Monday morning there was an interesting little piece of information on languages on the BBC on language skills or rather the lack of it:

”The All-Party Parliamentary Group on modern languages wants to see a “national recovery programme” to improve language skills. It claims the UK is already losing £50bn a year over poor language skills.”  –  more about this here

Fair enough, isn’t it. Knowing more than one language, especially in our fast-moving, globalised world of business is important, and what better time than to learn it in school! Learning a foreign language is a great way of increasing one’s skills for English as well – something often overlooked.

But there’s another side to this. Last week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) handed a verdict to Germany, saying:

”the requirement of a basic knowledge of the German language “as a condition for the issue of a visa for the purpose of reunification of spouses of Turkish nationals residing lawfully in its territory is contrary to EU law.” – more here

It is interesting to compare and contrast the drive for our pupils and students to acquire more foreign language skills with the supine attitude of British officialdom towards foreign immigrants. Anybody who has had any contact with local government or the NHS knows that their publications are always made available in a huge swathe of translations. Local councillors know how much this costs.

We have official translators available on demand in our courts and hospitals. This service is a burden on the tax payer. From past experience, we can be certain that the government will now abandon its drive to get more immigrants to learn English – after all, the ECJ has spoken and they now are ‘powerless’.

Isn’t it strange that at a time when those who come here do not need to show even rudimentary English language skills, MPs are demanding that exactly such skills should be taught to our children in school. If we or our children are deemed to be able to do this – why should all those who come here not be able to? And why should we not demand that this be one of the conditions of entry?

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