Friday, 22 January 2016


When I heard that the Prime Minister, who cut money for English language learning a few years ago, decided to reinstate it (albeit for a limited number of people) I thought it was a step in the right direction. Of course restricting your funding to Muslim women is, to put it mildly, discriminatory, but it is a start. It could and should be opened up to anyone who wants to learn the language, and preferably some of the culture and customs... the real ones, not the "Great British values" crap that they churn out.

I've always been a firm believer that if you go to live in another place you learn their language and understand and respect, if not follow, their customs. (Clearly there are some customs that you MUST respect on pain of punishment!)

That's probably made a lot easier if the country you go to makes an effort to help you integrate by teaching the language and culture. To my knowledge Finland and Iceland run language and culture classes. I suspect many other countries do the same. It makes sense. That's probably why the Brits cut funding for the classes.

Even if you do not intend to work in your new country (maybe because you are a house person, or because you are past retirement age), learning the language not only makes sense for your personal enjoyment of what the country has to offer in respect of cinema, theatre, television, newspapers, etc, it is also a responsibility that you owe the country. Why should, for example, doctors, dentists, and other officials, learn your language in their own country.

I've long been a strong proponent of this (not least because I'm a trained language teacher, and there might be some lucrative work for me in it).

Of course when Cameron proposes anything, one is naturally suspicious. What is his motivation? Is it good? Highly unlikely.

So how, I wondered, would Mr Cameron deliver these lessons? Would it be done by a government education service or would it be farmed out to Capita, of court room translation farce fame; G4S of Olympics, or child detention renown, or Atos of the failed medicals and resultant disastrous deaths?

Would the people they employed actually have any great knowledge of English? Or would they be as out of their depth in language as Atos were in medicine; or as G4S are in security? And would they set targets and use them to repatriate people because the examiner didn't speak the language too well, just as some of the Atos examiners didn't recognise a dying man?

Would there be exceptions made for very elderly people, or people with hearing problems, learning difficulties, etc?

Would native Brits who can barely communicate sentiently be subjected to the same test?

All this is yet to be revealed and of course it may all work out nicely. Sometimes even a Tory government must get things right. Mustn't they? Hmmm...

But if the first steps are anything to go by, the Home office has lived down to all our expectations. As you can see, by their own very low standards, Theresa May should be sent back to wherever she came from. Well then, something good has come out of it...

This blog is the first to admit to the occasional spelling mistake, but this blog is not the British government, neither is it demanding English language proficiency in others... or as the Home Office would have it English "Langauge" proficiency!

Must do better! 


  1. Another kneejerk reaction Tris. Old people scared of other old people living in the house once lived in by neighbours that they could talk about the weather to.
    They command the Tory vote.

    1. Well now, Conan, they will be able to talk about the weather. I expect that's the first line people will learn.

      "Dreadful weather we're having, what"

      "Yes indeed, old chap. I hear it will clear up for the hunt on Saturday, what!"

      "Jolly good show, old man".

  2. And your blog had me as unpaid proof reader. Norway also has free language classes, though I couldn't swear they include culture. Someone I knew long ago from a very "Tory, proud Scot but" family married a Norwegian. I've often wondered whether they ever reflected on the differences in living standards between Scotland and Norway or whether they remain yoons.

    1. Unpaid?

      Infamy, I say!

      You know very well that there's a cheque in the post. Munguin is most upset!


      Finland was smart enough to realise that people coming from totally different cultures would find the very much more relaxed Finnish ways rather strange, but wouldn't have any idea of what the limitations are.

      They thought it would help if people had some idea of how the country worked. I should think that it does.

      I often wonder about Brits visiting or living in Norway. I imagine that the first thing they notice is the horrific prices, but they might then go on to notice how much better virtually every aspect of life is.

      I wonder how that makes them feel about good old, falling to pieces, Blighty!

    2. I had a couple of friends, lefty, graun readers, nice but well off, retired and done well in UKok from free university ed, cheap mortgage, early retirement, who went on holiday to Norway, and Sweden, literally just before the Indy ref in 2014. They obviously wanted to escape the political heat here.
      What did they say when they came back, "why can't we be more like the Scandinavian countries?"

      Shortly after they told me they voted no to keep the Yookay.

      What more can you say, except that they have blown hot and cold with us in the past year, it's very cold at the mo. Something to do with an election coming up me thinks. Why don't they go live in Norway, they can afford it, but it is not part of the EU, so is it difficult to get into? So there you have it, the naesayers wishing Scotland, their own country could be 'more like' Norway but voting no. Sad really.

    3. It is sad. Incidentally, Norway isn't in the EU but it is in the EEA, so as far as I know you can go live there if you like. (Likewise Iceland and Lichtenstein...not sure about Switzerland any more).

      Life in Scandinavia, to my taste, is infinitely better than it is in the UK. Of course it isn't perfect, but there is a lot more equality, no one is incredibly rich, no one incredibly poor. The result seems to be that there in far less crime than there is here and people are generally happier.

      None of course have an ambition to be lieutenant to America and tell other countries how to live their lives, although they all seem to take their share of responsibility for the world's poor.

      If I could afford it I would go live in Scandinavia.

      What I can't understand about your friends is that, if they are lefties, why on earth would they want to live in the hard right UK?

      An independent Scotland seems likely to me to be very much more central to left, and pretty sure to join in the with Arctic countries...all of which are FAR better off than us.

  3. tris

    feed the Tory base Cameron is just showing he and his pals hate Johnny Foreigner
    With a vengence even if they make the economy grow .
    Still the incomers ain't gonna live in Cameron's neighbourhood

    Conan discussing the weather .......ridiculous

    1. The UK as a whole is in a position where, if all the foreigners went home, the place would finally crumble. The NHS is dependent for doctors and nurses on incomes, and try to get a British plumber!

      Anyway. It's not quite as miserable and grey today in Dundee as it usually is. How is it down in the big city?

  4. I think it is only common courtesy to learn your host countries language and at the very least get a feel for local custom and culture.

    What I find distasteful is this british/English is best attitude, that somehow the values of this island are somehow superior to the Johnny foreigner of wherever.

    Frankly if our culture and values are based on those Christian values so often spoken of by Cameron and royalty, we do not have much to shout about.

    1. It courtesy, Golfy, but on top of that it's also necessary.

      If you collapse and need to communicate with 999, or have to go to the doctor or dentist, or even dispute the price of the cauliflower you just bought, you can't expect the emergency services or the shop keeper to speak your language. And if you fail to communicate you may end up paying more for your vegetable... and you may die becasue you can't tell the doctor where or how badly it hurts.

      If you don't know how the country operates you may find yourself fined or in jail. There was a big fuss when the Scottish government introduced stricter drink-driving limits. It wasn't fair to people crossing the border from England who, one minute might be considered safe, and the next a danger. It was important that they be told, they said.

      It's important that when we go to the Middle east we realise that we can't do the same things as we would do here... get drunk and make out in the bus shelter, for example. We'll end up in jail. It is equally important that people coming here realise that although we CAN do that kind of thing here, it isn't a green light for sexual assault...

      Whichever way it goes, we must all, remember that people have a right to their customs and practises and foreigners must respect them. Unfortunately we don;t have a proud record of that ourselves. Ask the Aborigines or Native Americans!

      It would be interesting, I think, to compare what Cameron and the queen think are great British values, with those that we know actually ARE British values! Don't you think?

    2. English is used as an international language in air traffic and ship control. OK, that might be a result of the old empire, but it works.

      Tris - on the drink driving limit I fully agree with the lower rates, having seen first hand the results of drink driving. Anyone who even has one drink and then drives is a bloody idiot anyway.


    3. I image it is partly the result of America being the predominant state in the world in the 20th century when these things became current, and the fact that the British empire forced English on quarter of the world. Actually, until America took over running the world from European powers in the early 20th century, the predominant language in international affairs was French, it being considered to be far more cultured than English.

      No one could deny that today, in commercial and computer terms it is the world language, however, predominant or not, I don't imagine that every shop keeper or doctor in Italy or Croatia should necessarily be forced to do their trade in English, just becasue the Brits have a problem with languages.

      Nor should a doctor in Glasgow have to speak Arabic or Punjabi to treat a patient who lives in Scotland.

      Simple rule should be that if you live in a country, you should learn the language.

      I completely agree about drink driving. I too have experience of the possible outcomes of drinking and driving.

      Our limits are now more or less in line with the Scandinavian countries and I welcome it. Hell mend anyone who risks lives by drinking and driving.

  5. My favourite was the banner that stated (in criticism of 'foreigners') that if they wanted to live here, they should "learn are language".

    1. LOL I remember seeing that Brian. Some EDF thing, wasn't it?

      My favourite story about that sort of thing took place in America. A woman was in a supermarket queue talking on her mobile (cell) in a language other than English. The red neck in the queue behind her said: "If you want to speak Mexican go back to Mexico. You should speak our language if you want to live here."

      She replied that she was not speaking "Mexican" but a native American language (I don't remember which), and that if he wanted to speak English he should go back to England!

      Ass handed to him on a plate!

  6. Tris

    See Cuba ummuna says labour shedding ethnic minority votes to the conservatives
    not many ethnic votes went that way in Scotland.....or perhaps d
    he doesn't consider Scots as an ethnicity .

    These blairites I just wish they would put forward their policies so we could all see the differences if any with the conservatives.

    1. Under the interim leader Harriet Harman, we saw that their policies were the same as the Tories' policies on mos things. Harriet said the people had voted Tory and therefore Tory policies were what they wanted. She seemed unaware that 28% of the people voted Tory and becasue of the ridiculous voting system, they managed to swing a Tory government.

      He probably doesn't consider Scots...full stop.

  7. Hi all. Browsing the internebbything I found this:

    Our own dear MSM could teach these 'loyalists' a lesson.

    1. That looks like it's gonna be good Conan.


  8. I am not sure that British values as distinct from French, or Spanish or indeed anywhere else actually exist. To me it is no more than an extension of the already offensive rhetoric of racial superiority.

    I am a Scot, and I share common values with just about every person of any race or nation on this planet, that I should do no harm and cause no lose.

    We already know that Cameron and his government don't.

    1. Bravo that man.

      It's exactly how I feel.

      There are customs though, in some countries which are different from European ones, or Scottish ones, and I think it's important to let people know about them.

      Part of what happened in Cologne was that Syrian/Afghan/Iraqi men had no idea that when Western girls went out they behaved the way they do. We need to explain to them that because girls wear low tops and short skirts doesn't indicate what it might indicate in their culture.

      But there are other things that are different.

      My pal came here from Hungary and didn't know how anything worked here. He'd have been lost if i hadn't been there to help him.

      But when I rented a flat in France when I was teaching at Stendhal, I relied on the bloke next door to keep me right about the proper way to do things.

    2. And these are all European cultures.

      Another of my mates spent last summer in Ghana working on a fish farm as part of his management course, and when he went there they gave him an induction into customs and practises in Ghana. Helped him not to make any faux pas.

      You're right though...values are pretty much the same everywhere.

  9. Hi Tris, one of my best friends married a Finnish girl (they met in Scotland) and they eventually moved to Finland because they could afford a bigger house there but not here. There are compulory language classes, but he had to wait a couple of years for his; he was living with a native speaker so wasn't considered a priority. Anyway, when they came, the classes were conducted entirely in Finnish from the start. They seemed to work as he can now speak Finnish. It's a difficult language to learn. I suspect that English'd be equally awkward.


    1. That's the very best way to teach a language, Immersion. It's how you learned your own language and it works best.

      Of course when you already have one.. or more... languages, you tend to translate a bit, but translation is often dubious. So they certainly did it the right way.

      When I taught English at uni in France, I never spoke French at all, unless as a very last resort.

      I imagine that it is very difficult to learn Finnish. It has no connection with other Scandinavian languages and seems to be most closely related to Hungarian... which is a devil to learn. (One of my closest friends is Hungarian, and I know all his family and sometimes hear them talk together... ouch!)

      Finnish seems to have an impossible number of Ks in it.

      Mind you, the worst of all to my ears is Greenlandic. I mean if ever a language was over-endowed with a letter, it is Greenlandic and the letter is Q. Double ouch.

  10. (ahem) ...compulsory...

  11. I had a good internet chum who was a Londoner. He made the interesting point that the largest growing group in London was mixed marraiges and their offspring. Whilst there will will always be conservative families, there will be, generationally, those that reject it.

    What has this to do with anything? It is just that however insular you want to be, you do live in a larger culture. And, sometimes, if love comes calling, well.

    I think that that is the way of the world. Old men, for it is mainly 'old men' will rail against this rejection of their status quo, but that is what 'old men' have always done.

    I doubt, very much, that 'old men' have very much traction amongst the younger generations anywhere.

    1. True Douglas. It's not like the old days.

      I remember one time at school the headmaster was reading some tale out at assembly. it was all about how the youth of today were ill mannered, abrupt, lacked intelligence and gulped their food.

      It wasn't till he had finished an announced that the author was some Greek dude from a few thousand years ago, that the significance of the piece hit.

      And of course who has not noticed that in the writings of the late 19th and early 20th century, "gals" were never quite like they had been in some elderly spinster's time.

      As you say... no one pays much attention.