abused’ – so either we’re all guilty of pigeonholing, or let’s get past this now. there’s no reason to assume that if someone points to the difficulties some people might face in possible uptake of services, they’re deomnising a whole ‘community’.

  48. ally — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:16 pm  

    Continuing… the point I’m making Kismet is not that you are wrong in what you say. You’re not. Nor is Sunny wrong in what he says in the OP.

    I’m merely asking that we all keep a sense of perspective about domestic violence and familial abuse. It is not a uniquely immigrant problem, even though immigrants can have unique problems.

    Does that distinction make sense?

  49. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:16 pm  

    no reason to not examine the societal contexts.

    and in any case i shant make any pronouncements on british muslim women here – i know very little about that. but then this discussion ( as i thought) was about women brought over as brides from the indian sub-continent. so i think it’s perfectly relevant to point out aspects of social authority there.

  50. sonia — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:16 pm  

    no reason to not to examine the societal contexts.

    and in any case i shant make any pronouncements on british muslim women here – i know very little about that. but then this discussion ( as i thought) was about women brought over as brides from the indian sub-continent. so i think it’s perfectly relevant to point out aspects of social authority there.

  51. ally — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:23 pm  

    this is rapidly turning into one of those discussions where we all end up bitterly, virulently agreeing with each other like there’s no tomorrow!

    Group hug?

  52. El Cid — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:34 pm  

    ices and kia-ora are available during this intermission

    and for your entertainment while your filling up on refreshments, allow me to share this phone text/blogease icon that I learnt today:

    (_X_)

    can you guess what it is yet?

  53. El Cid — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:36 pm  

    aagghh I meant “you’re”

  54. Leon — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:49 pm  

    (.)(.)
    0
    _

  55. ally — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:49 pm  

    watch you don’t dribble your ice cream down that cleavage Cid

  56. Don — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:50 pm  

    Pogue Mahone?

  57. El Cid — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:56 pm  

    Ally, thanks to a hairy chest there are no moobs visible to the naked eye
    Leon, is that a face or a woman who’s given birth to too many babies?
    Don, que?

  58. Don — on 23rd February, 2007 at 3:59 pm  

    From wikki;

    The Pogues were founded in King’s Cross, a district in north London, in 1982 as Pogue Mahone—”pogue mahone” being the Anglicisation of the Irish póg mo thóin, meaning “kiss my arse”.

  59. El Cid — on 23rd February, 2007 at 4:01 pm  

    of course — a suitably refined riposte

  60. El Cid — on 23rd February, 2007 at 4:01 pm  

    and correct

  61. Kismet Hardy — on 23rd February, 2007 at 4:02 pm  

    It’s almost like a fairytale

  62. Trofim — on 23rd February, 2007 at 8:27 pm  

    I know several women who came to Britain from Asia, and they’ve all enthusiastically learnt English. They’re from Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Kemerovo and Krasnoyarsk.

  63. Fe'reeha — on 24th February, 2007 at 5:26 pm  

    I think learning English is important even if you are not being abused by your husband. It is devastating to see couples trapped in decade old marriages yet they cannot speak each others language. In particular, in Pakistani community, language learning is not considered a priority.
    I witnessed a woman going through labour pains and failing miserably to express herself to the doctors at a hospital in London about a year ago. My services were called to help them translate the situation (I did not have to explain the oohs and aahs of the woman, they were quite self explanatory) but apart from that it was a mess. The woman could not even tell them she was having cramps which could have led to a serious tragedy had I not been there to translate this for her. (She ended up having a c-section).
    Later I found out the woman had a reasonably happy marriage and had been in this country for seven years. Yet she had not considered learning English even though this was her their child born here in the UK. How sad is that!

  64. sonia — on 25th February, 2007 at 8:14 pm  

    fe’reeha makes a good point – and a very valid one from the point of view of being a mother.

    it sounds like the citizenship test idea is one that people here are in agreement with? so when the families want to apply for a passport for the bride -they’ll then have to let her take english courses and the other information about life in britain that you now have to have under law, before being able to start the ‘naturalization’ process.

  65. sabinaahmed — on 25th February, 2007 at 9:42 pm  

    Fre`eha and Sonia

    There are many such horror stories,one emergency worker told me about a case where a 4year old rang 999 to speak on behal of her mother who could`nt tell them that she was un-well. Doctors complain that women come with young children for consultation, even advise on contraception has be given through these childrens.
    Am very pleased to hear that there are women in manchester who are not only learning the language but are also expert in knocking others out!But unfortunately that is not the case accross the country.
    The truth is that there is a great need for all women to know the language,as they are the ones who willbe raising the future generation of British citizens.
    So let us not make excuses and do our best by highlighting the situation so that something can be done about it. Those of us who can,can volunteer to help at least one woman to learn english.

  66. Fe'reeha — on 26th February, 2007 at 12:07 pm  

    Interesting comment Sabina !
    This reminds me of another situation when I was with the MCB. The police called us looking for assistance early hours in the morning for a woman whose husband had died of sudden heart failure in the middle of the night, and she had no idea what to with the dead body or how to contact anyone as she has not even basic knowledge of English.
    All she could do was call her family in India, who in turn, tried desperately to look for answers. She also went for help to the neighbours who thought of calling the police, and then as a second thought had an idea to call the MCB as the man who had died was a Muslim. Learning the language of your residential country is very vital, and it is preposterous to suggest otherwise.

  67. Fe'reeha — on 26th February, 2007 at 12:07 pm  

    Sonia, you are so right that it is also important to know the language of your children if you are a mother. The children in this country are and will always be different than the parents who have come from abroad, and language plays a very important role in this division. The kids are cleverer than we can ever imagine and learn to segregate themselves very early in life if proper communication is not available.

    I have seen so many mothers in this country who know what their kids eat, drink and when then sleep. Maybe they would also know what time they should go to the mosque or the temple etc. Life beyond that surpasses their ability to grasp.
    I call them “physical mothers” who have no idea of the inner workings of the mind of their children. Early childhood is a beautiful time to share and participate in for the parents. It’s impossible to do so if you do not understand your child’s language for inevitably they would make English their first language no matter what the parents would do.

  68. sonia — on 26th February, 2007 at 5:50 pm  

    fe’reeha and sabina – absolutely – what terrible situations to be in especially when you have no language skills and no one to turn to! it is really important that anyone who is currently in that boat should have the no. of a friend/neighbour even community worker who speaks their language handy, up on their kitchen wall or something. I’ve just come back from a community conference in Canonbury and it was really heartening what i saw there. they’ve got some great mechanisms for joined up working ( as opposed to theory!) and as they have big somali and kurdish communities, the BME sub-group of the community development group gave presentations on what they’d been working on. ESOL classes were the top of their list and also workshops on domestic violence – specifically aimed at the 2 groups – but NOT restricted to them.

    what you say Fe’reeha is absolutely vital – and I think so important in closing that generation gap.

    so i think the underlying issues are clear – they’re all about empowerment of individuals ( in this case – mostly female) who are otherwise subject to undue pressure from other people – e.g. spouses/in-laws etc. If you’re not able to have much say in who you are yoked upto for life – chances are you’re going to find it harder to fight for your rights and stand up for yourself within that situation. addressing that is a long-term process. ANd in my opinion it does need recognition of the kind of family structures you grow up within.

  69. DR1001 — on 26th February, 2007 at 10:45 pm  

    This is not isolated to muslims….what a general statement.

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