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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Should UK immigrants speak English at home?
Asian groups and the Commission for Racial Equality have criticised David Blunkett for suggesting that immigrants should speak English in their own homes.
In an essay in a new book about Britishness, he says it would help people participate in the wider modern culture.
The new row comes just a week after Mr Blunkett handed the highly sensitive job of drawing up a "Britishness" test for immigrants to his favourite academic Professor Sir Bernard Crick.
Sir Bernard will head a committee to draw up a syllabus on "UK society and civic structures" and new arrivals to the UK will have to pass the test if they want to take full British citizenship.
Mr Blunkett's plans for citizenship tests - and his plain speaking approach on immigration and race - have led to accusations of borderline racism from some on the left.
Should people living in Britain speak English at home? Should there be a "Britishness" test?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
It is necessary to learn the language of the country you live in, and every one who wants to function in that community must learn the language. But on the other hand one should not make that a demand for being british. I know many British people that have lived in other European countries for many many years, but can not understand a single word of native languages of the countries.
If I moved my family to France, I would definitely speak to my children in French at home as a basic aid to their integration. I would expect a poor reception from my French neighbours if I did otherwise.
Pratik Pandya, UK
Why is it that when you are white and you go and live in another country you are referred to as an "ex-Pat", but if you are non white you become a an immigrant?
All government documents (both central and local) should be made in English only. I resent having to pay tax to be spent on all these multi language leaflets I get from the local authority. Either speak our language or leave.
I think people should be allowed to speak whatever they wish in their own homes! However, if you live in a country which is not your native one, then you should learn to speak that language; but not in your own home.
I find it amazing that we expect immigrants to this country to drop their culture at the drop of a hat; and yet all over the world there are groups of British ex-pats proudly upholding their culture.
I think David Blunkett should make it compulsory for white UK nationals to learn a foreign language in their own homes! Mind you, a lot of white UK nationals can't even speak English properly these days anyway.
I think that it is only fair that these 'refugees' and 'asylum seekers' should at least attempt to learn our language since we provide them with shelter and work. Especially when the government can't seem to do that for our own citizens.
If immigrants were living in France, they would be expected to learn and speak French. It goes without saying that practice makes perfect and to learn a language, you need to try and speak it. It makes sense to practice at home if you are all learning the same language and it doesn't mean that you have to completely stop speaking your mother tongue.
While I agree that immigrants should have a basic working knowledge of English to built upon and that they should have some understanding of our culture; I also think that British citizens should take it upon themselves to learn about their language and customs, as it can only enrich us both.
If I went to India or Pakistan, for example, to live, to work and to raise my children, I would be a fool not to learn the local language and to try to teach my children the local language at home. It's not a case of leaving your culture behind, it's a case of living and co-operating with the culture you go to.
A test for Britishness cleverly places the blame of racial problems on the immigrant, rather than on institutional racism, past colonial excesses, unfair foreign policy and unscrupulous arms trade practices.
Seems to me that asking people wishing to settle in Britain to speak English is simple common sense, maybe that's just me being too British about it though!
Col, UK Ex-pat
No! As a British businessman, selling UK Products in the Middle East, I want to speak to my son in Arabic as well as in English at home so that he has extra skills to achieve in life. Mr. Blunkett's needs to be reminded, one of the reasons for 9/11 intelligence failure was the US security agencies were short of language skills.
The English language is a very important part of our culture, perhaps more so in England than elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Yet, it seems very un-British to suggest anybody should be forced to speak it. But equally no alternative should be given either. A much better and more constructive idea would be to take the money that goes into translating all kinds of esoteric Government documents into Urdu, Gujarati, Arabic etc. and spending it on English language education for new British citizens? And I say this as a multilingual Englishman.
Surely if Mr Blunkett wanted increased integration of the different ethnic minorities in Britain, then he should promote the use of multilingual leaflets, easier access to translators etc so that we can access services better. Yes learning English is extremely beneficial, but for some people it is difficult to do so. Therefore should they be excluded from the different services that they can access, such as hospitals, benefits, CAB etc?
Just for the record, we speak three languages at home - Tamil, Hindi and English and our daughter understands all three and converses in Tamil and English. All this hullabaloo from the assorted bunch of politicians just makes me more cynical about politics, and underlines their tendency to indulge in opportunism rather than seriously trying to make a difference.
I am English and my wife is Thai. My daughter uses both languages at home. I have a Thai friend who came to this country when she was about 12 yrs old. At home her parents talked to her only in Thai. She is now 19 and can speak perfect English as well as Thai French, German and Spanish. So what is the problem of people using there original language in the privacy of their own homes?
If immigrants truly want to be part of their adoptive country (as opposed to those who simply want money), then they will embrace its culture and language. In California, with foreign-born as a major part of the population, the immigrants have demanded that their children be taught English and be taught in that same language and not their own native languages.
Australia only accept immigrants who are fluent in English and can pass an extensive written test. Students applying to the top schools are required to sit a written test which requires them, among other things, to have an excellent level of English. All tertiary education requires students to have a good level of English to acquire reasonable grades. In our citizenship ceremony new Australians are required to take an oath of allegiance to the country (but not the Queen).
Strange to read comments that immigrants to the UK should speak English at home. Having spent ten years living in Germany where the immigrants who tried the least to integrate into the local community or to speak the local language were, with very few exceptions, the English!
Speak whatever tongue you wish in the privacy of your own home - as long as it is your own home! If you can support your family without recourse to benefit from the state OK, if you expect the state to support you, then before your allowed admittance to the country you should show you have the abilities to earn an income, i.e. speak the English language.
I can't believe that some people are trying to turn this into a race thing. Surely it's merely common sense to have a good understanding of the language and culture of the country you are living in.
I believe that the ability to participate fully in a country's culture and community should be a pre-requisite of citizenship. Participation should be encouraged wherever possible. However, what people choose to do in their own homes - if it breaks no law - is no business of the government's at all.
David Blunkett's suggestion that non-English speaking immigrants to the UK should speak English in their own homes is clearly impractical and unpopular. However I see no reason why people wishing to make a permanent home in this country should not be expected to attain a reasonable standard of spoken, and preferably also written, English.
Colin, USA, originally Scotland
How many languages can Mr Blunkett speak? I speak 4 - English, Czech, Italian and French. Mainly through having learnt them at home with my parents.
My command of the English language has nothing to do with what we speak at home - my parents and my wife have always communicated in Punjabi with me. Yet we speak in English with the kids, and they speak in Punjabi to us. I find it difficult to understand the sentiments of politicians who seem very good at fanning the flames of controversy yet fail to understand the extents we have to go through to simply be accepted in society.
Jag Dhaliwal, Birmingham, UK
Perhaps Mr Blunkett's examination of "Britishness" could start with him remembering that "An Englishman's home is his castle"?
Then perhaps he'd keep his nose out of what people do, and what languages they choose to speak, in the privacy of their own homes.
The problem lies with those worrying about their own identity being somehow threatened by what language is being spoken by strangers behind closed doors. Yes more should be done to include people into the wider society, perhaps including more ESL training. However it should not be assumed that someone can't communicate with you just because they look different to you. That is the danger of legislation like this, it will do more to seperate people than speaking different languages.
I have first-hand experience of growing up in the UK whilst speaking in English at home all the time. As a result I have always had a poor command of my ancestral languages - Punjabi and Urdu. If I was to "go back home", I couldn't be successful. I am having a bigger problem with my children in getting them to learn Punjabi/Urdu. Speaking languages other than English at home is the only way forward.
At home, everybody should speak their language, treasure their heritage and their culture. But in public life they should speak English basically as a respect to the country which provides them with a home. It is our politics which make the newcomers confused - giving them special attention under the name of multicultural settings. We are all supposed to be equal in front of the law and in public life, therefore speak English.
I resent any attempt to dictate what language people must speak in private. I am a native Scots speaker and regard the authoritarian attitudes towards Scots and Gaelic in my country as cultural imperialism.
The fact that we do speak English as well as our other languages, our multilingualism, is an important asset.
Surely the issue is about any of us, Scots, Welsh, English or immigrant, being prepared to engage and communicate with our neighbours. This is a state of mind, not something which can be achieved by prescription or edict.
Em, Birmingham, England
I belong to a Urdu speaking family, at home we do speak Urdu, but it does not mean that we do not understand or cannot read or write English.
If a immigrant would like to settle in Germany, or America, or Australia they would have to sit a test or read a oath to become a member of that country, In Germany two people in every three of a family group must speak fluent German, in Australia you must have a certain amount of money in your bank account to sustain you whilst setting up home so you don't claim benefit. In the US you have to fill out a mass of paper work but in Great Britain you have just turn up! No wonder we have an immigrant problem!
English is the native language of England. When shopping etc, those of non-English descent should speak English so that they are not misunderstood. In their own homes, however, they should be able to speak in their native tongue as and when they wish.
What a person does behind their own front door is their business, but in public, we must all show respect and restraint to all. Or perhaps we should take a leaf out of the USA's book and make everyone, not just immigrants, swear an oath to the flag of the country.
People should be allowed to speak whatever language they wish in their own homes as long as they are capable of speaking English fluently as a resident of the country.
I think Mr Blunkett has slightly overstepped the mark.
It is wrong to expect a someone to drop their national language just because they live in this country. However, I think it should be compulsory for non-English speaking immigrants to have English lessons before being granted citizenship.
If a significant population of English speaking residents from the UK migrated to Asia how many would be prepared to learn Hindi, or any other local language? How many others would be prepared to speak the language in their own homes? Some immigrants will assimilate into our multi cultural society more quickly than others depending on their particular background. David Blunkett's misguided comments merely serve to patronise and will not make any difference.
I don't think anybody commenting here has actually read the essay published by David Blunkett. In it he merely makes the very valid and obvious point that immigrants will most benefit from this society by speaking English, and that this could include speaking English in the home. The media as always has created a controversy where none exists.
It's absolutely none of the Government's business what language anyone wants to speak in their own home. What with this and the Britishness test I'm starting to wonder when we will be seeing the Ministry of Truth.
Can you imagine the uproar if British ex-pats living abroad were forced to abandon their mother tongue? I reserve the right to speak English, Urdu or Klingon in my own home if I so wish, and would defend to the death anybody else's right to do the same. I can't believe we are even having this discussion.
My parents are German and Italian although I was raised in the UK. In my family we're all tri-lingual but sometimes specific languages lend themselves better to certain situations and so we tend to swap from English to German to Italian even within the same conversation. I'd like to know how Mr Bunkett would intend to monitor how people speak at home. CCTV? Bugs? The whole thing's a joke.
Being completely, fluently bi-lingual is one of the greatest gifts any individual can possess. It is a talent most easily acquired by being immersed in two languages from birth. And what better opportunity to do this than being brought up in an "immigrant" family environment in which the family's first language is used, while functioning in the host community in that country's "native" language. Net result- virtually guaranteed bilingualism. And of course the two languages are not mutually exclusive - they intertwine and overlap so that the younger ones who speak both languages help the older ones to acquire language skills.
Huw, Macclesfield, England
I don't like the term "Britishness" as there is simply no such thing. Any test of Britishness would be biased and subjective. Also how are you going to test someone's tolerance level towards others or their level of loyalty to Britain? On the other hand, I agree a test on the English language as it is simply a fact that English is the official language throughout the United Kingdom. It is reasonable to expect anyone British to speak at least a basic level of English.
I think the idea of compelling individuals to speak a particular language in their own home a very un-British thing. However, I do understand the need to ensure that those seeking to live and work within the UK should be able to speak the language and have a reasonable (whatever that is) knowledge of the history and culture they are now intending to partake in. Without core skills such as language and cultural awareness it is very difficult to benefit from or offer anything to society at large. And if you intend to offer nothing, what are you doing here in the first place?
Being of Indian origin with Bengali parents, I am fluent in Hindi, Bengali, and English. English is my main language for day to day interaction, but I do speak a mixture of Hindi and Bengali at home. I feel it is an asset to have a grasp of something other than plain old English. It provides me with a window to my heritage. This would be something I wouldn't have had if my parents had insisted on speaking only English at home.
I've heard the argument that people want to hold onto their language and heritage. If it's so important then why come here to live in the first place? To live in this country I think people should have respect for this country, its language, heritage, and tradition.
Inability to learn the national language fosters segregation from wider society, leading to a proliferation of ghettos. Besides, how can an individual contribute to society (ie. pay taxes) if they can not speak English and therefore cannot work? I think this is a positive move.
Of course, and all British ex-pats living on the Spanish Costa's or in the Gulf states should be speaking only Spanish or Arabic at home!
Another example of a nanny state. Will he next ask the cast of Eastenders to speak English?!
Having lived in the UK for almost 28 years we always spoke in our own language, Cantonese, at home, as we feel it is important to maintain our language. Not only was it a natural choice but is important to hold on to our cultural link and heritage.
Why did we let people who couldn't speak English (and other legal UK languages) immigrate in the first place? I don't see job adverts crying out for unskilled, uneducated, non-English speakers!
Should immigrants living in Britain speak English in the home? What utter nonsense! What right does Mr Blunkett have to suggest what people can and can't do in their own homes? I'm not an immigrant but I speak Welsh at home. Am I doing wrong? Of course not. I want to preserve my rich cultural heritage. In the same way, immigrants will want to retain their culture in the home. I cannot see why any reasonable person would object to that. Clearly Mr Blunkett isn't a reasonable individual.
The language people speak at home should be their own choice; however anyone who moves to a foreign country should expect to be required to learn the language of that country for their everyday business and education. I would welcome financial support for classes where immigrants can learn English.
John Latham, UK
The measurement of Britishness or any nationality should be based on the willingness of individuals to learn the language and have a basic grasp of that nation's culture.
All the best schools in Australia require applicants to sit an exam which, among other things, tests children on their level of English. Only students with a good grasp of the English language make it into the best schools.
How absurd! Being a part of a country or culture should be determined by one's ability to contribute positively to society.
To Suhail Batia of India: The measure of someones nationality is not just their contribution to society, but their allegiance to it. Would they defend it. Would the fight to defend the British Realm. Would they swear allegiance to Queen and country. If they are not prepared to do these things then the size of their bank balance, in my view, is irrelevant.
They might employ 10 or 100 people, but if they support an opposing country in a war, then they should be ousted. But is that too late. Should we be taking steps now to prevent that happening later. The USA does. Every student swears allegiance to the flag every morning, regardless of their place of birth. I believe Mr Blunkett's remarks are a step in the right direction.
I'm an immigrant from the US. Since we're already fluent in English and studied European history in school (it is deeply intertwined with our own, after all) can we be exempted from the test? No? Where do you draw the line, then? Is it foreign languages, accents, vocabulary, or different cultures that scare some people or merely a lack of knowledge of football, cricket, and Coronation Street?
I see 'Britishness' as marked by tolerance, courtesy and love of liberty. I think a syllabus that teaches new Britons the best about Britain can only be good. Britain could do without intolerant and bigoted, immigrants while welcoming those who will enrich British society with their cultural heritage.
I was born in England of British parents. My two children were born in France and their father is an Iranian refugee. They both have British passports only. Their written English is not up to par compared with their "100% English" cousins. They do not qualify for French nationality and their father doesn't dare show his face at the Iranian embassy to get them Iranian passports. I couldn't care less which nationality any of us are so long as we can travel freely. But no way should any of us be subjected to tests to see if we "deserve" our birthright.
My impression of Englishness is: people who are extremely polite, courteous and reserved; who try their best to be helpful and considerate, and who are quietly (and rightly) appalled by those without these sterling traits. I have the highest regard for our "mother country" and its inhabitants. I fully realise you consider Americans lacking in those sterling traits and some are. Nevertheless, it always hurts my feelings when I read how many of you seem to hate Americans, when so many of us have absolutely the highest regard for you.
To CA, USA: I do not believe many in the UK hate Americans. A tiny minority on the far-left or religious bigots maybe. "Most people" in the UK have a high regard for "most" Americans.
When most of the people here talk about Britishness what they really mean is Englishness. I live in Wales and we have our own language and our institutions and it would be nice if some of the English who move in bothered to learn about our culture before moaning about people not learning what Britishness is.
It is impossible to test people for Britishness or any other new nationality. I believe people are citizen by birth or where they grow up. Adopting a new nationality is an unnatural process. We are all citizens of same one world.
Jenny Reddaway, UK
The reason an immigration test makes more sense in the US is that there is a written constitution which defines what Americans believe in. This is the necessary first step if we want to do likewise in the UK.
At the moment it seems that to be truly British you need to unquestioningly pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States.
S. Donnelly, US
As a naturalised British citizen I've done my best to fit in and contribute to the wellbeing of my adopted country. I am grateful for many things the UK has offered me, but I must say, many so-called native Britons make it one hell of job for the likes of us to feel British. S. Donnelly's Saudi example above, seems a way to display her superiority over the Muslim British (a reflection of sense of inferiority, no doubt!) My Britishness is to contribute positively and constructively to my new country, while dismissing the pathetic vanity shown by those who are re-living the British Raj!
I think due to international instability, there should be a test to ensure some form of allegiance to the country you are living in. Most South Africans leave to do a short lucrative stint in the UK, and then skip the country before the end of the financial year to avoid paying tax. I think if you move to a country, your responsibility and loyalty must be with that particular country, otherwise you should not be living there abusing its resources.
Be like the majority of countries and ensure that immigrants come here with a certain amount of money, so that they can support themselves and their family members.
All Britons are racially mixed - descended from Anglo Saxons, Celts, Vikings, Romans, Picts, Gauls, Hugenots, Danes and others. Within the last century people have come from further a field, but for no different reasons than the people who have migrated to Britain throughout history. This is what we should teach everyone in Britain. Then we will accept immigrants more, as we realise there's no 'pure' Britons.
I think the whole population should have to take the Britishness test. I think the ensuing results will show what a completely backward nation we really are.
Michael Pearce, UK
I can tell you who would fail the test. Tony Blair PM!
If I wanted to emigrate to virtually any other country I would be expected to meet certain standards or pass a test. This should definitely happen here if you want to stay in Britain.
Surely a start would be to only print immigration applications in English. This would not only save a lot of money and resources wasted by duplication, but it would make sure that the applicant had at least a grasp of the language.
Why should we ask those who arrive in this country to pass a test that many "indigenous" Brits would fail? I personally could never bring myself to pledge allegiance to the Crown (I want a republic) or to the Church (I'm an atheist). The whole concept of a test strikes me as fundamentally "un-British"!
John, South Africa
They'd obviously need to be up to speed with the plot of Eastenders, love football and think the Queen is great.
It should test whether someone is tolerant, compassionate, considers the implications of their actions upon others and whether they are likely to be willing to contribute to a happy, harmonious society. Mind you, given those criteria, we'll probably have to deport a load of people actually born here.
What is Britishness anymore? We have developed into a multicultural race and society. I think that defines the British; a country that is willing to learn and accept other people for what they are.
A genetic requirement to fight after 10 pints of lukewarm lager, and enjoying depressing soap operas with miserable plot lines!
Basic grasp of a British language, history and culture. Respect for British values such as democracy, freedom of speech and the equality of women and minorities.
A lot is made of having to know how to speak English. I don't know what language the kids around my estate are talking. Its based around grunts and shouts and is punctuated by obscenities. Is this a form of English? If so do they qualify as being British?
A fairly accurate test would be to see how long a person is willing to stand patiently in a queue, while meeting with indifferent levels of service in an attempt to get a train ticket for an execrable transport service. Or perhaps another happy fool who believes that the NHS is still the envy of the world!
If the test for Britishness as some pointed out includes knowledge of UK society and civic structures, swearing allegiance to the Queen and being able to speak English reasonable well, then my Kenyan mother (who can sing and knows all the words to the British national anthem) and most older generation Kenyans who grew up under colonialism and were educated in British missionary school and universities would a qualify - is the British government then going to grant them citizenship?
I hate the term British. I'm English and proud of it.
The Welsh and Scots are allowed to have a separate identity, but the English are constantly taken to task for claiming their heritage and flying their flag for fear of causing racial tension.
I would never, ever take a test to prove I'm British, and I wouldn't expect anyone else to. However, as each country within the British Isles has its own ancestral culture then why not have a number of different cultural lessons with an exam at the end of them.
These tests should only be available in English, Welsh and Gaelic, the home languages in each country of the British Isles!
Well said Bob Knox. I'm English not British. Anyone wishing to live in this country should abide by its laws and learn its language and culture. Our government is useless and panders to every human rights or freedom group. England can be a multicultural society with churches, mosques and synagogues, but everyone who wishes to live in England should take an oath of allegiance to England.
Being British is believing in fair play, looking out for the underdog, being tolerant towards others and being proud of our heritage, history and traditions. From the days of the Empire there are many people of all races, creeds and colours who pass that test more than some of our home grown football hooligans. Being British is a state of mind. Unfortunately Tony Blair is willing to give all that up over Gibraltar or is looking to the future so that Britain can become the 51st State.
Enrique, Belize, Central America
The Brits need all the testing they can get.
Re: the comment of David, US...huh? The "Brits" need testing? Whatever are you jabbering about? You are the one in need of a serious evaluation; your statement makes no sense, is hostile for no reason, and is simply rude beyond measure. Get a grip and get a life.
My father is Welsh, my mother is English and her mother is of Irish parents but was born and bred in Scotland. You would think that you can't get more British than that. But my brother and I constantly get asked by those who don't know us if we are of Eastern or Oriental descent!
Britons cannot be patriotic, its way of life has changed to accommodate migrants' beliefs; it's time to fight back and stand up for your country. People who wish to live in Britain should take a test to understand that to live there they have to accept the laws of the land and its history. It's a bit off when Britain can't be Britain anymore.
How would they pass the test if they don't have a stiff upper lip? I hope that wouldn't be a requirement. All you need is for a new citizen to take a pledge that he/she will honour and defend the country, obey the laws of the land and live in harmony with all the people regardless of race, language, colour and religion. Allegiance to the USA via the UK should not be made a requirement.
This is clearly a terrible idea. It is impossible to think of any "Britishness test" that does not sound ridiculous. If this plan is put into action, I suggest immigrants answer questions about Inspector Morse and Lovejoy.
C Wright, UK
Britishness has to include allegiance to the Queen, upholding the rule of law, respect for fellow citizen and their rights and being charitable to the unfortunate and poor. No need for cricket test of Norman Tebbitt.
I wonder whether any Britishness test would be waived for the right fee? Currently, one of the ways you can stay in Britain indefinitely is to have a large bank balance.
Gavin Pearson, English in Detroit, USA
Your Francis Bacon was a voice of reason during times of great trouble that was well read by our founding fathers, and still embodies many of the ideas of rights and privileges used in modern governments. I think any Englishman who hasn't read or understood Francis Bacon should be exiled to Detroit!
To Gavin Pearson in Detroit: I would include British Sign Language in your list of commonly used native languages.
Hmmm, how about the ability to order a Chinese or Indian takeaway?
Why not make all new UK citizens renounce all other nationalities held (and handing in any passports) and swear allegiance to the Crown etc..?
Australia's ceremony for new citizens requires them to learn the national anthem, which makes them the only people in the whole country who actually know all the words.
People should be able to speak English - for their own sake; to mix with the community. They most certainly should be taught that their religion will not exempt them from the laws of England. Apart from that it may be that some will bring different crafts to the market - this could be a positive move. I also think a health check would be a good idea.
Britishness is difficult to define because there are four nations with different cultures and languages. Great Britain was a great and far-sighted achievement but I think its time is up.
Fatimah Begum, UK
Given the PM's own position, one will presumably have to swear absolute and unquestioning allegiance to George W Bush and all his heirs and successors.
Simple, if you always look miserable and find it virtually impossible to smile and be courteous to others, then you will probably pass the "Britishness" test.
Paul Haire, UK
Just get people to attempt to form an orderly queue. It's a sure way of telling us apart from anyone else in the world in my experience! Anyone who can manage not to push in and wait for hours without complaining should be welcomed with open arms. Maybe also we could time people to see for how long they could talk about the weather.
The United States, a nation of immigrants, has a citizenship test for new arrivals, so there is no reason why we shouldn't too. It tests a basic knowledge of US geography, history, political system, money, language and law - all the everyday things one needs to be a productive member of society.
I think it should start with understanding our culture, for example, the postman, the milkman, the corner shop and other things that are British. Then ask about our work ethics and traditional past times. The most important thing is to test them on their culture versus ours, divorce, drinking and adultery are not accepted in some religions but in Britain they are part of everyday life now!
Rob Sears, UK
What a load of rubbish! When Norman Tebbitt suggested a similar thing 20 years ago, he was derided.
Now, with the scaremongering and media frenzy regarding immigration, it is being seriously considered again. Another knee-jerk reaction in an attempt to appease middle Britain.
Richard N, UK
I see no problem in offering education to newly arrived immigrants about the societal and civic structures that exist within the UK but introducing a 'test' to ensure good citizenship is possibly the most ridiculous idea that the bigoted minister in question has come up with so far!
Here are my question suggestions:
1) Do you enjoy watching moronic gameshows or reality TV?
Roy Richards, UK
Any testing or promoting of British culture and history should be a mandatory subject, not only for potential citizens but also incumbent holders of that privilege. All should be encouraged/obliged to take a test, as without knowing where we have come from, how do we know where we are going or avoid repeating the mistakes of the past?
I live in Britain, was born in Britain, and my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents are British, but I don't have a clue what "Britishness" is.
If you can't stand milk in your tea, you are not British.
There is no simple way of establishing "Britishness" whatever that might be. GB contains many diverse views, religions, colours and is often the better for it. How about this one:
"Are you prepared to be tolerant of all of the opinions expressed within the UK, even the ones you disagree with?"
Would I pass? I hope not!
This is pathetic and divisive. There are millions of people born here who wouldn't pass a test on "UK society and civic structures". Would the government take away their citizenship or subject status?
I think we'd be better served to demand a basic comprehension of the systems, institutions, laws and customs of British society in general, and an adequate command of the English language. That way we can be sure that prospective immigrants are sensitive and respectful of the culture they have chosen to become part of.
Fraser Heath, Aberdeen, UK
For those who point to American and Canadian examples as role models for Britain: our citizenship and language tests are ridiculous, degrading, highly subjective, and prove absolutely nothing about a person's ability to contribute to society. Does anyone actually believe that a bunch of so-called experts can define what constitutes British, American or Canadian culture?
It's silly. Imagine Germanness tests in Germany to make sure you understand German culture. However, new British citizens should have to go through formalities to make it crystal clear that when you join the club you have to play by its rules.
How can we ask our immigrants to know and respect our culture when increasingly we raise our own children to be ignorant of such social skills? Any kind of test they want to place on immigrants is welcomed by me but I think we should consider the wider changes taking place in our 'culture' that are of our own collective making.
10 Sep 02 | Politics
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