Use of English

Sunny Hundal’s article

My Comments

I want to add my support to Ishouldapologise’s comments. The debate about language and immigration in Britain is extremely superficial and led mostly by people who have no idea of what is involved in learning a 2nd language. I doubt there are many immigrants who don’t want to learn English. Most people agree that ESOL provsion is abysmal. Every learner is different and learns in their own way. Many factors are involved in the process. It’s not just a question of attending classes. As an English teacher I’ve never met anyone who has achieved a high level of English just by attending classes.

The criticism of immigrants for not learning English is boardering on the racist. The fact is most immigrants learn English to the level sufficient for their needs. If an older person spends most of their time indoors looking after the house or grandkids why should they achieve advanced levels of English? The kids will learn English in school anyway.

I’ve always found it ironic that one of the most monolingual societies in the world insists that immigrants have to perform miracles with English. Patience! Are there any children of black and Asian Britains who came here in the 1960s / 70s 0r 80s who don’t speak English? These so called ‘language problems’ will be ironed out with the next generation. In the meantime lets have a bit of perspective and be a bit more understanding.


I live in the Basque Country. My 10 year old daughter attends a Basque Language School. I speak English to her. Her mother speaks Bosnian to her. When we are all together we speak Spanish because because my partner doesn’t speak English.

My daughter speaks four languages to varying degrees of competence but I would say she is fluent in all four and does very well in school in both Euskara (Basque)and all her other subjects. She learnt Spanish in the street like me.

The point is even though we are immigrants here in Euskadi it doesn’t mean we have to reject and lose our cultures as many people unfortunately do.

An Indian kid won’t learn English from their Grandparents or indeed their parents if they are not natives. They’ll learn it at school and in the street interacting with people.

I would never recommend speaking to your kids in your second language unless you were truly bilingual. It’s always best to speak to children in your native tongue for linguistic and cultural reasons.

My main point is that I’m not convinced that immigrants have a problem or don’t learn English or somehow the fault is theirs.

Learning a language is hard and depends on loads of factors. Integration is important and sure it depends on the language but perhaps some immigrants don’t learn English well because they don’t integrate but we should be asking why? Could it perhaps be that they feel rejected, exploited discrimated against by the British people? When those feelings exist it’s natural that immigrants will fall back on what they know – their language & religion for example.

My main point still stands – I don’t know of any 2nd generation immigrants who are not fluent in the language of the country where they live. Be patient – the youth are the future!


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