to think that if you become a British citizen, you should be able to speak English....

(118 Posts)
Lottapianos Thu 03-Jan-13 12:35:14

.....to at least a competent level?

I became a new British citizen recently. At the ceremony, there were about 20 of us to be sworn in. We had to read out loud an Oath or Affirmation one by one. I was sent about 3 copies of both the Oath and Affirmation in various letters before the ceremony and it was also printed on individual cards on the day.

At least half of the other people on the day struggled massively with reading out the words. Some could barely make any attempt at all, and had to repeat 2-3 words at a time after the official. Quite a few people also had difficulty following the instructions during the ceremony - stuff like 'sit on the green chairs in the middle of the room', 'keep the blue bit of card, you will need that later', 'front row come up first please'.

I have no idea how they could have passed the Life in the UK knowledge and language test. I feel strongly that you shouldn't be allowed to become a citizen of a country where you can't speak the main language - become a resident by all means, but shouldn't you have to demonstrate competency in English before being allowed to become a citizen?

Viviennemary Thu 03-Jan-13 13:00:47

Not really. I know somebody who lives in Greece and apparently said she had absolutely no intention of learning Greek. So it is sensible to speak the language and I myself would make an attempt to learn if I was to go and live abroad. But I don't think it should be compulsory.

javotte Thu 03-Jan-13 13:01:08

YANBU.
I am not allowed a British passport because my (British) father was not married to my (French) mother when I was born. It makes me very angry to see that citizenship is given to people who don't even speak a country's language.

Because if your mother came from one country, and your father from another you should be entitled to dual nationality. It doesn't even mean that they plan to stay here, it could be an entitlement that they have.

And I disagree with the blatant assumption that everyone should speak English. When I go home to Wales my family don't speak any English at all. They don't need to. It's always the tolerance of the Welsh and the huge assumptions of the English that lead to these kinds of statements.

My cousin is headmistress of a Welsh speaking primary school, and has first generation Polish children attending. So they will speak Polish and Welsh before they learn English. They should still be entitled to citizenship, no?

Lottapianos Thu 03-Jan-13 13:02:25

'Plenty of people are fluent in English but do very little to demonstrate responsibilities of citizenship''

Yes but it's much harder to take an active part in society in the UK if you don't speak English.

javotte they have fixed that in the 80s iirc. Now you can claim British citizenship on either parent. Not just mothers and married fathers. That'd be seen as very sexist nowadays wink.

MothershipG Thu 03-Jan-13 13:02:48

My brother is about to take a Polish language exam so he can have dual British/Polish Nationality. He has lived in Poland for donkey's years has residency, pays Polish taxes but is not allowed to vote in Polish elections. You have to be a citizen to vote and, apart from other criteria, you have to pass a quite tough Polish exam to be given citizenship. Which all seems quite reasonable to me.

Now, as in people born after the change. It doesn't apply to historical claims.

PoppyAmex Thu 03-Jan-13 13:03:46

Loads of British people with citizenship in Asian countries that can't speak a single world of local language.

Actually, loads of Brits in my country (Portugal) who took citizenship before Schengen and can't speak Portuguese.

Equally, I have Portuguese friends working in Science, Diplomacy and Business in African and Eastern European countries and they get by just fine.

HollyBerryBush Thu 03-Jan-13 13:03:52

The British can be quite arrogant about learning another language on the grounds sweeplingly sterotyping that everyone else speaks English, or at least Americanese - and that's mainly through film and television, plus it is taught in overseas schools from a very young age.

At the moment my son is friends with a Portuguese boy; his parents have been here 15 years and the mother cannot get past 'hello'. I find that amazing for an European. Again, other son is BF with a Sikh boy, M&D born here so perfectly fluent in Sarf Londonese - but the old mum again cannot get past 'hello' and 'nice dog'! grin - given she is alone a lot of the time with the television for company - it does surprise me. She has a good attempt but it is still very pidgeon.

However, The British are just as bad - I'm mindful of those awful Costa Del Sol/Brava enclaves in the 80's and 90's where ex-pat Brits CBA to learn a jot of Spanish either.

InExitCelsisDeo Thu 03-Jan-13 13:04:05

I don't know if you are being unreasonable or not

<sits on fence>

However I do find it strange as English is one of the main world languages and I am always amazed and a little shamefaced by people from the farthest reaches of remote countries who can speak such good English.

Lottapianos Thu 03-Jan-13 13:04:16

'I know somebody who lives in Greece and apparently said she had absolutely no intention of learning Greek'

Do you know why this is viviennemary?

FelicityWasSanta Thu 03-Jan-13 13:04:45

This is interesting and I'm not sure what I think <much use as a chocolate tea pot>

But, what about those British citizens who have been born and raised here and yet still can't read English or follow official instructions?

Or is it a case of we'll look after our own illiterates but no anyone else's?

zzzzz Thu 03-Jan-13 13:04:50

No I don't agree.

I don't think being verbal is in anyway connected to citizenship.

MrsTerrysChocolateOrange Thu 03-Jan-13 13:04:51

I have lived and traveled all over the world and have tried to learn enough of the language to get by when travelling and have been fluent when I lived places. The irony is that the people who seem to learn the least are the English British. They are also the ones who judge most when people don't learn English. I knew people in Italy who lived there years and couldn't speak a word. Didn't stop them moaning about immigrants in the UK.

tarantula Thu 03-Jan-13 13:05:12

'what about having a command of WELSH'
Or Scots/Doric or Irish or Scots Gaelic or Ulster as they are all national languages of the UK.

Is there an option I wonder to do your citizenship test etc in these languages? as there really should be IMO

javotte Thu 03-Jan-13 13:06:26

OneLittleToddlingTerror I was told that I cannot claim citizenship because I was born before the law changed.
My younger siblings have successfully applied. angry

Lottapianos Thu 03-Jan-13 13:06:44

'Is there an option I wonder to do your citizenship test etc in these languages?'

There definitely is for Welsh, but not the others as far as i know

Fakebook Thu 03-Jan-13 13:09:13

So what do you suggest OP? Those people had already had their English tested. Should they have been refused citizenship for not understanding about keeping a blue card out? hmm

Hulababy Thu 03-Jan-13 13:11:35

I can't imagine ever wanting to live longer term in a country where I couldn't speak the language, well at least enough to go through normal day to day life - a basic working and conversational language of the country you reside in makes sense to me. I would go all out to be learning. If nothing else it makes your own life easier if you are able to converse with those around you - in the shops, post office, at school with teachers, at the doctors, etc.

Whether it should be compulsory at the time of the ceremony, I don't know. I am not sure how it is practical. But maybe you should have to be beginning to learn, and taking steps to learn through a local course or online course or something? Would that be practical?

I am thinking of it mainly from the fact that learning the language makes your own life easier, rather than others tbh.

OhlimpPricks Thu 03-Jan-13 13:11:35

If someone does not want to learn the language and integrate, then that is their prerogative. However, if they wish to access medical, educational or community information (local authority info) then they should pay for their own interpreter.

My LHA routinely prints leaflets/hospital signs in 20 different languages. My name, on reading reads as Non English, and I am routinely asked if I require an interpreter at medical appointments.

Lottapianos Thu 03-Jan-13 13:12:45

Fakebook, I don't know why you're being so arsey. I'm not interested in having a scrap, I just want to hear other people's opinions.

'Those people had already had their English tested'

And no, apparently you don't need to sit the Life in the UK exam if you are claiming citizenship through ancestry.

TheNebulousBoojum Thu 03-Jan-13 13:14:48

I think if you choose to become a citizen of any country, you should be able to speak and read the language well enough to cope with everyday communication before you become a citizen.

Lottapianos Thu 03-Jan-13 13:16:09

'I am thinking of it mainly from the fact that learning the language makes your own life easier, rather than others tbh'

It certainly does.

'However, if they wish to access medical, educational or community information (local authority info) then they should pay for their own interpreter'

I see your point with this one. However, as learning the language isnt' something that can happen overnight, and there are huge risks involved with not understanding medical questions or instructions correctly, I wouldn't feel comfortable about withdrawing publicly funded interpreter services. I couldn't bear to think of people not accessing important care because they couldn't afford to pay an interpreter. But I agree that everyone should be working towards becoming competent in English.

Actually the rest of the world speaking English makes it harder to immerse yourself, as a lot of people would rather answer you in English than let you ramble on in indistinguishable pigeon languages.

I have managed to live in Switzerland for 3 years quite successfully with a smattering of Swiss German and my basic German o level. I pay my taxes, fund the social pillars and pay all my healthcare bills on time. I've never been in any trouble, required the police gotten a speeding fine etc. So in some respects I am a model citizen. Our neighbours seem to love us, when my neighbours house flooded due to heavy rain in his swimming pool, we were the first people round there Vaxing the soggy floors at 5am on a Sunday morning.

So I'm interestested to know how people define being part of society? In my head there are all kinds of societies in existence in the UK, and actually there will always be people around to remind you, sadly, that just because you speak English, doesn't necessarily make you "British".

Lottapianos Thu 03-Jan-13 13:17:44

'I think if you choose to become a citizen of any country, you should be able to speak and read the language well enough to cope with everyday communication before you become a citizen'

You put it better than I did TheNebulousBoojum smile I only mentioned the UK because it's the country I live in - I agree it should apply to any country.

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