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  • Forcing marriage partners to learn English - I’m all for it

    by Sunny
    5th June, 2010 at 11:53 pm    

    The News of the World reports:

    IMMIGRANTS who want to marry Brits will be forced to take an English language test in a new crackdown on sham weddings. Immigration Minister Damian Green will unveil the plans this week, we can reveal.

    Potential brides and grooms from outside the EU will be required to prove they can speak the same language as their partner, as well as English. The test is designed to prove that anyone who moves to Britain is planning to integrate themselves into society.

    I don’t know this is being reported as a “crack-down”. I suppose that would represent the NotW’s news values, but actually I think this is a good idea.

    I’ve long argued that there’s only one way to ensure brides who comes into the country learn English: by forcing them to. I made a documentary about this for the Asian Network a few years ago, highlighting that 1000s of women come into this country as brides every year, and many don’t know or aren’t allowed to learn English when here.

    Which means that if some face domestic violence or other forms of abuse here, they are reluctant to seek help or do anything about their situation because they don’t know the local language. So in many ways this helps those women too.

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    Filed in: Culture,Current affairs,South Asia

    34 Comments below   |  

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    1. Jenny — on 6th June, 2010 at 1:45 am  

      Why not just advocate people being bilingual?

    2. Sunny — on 6th June, 2010 at 2:32 am  

      Surely they would automatically be bi-lingual?

    3. halima — on 6th June, 2010 at 6:46 am  

      Isn’t there a better way to help such men and women settle into Britain? Like increase ESOL provisions?

      It’s really hard to learn a language proficiently to pass a test. Have you tried learning a language recently? It will probably need 3-4 years to learn any language well.

      I have met lots of British/other European men in China who have Chinese wives. The British Embassy’s largest business in the visa section is to conduct marriage ceremonies. Many of these Chinese wives don’t speak English - eventually they will, but within a year of meeting their partner they won’t be. I am not questioning the basis of these British men marrying Chinese women ( quite often in many cultures, including in Britain, being pretty enough is the reason for a bloke to marry his spouse). What would happen to such couples?

      Learning English from scratch is very hard, it would be a 2 year commitment and would need investment up front. Unlike Britain, I can’t think of many countries where language learning is provided by the government.

      I don’t think the proposal will work. It’s designed to raise the bar for people entering the UK.

      It will lead to couples being separated for a long-time, which already happens.

      Currently, students from outside Britain are required to sit language tests to enroll into courses at university. These students, if they can afford the fees, will be well off - and even they struggle with the language tests.

      It is right to try and enable women to seek help when suffering from domestic violence, but I am not sure this is a good argument for governments asking language tests upon arrival to the UK. It’s also making quite a big assumption that domestic violence happens to women who are unable to speak English, i..e are recently arrived immigrants. Domestic violence is a universal phenomenon.

    4. Don — on 6th June, 2010 at 3:22 pm  

      Of course learning English is hugely important. If you can’t speak the language of the country you live in you are reduced to almost childlike dependency. But I think halima is right, that too rigid a requirement would catch up too many genuine cases.

      I could see a requirement for basic spoken English, if someone is serious that shouldn’t take more than a few months at a decent language school, and perhaps a requirement to attend regular classes for a fixed time once in the UK. Say, a couple of hours a couple of times a week for a year?

      This would have the added advantage of ensuring that new arrivals will become familiar with the adult education resources available and will get to meet and mix with all manner of their new neighbours, including people who can inform them of their rights and recourses.

      Of course, this would require a proper provision of such courses and a way of monitoring attendance.

    5. Max Dunbar — on 6th June, 2010 at 3:49 pm  

      Most of the immigrants I deal with have very good English - still, I agree that compulsory language courses are a good idea. But governments and media always present this as a threat rather than the liberating opportunity that it is. Why?

    6. des — on 6th June, 2010 at 6:21 pm  

      “Which means that if some face domestic violence or other forms of abuse here, they are reluctant to seek help or do anything about their situation because they don’t know the local language. So in many ways this helps those women too.“

      True but in the meantime dont organisations already exist which can help them, who do speak their language ?

    7. Niels Christensen — on 6th June, 2010 at 10:47 pm  

      It’s a fair demand. And english bride to be are lucky. All over the world there courses in english.
      The problem from a danish perspective ( or german, or swedish - or),
      is that a family reunion often is followed by childbirth. While of course a good thing, the new born mother is isolated from the new country. And if more kids are coming the problem is rising. My sister works in our municipality’s work rehabilitation unit. And not a few of her clients is turkish/Palestinian mothers in their thirties, who has lived in Denmark 10-12 years. Their danish isn’t very well, because for a middle eastern mother it’s very difficult to integrate language school with the expectations of motherhood.
      And now their welfare benefits are running out; and they have to qualify for a job. ( and a lot of them, do wish to have a job, not only because of the money, but because they feel imprisoned in the ghetto)
      but the first problem is the language. So if they had a language course before they arrived in Denmark, their situation would have been much better. Funny enough, not a few of the imported thai brides, do attend a danish course in Thailand. But their motivation for moving is of course often to get a job, so the can send money home.

    8. Jenny — on 6th June, 2010 at 11:56 pm  

      Sunny: Doh. You’re right, mea culpa for my silliness.

    9. Kismet Hardy — on 7th June, 2010 at 12:41 am  

      Moustached in-bred prick: Beti, make roti now bettamiz
      Wife: Sorry what are you babbling about you backward retard? I’m calling the cops

      Excellent news!

    10. Javid — on 7th June, 2010 at 1:32 am  

      Kismet Hardy: Stupid racist sexist generalised comment about Pakistani men

      Recruiter: I totally agree with you. Im calling the BNP team - we`ve got a new member ! Welcome Kismet !

    11. Javid — on 7th June, 2010 at 1:36 am  

      Historically Europeans when going to other lands have always learned the peoples languages and adopted their customs so its only right that migrants coming to Europe do likewise….oh wait…..

    12. MaidMarian — on 7th June, 2010 at 8:56 am  

      halima (3) - With respect (and I do mean that).

      ‘Learning English from scratch is very hard, it would be a 2 year commitment and would need investment up front.’

      Yes. And that is a good thing. Incidentally, though Sunny talks about Asia, I assume here he means all countries, including places like Eastern Europe.

      Coming to live in the UK from overseas is a very, very big commitment. I see no reason why language should not be a factor.

      A great many of those who come to the UK from Eastern Europe and elsewhere are hard working, skilled, have a firm plan of action, know their rights and obligations, pay tax appropriately and can communicate in English. Such people are outstanding ‘candidates’ (for want of a better word) for a successful immigration. Immigrants have a great deal to contribute, hence the Polish plumber can at once be a lightening rod for vitriol and still have a full order book.

      There are then some who come to the UK, including some I have met through my wife, who put simply have no business ever even thinking about coming to the UK. Such people are egregiously underprepared. It is about the equivalent of dumping me on the streets of Slovakia right this second - I would get eaten alive out there. And language would be a very big reason for that.

      Successful immigration is all about the right conditions and it has struck me from looking at my wife’s friends that the condition that matters most is human honesty - simple as that. Some immigrants come here in the serious belief that the streets are paved with gold, that jobs paying good money are plentiful and easy to come by, that there is no exploitation and that English language is not a barrier. These people are, candidly, deluding themselves, or perhaps more pertinently, they have been deluded by others. Having a right to come to the UK does not necessarily mean it is a good idea to exercise that right.

      I suspect that the most effective action that could be taken is to go to places where immigrants come from and confront them with the reality. That would do more to stop inappropriate immigration than most other ideas I have heard (my apologies to all concerned if there is good behind the scenes work like this going on).

      I can’t speak for others, but Eastern Europeans (especially women) often have no problem with being harsh to ‘failing immigrants,’ often telling them to learn the language.

      Best of luck to you.

    13. Kismet Hardy — on 7th June, 2010 at 2:06 pm  

      Fuck off Javid. You don’t represent all Pakistani men anymore than I represent all fat men. Pakistani freshie men beat their wives. I’ve been to Allum Rock.

    14. Sofia — on 7th June, 2010 at 3:50 pm  

      Kismet @ 9 - that’s one scenario…

    15. Cauldron — on 7th June, 2010 at 6:08 pm  

      Well said Kismet. Interestingly, you didn’t mention the word ‘Pakistani’ once in your original post.

      Methinks poster #10 doth protest too much.

      But shouting about racist generalisations is I guess easier than talking about the link between lower rates of education, lower levels of economic participation and community predilection for the chain importation of non-English speaking brides.

    16. Kismet Hardy — on 7th June, 2010 at 6:41 pm  

      Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Asian. I’m referring to men with moustaches who can’t speak English who come from those countries and beat the shit out of too many British Asian women I know.

    17. persephone — on 7th June, 2010 at 11:11 pm  

      “It’s designed to raise the bar for people entering the UK.”

      I see that as a good thing if by raising the bar it means someone who comes here ably prepared & independently able to communicate in English for themselves, their future children and be better placed to contribute by way of working.

    18. Javid — on 8th June, 2010 at 2:39 pm  

      Kismet and I know Asian men from abroad who dont beat their wives and treat their wives well. What does that prove ?. Idiotic generalisations are …idiotic.

      The real question is why, despite knowing these men are beating their wives, you dont report them to the police. You are an accomplice to their crimes. Shame on you.

    19. Sofia — on 8th June, 2010 at 3:01 pm  

      I know women who only really ever get away from the in laws and husband when they’re attending their English classes…it’s so sad..and it makes me angry that this is even happening to people immediately around me. It’s so hard to fight the mentality where women are brought from abroad to basically be baby makers and maids..usually to keep the mother in law happy…do I sound bitter…yes..because it makes me physically sick.

    20. Sofia — on 8th June, 2010 at 3:02 pm  

      And Javid, the fact that you put ‘don’t beat their wives and treat their wives well’ in one sentence is pretty depressing too…what’s the middle way? you don’t beat your wife so that is somehow a positive…you don’t have to beat the shit out of a woman for her to be abused!

    21. Javid — on 8th June, 2010 at 3:31 pm  

      Sofia I think you are reading more into my comment than is warranted. Perhaps I should have said ” Would never dream of beating their wives and in fact treat their wive s well” . I was not implying “not beating your wife” is equivalent to “treating her well” . Remember I asked Kismet why he hasnt reported wife-beaters to the police ?

    22. damon — on 8th June, 2010 at 3:45 pm  

      Halima’s position is the best one I think.
      Forcing people over languages is illiberal.

    23. Sofia — on 8th June, 2010 at 4:31 pm  

      Thank you for clarifying..as for reporting wife beaters to the police, there are far too many dynamics that go into domestic abuse for it simply be a matter of reporting it to the police…and a lot of abuse happens behind closed doors and is not actually physical.

      Halima - it is crazy how university students who come here often don’t have very good English skills…how do they pass their exams?

      Depending on the education that the spouse has received in their own country, they may well have learnt basic English. This is obviously not always the case so I would agree with Halima on providing more education once here..however, what guarantees are there that they will enrol? Would you give a visa on the basis that they would enrol in English classes?

    24. halima — on 8th June, 2010 at 5:13 pm  

      It’s interesting reading everyone comments. I don’t disagree, but each contribution highlights maybe what’s wrong with the proposal itself: there are too many problems were trying to fix through this English language test as a prior requirement for entering the UK. An English language test in itself can’t be a magic bullet to solve all these challenges.

      MaidMarian, yes, learning a new language should be a major commitment before immigrating. Yes, immigrants come here with the notion that the streets are paved with gold, my father did this, and struggled, but his children hopefully won’t struggle, and his children hopefully will make Britain a better place in the future. Everyone has go to start somewhere. I also came to work in Beijing a year ago, and did not arrive equipped with Chinese language skills. I am doing my best to learn it, but I might have to accept that it will take a long time to learn it well enough to pass a proficiency test. It is a lot harder to operate in China without language skills than it is in England without English.

      But what strikes me wrong about this proposal is that we are imposing social conditions to people’s personal choice around marriage. I think it is fine to introduce systems of rigor and skills, language being one of these, if we are talking largely about managed economic immigration. After all, it’s rational to want to manage numbers and make it easier for highly skilled professional to enter the country as economic migrants. (Leaving aside refugees and asylum issues for the moment). However, I don’t know if it’s right to impose such conditions when people choose to marry. It will lead to a long separation, and we all know that languages are best picked up when in the country where it’s the main spoken language.

      Damon is right. Forcing people to languages is illiberal, and Britain is not an illiberal country.

      Raising the bar on economic migration isn’t a problem; it’s when the requirement causes stress on relationships and family life that this becomes a problem.

      I’d be interested, by the way, in knowing, on how many other countries make it a requirement for family members to speak the language of the destination country?

    25. halima — on 8th June, 2010 at 5:16 pm  

      Sofia, you’ve raised an interesting point. If we imposed conditions with visas that people enroll in language classes, it would be difficult to monitor, imagine the bureaucracy of it all. If we look at the experiences of programmes that have conditions imposed, they tend to run into problems when too much monitoring is involved – in other words, they don’t work well unless designed effectively. The closest analogies I can think of are programmes like girls education programmes in Bangladesh and Brazil where bursaries and vouchers to poor families are conditional on girls attending school.

      But maybe there is a practical way to do this which strikes a balance between choice for couples and what’s practical for leading a happier/productive life in the UK.

      How do students enroll on courses but do not have operational or working level English skills? I am guessing that UK universities cannot stay open for business on the fees of home students alone!

    26. Don — on 9th June, 2010 at 7:56 pm  

      On a lighter note.


    27. Rumbold — on 9th June, 2010 at 9:35 pm  

      Wonderful Don.

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