Monday, 18 January 2016

Teaching English.

I was glad this morning to hear David Cameron speaking about teaching English to those who were raised without any.
Lacking the basic skills to be able to comprehend the language of the country you live in leaves women very vulnerable.
When in the seventies the first immigrants from Pakistan arrived in the bleak northern towns special schools were set up to get the children to a minimum standard of English.
I taught in one of them and it soon became obvious that teaching the girls was very different from teaching the boys.
They were mostly from rural areas and had never been to school before. Some families tried to keep their girls at home even then but the law was adamant....they all had to come to school.
We made up the rules as we went along. The girls arrived with covered heads and barely took part in any lessons.
We worked hard to integrate them into classes but it proved hard work at times.
Our head wanted the girls to be taught hygiene after it became obvious that it was very necessary.
I was the dedicated teacher! I had classes with just the girls and they behaved very differently in small female groups than in the larger mixed ones. There was a lot of giggling to start with but they were quick to learn and I covered a lot of ground...
Today the news that some Asian women have little or no English is shocking...they need to be taught obviously but setting up the right class for them is going to be fraught with difficulty..
Education , free in schools is for westerners a basic human right. It's time to give these women access to the language of the country they are living in.
Our prime minister refused to be drawn on the consequences of not having basic English and this is a tricky one but mostly I think they will actually want to learn after an initial trial period...
Having enough English to get by on gives freedom from all sorts of things...long may it be so!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. I agree absolutely Jean. There can never be true understanding between people of different races and cultures if there is no means of communication.
    When I first retired I spent a couple of mornings a week in an Adult Literacy class trying to help non-English speakers or those who were native to this country but for some reason unable to read and write.
    It was very hard work but extremely rewarding and the Muslim females were by far the quickest learners.
    Whether this was because they had never previously had the opportunity, or were naturally receptive I never discovered.
    I'm not sure that Cameron's making it sound like a form of punishment is the best way to sell the idea but the aim in itself is a good one.

  2. The operative word is freedom. If you're trapped into a situation where you're totally dependent upon those who speak the language, than you're helpless to exercise any sort of freedom from their control.

    Sure, there are cultural reasons for how they live, but they make a choice when migrating to a new country, one of which is to integrate enough to function as an equal in the new country. If you don't, it seems to me, that you might as well return to your country of origin.

    The same might be said for people who leave the Uk to Europe and try very hard to stick together with other brits - but invariably, to function, they need to learn the host language to do virtually anything in the local economy. And their children will quickly adapt in schools, and demonstrate that they need to communicate will with their hosts.

    I know from my Army service, some 9 or 10 years of which, were spent living in European countries, in a british community was all well and good, but buying a car, booking a holiday needed some idea of the language, both oral and written to get anywhere. I learned some French, Flemish and German in those years, and while now, mostly forgotten or very rusty, I can still understand lots of it and would quickly pick it up if I were to move there to live permanently.

    And learning a new language is a useful skill. Learning to think in that language is the challenge.