On air: Should you be forced to speak the local language?


A man in Britain is refusing to serve customers at his post office unless they speak English.

Deva Kumarasiri, 40, who moved to England from Sri Lanka 18 years ago, says he’s standing up for the English language because otherwise the social fabric of the country will unravel.

It fair to discriminate against people who don’t speak the local language?

This blogger says “If someone wishes to permanently live in the UK then they should indeed be forced to learn the local language, and the same goes for Brits settling down overseas. It’s not only a common courtesy, but also forms the basis for integration into society.”

Afzal Sadiq from the local Racial Equality Council says Mr Kumarasiri’s stand is unacceptable – “In an ideal world these people would speak English … but learning to speak English is going to take time.”

Its’s an issue wherever there’s immigration – Barack Obama has just said that for illegal immigrants to become citizens, they would have to learn English. This US blogger says “we need more people like this in the US.” Is language more important than ethnicity, religion, shared values or abiding by the law when binding communities together?

Language is an organic thing, isn’t it up to the host country to adapt to people who it has already decided to allow to live there? Shouldn’t locals be making more effort?

143 Responses to “On air: Should you be forced to speak the local language?”

  1. 1 Roy, Washington DC
    March 19, 2009 at 13:39

    You shouldn’t be forced to learn the language, although you should realize that you’re going to have a hard time if you don’t. When you move to a new country, it is up to you to adapt to that country — it is not up to that country to adapt to you.

  2. 2 Alaka Yusuf Akin
    March 19, 2009 at 13:49

    People should not be compelled to speak any language but for logic’s sake,I think it is advisable for people who found themselves in a locality where their language is not spoken to learn the language of that community. There are so many reasons why this is axiomatic: the need for mutual respectability for the language of your host community is one the reasons. Convenience is another reason; being able to speak the local language will reduce the likelihood of being misconstrued by the people one is talking to. And finally, there is the old english saying which says “When in Rome, better to behave like Romans”.

  3. 3 Robert
    March 19, 2009 at 13:59

    It would be unrealistic to expect all newcomers to understand a language perfectly. However the visitor should be willing to try and learn to communicate in the local language. If you show that you are trying the majority of people will be understanding. If you show respect for the local population they will show respect back to you.

    Some people do struggle to learn a new language (I know I do). I’m a Brit living in Angola. I don’t know much Portuguese. But I know enough words to understand some basic things that I encouter here (the business language is English in my company).

  4. March 19, 2009 at 14:00

    Why should they not? If you like the place enough to go there to learn, visit, or even live, then you should want to learn the language. I wouldn’t go to France without learning (or at least begining to learn) French. People gravitate toward a location based on the location and the culture that surrounds that location. Language is part of that.

  5. 5 Jen B
    March 19, 2009 at 14:02

    I’m British, and speak French, German and am in the process of learning Arabic.

    Having recently had a conversation with an English colleague in which he asked me “why do you bother with your foreign languages when everyone in the world speaks English?” It’s sadly a common view.

    Learning foreign languages vastly enhances your understanding and enjoyment of foreign cultures, from finding out what food you’re eating, to booking doctor’s appointments or going to see a film. Whether you’re a tourist or immigrant, it can be extremely beneficial.

    However, not everyone finds it easy to learn a language, people find it complicated, embarrassing and, particularly with English, very confusing. I’d suggest that people should be encouraged strongly, but not forced to learn languages, as a way of enhancing their lives, rather as a passport into a country.

  6. 6 Monica in DC
    March 19, 2009 at 14:04

    I don’t consider it discrimination. When I was a kid living in Indonesia, the law required that, as students, we took the language courses as well as history and culture courses of the country. When I travel overseas I try very hard to at least learn enough to get around, and always carry a language guide. It is incredibly frustrating to be in your own country and not able to communicate with people. Often times I hear of people who have been here for years and years and yet say, “No Speak English”.

    So yes, yes a thousand times… if you are living in a different country than your own, you should definately at least try very hard to learn the local language.

  7. 7 Jeremy Brindlethorpe
    March 19, 2009 at 14:09

    It would clearly be unacceptable not to serve someone who is deaf and communicates using sign language. Why, then, should it be permissible to discriminate against others who are unable to speak the local language?

  8. 8 Bob in Florida
    March 19, 2009 at 14:14

    I believe that if someone is here in the US for purposes other than an vacation of for temporary business purposes like meetings or a conference then they should learn to speak English. Why should I as a citizen learn to speak another language. Here in Florida as in other parts of the country we have large Spanish speaking populations. It is annoying trying to communicate with workers who refuse to speak English and claim that they don’t understand. Sometimes I think that they do this not because of inability but just to annoy on purpose. And why do they continue to separate themselves into their own communities with their own media, etc. Besides, it is wasteful of scarce government money to provide bilingual education, signs and other official documents.

  9. 9 Lydia
    March 19, 2009 at 14:16

    Not legally forced. It is enough that your survival in a country might depend on your learning the language. Compelling learning the language only erects inneccessary borders in our borderless world. The smart people will learn the language. Others will find their success in the environment limited by what they don’t know.

  10. 10 Daiv
    March 19, 2009 at 14:16

    I would certainly expect to learn the language of the country where I am residing, if i wish to enjoy all the freedoms and pleasures that country has to offer. Perhaps those who don’t learn the language are there becuase of desperation, not for adventure or new challenges. In the Maslovian hierarchy of things, that would explain why they are not motivated to learn English I guess!

  11. 11 Greg
    March 19, 2009 at 14:17

    Having been on both ends of this situation I think people should make a definite effort to learn the local language. It makes everything go more smoothly. Forced I don’t know about. How could one be forced? Look, Bush grew up here and he can barely speak the language? That’s why he only gets half the normal speechifying rate and mostly up in Canada at that.

  12. 12 Christy - Florida
    March 19, 2009 at 14:19

    I would never move to a country where I would not learn to speak the native language. It is absurd to think that anyone would. If you moved to American from Germany… would you expect others to speak to you in German? No! Just the same as if I moved to France from America, I would NEVER expect the French to speak to me in English. I would learn French and conform. Proper manners would tell you, you oblige by the hosts rules for his or her home… the same goes for language; you speak the language of your host or go back to where you originated.

  13. 13 Steve in Boston
    March 19, 2009 at 14:23

    It’s difficult to comment on the linked article when it’s so confusing and self-contradictory. Is this “post office” a branch of the government or a private enterprise?

    Most business owners are going to do what they can in order to make a sale. That’s the beauty of capitalism and free enterprise. If someone wants to discriminate on the basis of language, the customer will just go to a competitor.

    As for governmental agencies, I believe they should take reasonable steps to help people who are still learning the local language, but immigrants should not be led to expect that they can survive indefinitely in their new country without learning the native tongue. It’s not up to the local citizenry to bend over backward and learn 26 different languages.

    A government has a duty to ensure that immigrants convert to the local customs and culture, otherwise immigrants become colonizers.

  14. 14 John in Germany
    March 19, 2009 at 14:27

    Respect to the shopkeeper.
    One should make allowances for tourists but otherwise 100 pro.
    We have our head pumped full with statements from politicians concerning integration. The first step is the language, then sign language has its limits.
    If a person wants to have the benefits of a country, then the truth of the matter is that most foreign speaking persons are in a country for the benefits, otherwise they would stay where they were borne(political problems are definable, but not the main reason). They should learn the language.
    As a soldier i was given the opportunity to learn at least the basics of the language used where we were posted too. This allows for the initial integration, amazing how quick one learns when one can talk a little to the host countries people, from the beginning.

    Ignorance, and other reasons are the cause of mis-understanding, and the unwillingness of the guests to adapt. The host then getting the blame for criminalitate, and other problems.

    John in Germany

  15. 15 Alpha Lebbie(Sierra Leone)
    March 19, 2009 at 14:31

    I strongly belive that one should be force to speek the local language as it enable the individual to communicate properly within the locality, in other words for one to be realy free and have the sence of belonging you should speek the language of that locality which will enable you to feel part of.

  16. March 19, 2009 at 14:43

    While it makes a lot of sense to learn the lingo, even if you can’t, it is your responsibility to make yourself understood. Please, not another LAW. All sense of social responsibility is being withdrawn from the population with legislation. And the legislators should be far more worried about people like ‘bankers’ who speak the language, only too well. There is a group of the community I wouldn’t serve in my post office.

    If people get irritated with you for not being able to communicate (not the same thing as speaking a language), well then it is up to you to deal with it. I think if you want to work in another country than your own, you should be proficient in the local language, if only to know if you are being ripped off! I think there are employers who might take advantage of those unable to understand what is going on around them.
    But again, no reason to make a law about it.

  17. 17 Steve in Boston
    March 19, 2009 at 14:47

    I have an idea. WHYS should let bloggers post here in their native tongues. Let’s see how well that works.

  18. March 19, 2009 at 14:51

    Nobody should be forced to do anything against their will.

  19. 19 CarlosK
    March 19, 2009 at 14:52

    Good day WHYSayers.

    Should you be FORCED to speak the local language? Most definitley NOT! The basic purpose of language is to facilitate easy communication. Period.

    Speaking the English Language should not be seen as a status symbol. England is too much of an elitist society and it needs to change.

    Real and imagined differences creates fear and fear breeds division. In the same way the Postal Worker would strive to communicate with a deaf or mute person, one would expect him to try his upmost to communicate with the person who cannot or does not speak English. It is no big deal.

    This is how I view the scenario, the “foreigner” enters “his” post office, usually, with the letter already seal and hands it ot the worker. What is so hard about indicating what is the cost for the service. It is highly unlikely that the “foreigner” would be using another currency.

    The postal worker is behaving in a most reprehensible, crude and vulgar manner and what we should be discussing is whether or not he should be suspended or fired. He is so stupid. He fails to grasp the opportunity to learn a new language and teach one in return. This is how the “foreigner” will learn the English Language- respect. Respect generates respect in return.

    With all the problems of this world one wonders how people find time for these trivialities. Isn’t he worried about losing his job because of the global financial crisis?

    Carlos- Kingston Jamaica

  20. 20 Matt in Oregon
    March 19, 2009 at 14:52

    If you move to a country than you should be forced to speak the language. There is a large Mexican population in the western US and many of them either do not take the time to learn or refuse to.

    As a result state and federal governments have to cater to these people. Whether it be printing goverment documents in two languages or hiring employees specifically to deal with spanish speakers.

    It is a waste of money. If you move to the US, learn english!

  21. 21 Susan Clifton
    March 19, 2009 at 14:54

    “Should you be forced to speak the local language?”

    Yes, absolutely. If you want to live in a country like the UK and benefit from all the opportunities it has to offer then you should learn to speak English. It’s not discrimination but common sense. Refusing to serve someone who has a disability would be different as they have no choice in the matter. If someone doesn’t want to learn the language and mix with British people, then why do they want to live here? Benefits? Healthcare? Housing?

    New immigrants should be assisted in every way possible to help them learn English, but if they can’t speak it to a basic level after several months then they should be sent home. The sub-postmaster Deva Kumarasiri is a shining example of the sort of immigrant the UK should be accepting. He gets a big thumbs up from me.

  22. 22 Rashid Patch
    March 19, 2009 at 14:58

    It is simple courtesy to learn at least a bit of the language of the places that you visit. If someone moves to a place to work or live long-term, they certainly should try to learn the local language.

    However, this does not excuse language chauvinism, like that evidenced by some of the comments, which simply perpetuate the attitudes of colonial imperialism and racism. As an American, I deplore the attitude of my fellow citizen who complains about Spanish-speakers in FloridaSpanish speakers were in Florida long before English speakers – and neither of those groups have bothered to learn much Seminole! I live in California, which was a province of Spain for centuries before Anglophones arrived; certainly, native Spanish speakers here have a long priority to English-speaking newcomers.

    Yankee and Brit culture tends to be relentlessly monoglot. It is striking that a Sri Lankan immigrant to Britain has been infected with the “English Only” attitude. I could appreciate that he may have worked hard to become fluent enough in English to qualify for a job with the postal service, but it seems a bit petty that he should look down on those who perhaps have had less time to do so.

    Multilingual societies are, in general, wiser, richer, and far more enjoyable to live in than monolingual cultures. To use an old Norman-British phrase, “vive la différence!”

  23. 23 Rob (UK)
    March 19, 2009 at 15:01

    Learning languages is difficult, particularly for older people, so it may not be practical to demand it of everyone. However, if a person expects to use the services of a country, they should make an effort to learn the basics. The responsibility of the host country should be to provide opportunities for learning, not to provide expensive translation services at every point of contact.

  24. 24 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    March 19, 2009 at 15:08

    In my native California, billions of dollars are wasted trying to accommodate non-English speakers.

    In my adopted Switzerland, Swiss-German, French and Italian are all official languages, which are used in Federal government business. All local business is conducted in the local language. When a family moves from one language area to another, the children are taught in the local language, as are immigrant children who don’t yet speak the local tongue. Unless the children are very young, they usually lose a school year swotting up the local tongue; this is not considered a problem, and those children wind up bilingual.

    The system of local language usage works excellently, and I firmly believe that anyone who moves to an area where a different language is spoken should be required to learn the local language (as I did when I moved from California to the French-speaking part of Switzerland; I also know some German and marketplace Italian.)

  25. 25 Luci Smith
    March 19, 2009 at 15:21

    I agree with Greg.

    My native language is English and I speak some others. But I find people who want to force others to learn languages are often narrow minded or racist.
    There is a party in Denmark that wants to force all University students to do their studies in Danish and all immigrants to speak Danish. One of my Danish neighbors considers me stupid, because I am not a native speaker of Danish and she is so dislexic that she cannot read a newspaper in Danish and speaks no other language.
    If I went to China or Brazil, it would take time for me to learn the language. Am I supposed to starve in the meantime or not be able to send letters because no one will sell me stamps?

  26. March 19, 2009 at 15:23

    I don’t think it would work! One thing is that English is the Linga Franca of the BBC World Service (yes I know the BBC is broadcast in other languages, but all the same). Another is the lack of embarrassment of contributers who do not write such good English, but contribute very worthy comments.

  27. 27 Luci Smith
    March 19, 2009 at 15:24

    I have always been good at languages and bad at maths. I do not believe that you can force people to learn. Some people are good at learning certain things and others can be just as nice, even if they are not good at leaning them. I think that the shopkeeper is discriminating and I would prefer not to buy things from a person who does not treat all customers the same.

  28. March 19, 2009 at 15:28

    My response to Deva Kumarasiri, I agree that it is necessary to learn the language of where you live. But defending a language and saying that without a common language, the social fabric would fall is foolishness.

    The United States of America has been divided amongst each other. There are people in Texas and Alaska who speak English and want independence from English Speaking Washington DC.

    There are areas of the United States of America that were stolen from the Indigenous Population, the Latin Population, and the African American Population. We should cherish the differences.

    For those who want the same things, I would not mind seeing a Libertarian Green Government that encourages a true American Person that speaks English and is the product of a marriage between US Citizens regardless of race, creed, religion, and ethnicity.

    I would not also mind if Obama applied the English Language and the New American Republic of Mixed Races by declaring himself President for Life.

  29. March 19, 2009 at 15:29

    Well, it depends who you are speaking with. People should not be forced to speak any language at all, but there are accepted languages for business in every country, anyone who don’t want to learn this language should walk around with interpreters to help them converse with people and get business done. I understand the fears of those who want to cling to their ‘mother tongues’: they fear that soon, their language will be swallowed up and lost in ‘this strange’ country, but anyone who feels so strongly for their local language should never venture out of the indigenous communities.
    In government offices, the government should list the languages accepted for its business while private businesses could be ran in any language so long as those doing business there are told before hand the language of business if it is different from the ‘official’ language(s) of the country. Note that when organisations provide translation services, they are privileges and not rights.
    Hey if we can no longer define countries based on languages spoken there, how do I differentiate between countries? In some cases, the very names of the country is synonymous to the language spoken there (Germany/ German, Poland/ Polish, etc). If a nation wants to discard its language, that should be decided by the citizens, not by immigrants. Let the immigrants decide if they want to fit in or leave, not to request that the people speak their language.

  30. 30 John in Germany
    March 19, 2009 at 15:32

    Hi Steve in Boston.
    A short sentence,with a hell of a lot of meaning. Respect.
    Thank heavens the Brits lived on a Island, and wanted to widen thier horizon. And that the French gave up in the end.
    Esperanto never made it, so we can all blog away in English.

    Wot abaht a cockney blog, a good point BEEB, whats Blog in Cockney?.

    John in Germany

  31. 31 Anthony
    March 19, 2009 at 15:33

    I would like English to be the official language in the U.S. You should need to take an English test in order to get into our country, this would make it much easier to spot illegal’s, it would be less money wasted on bi-lingual classes/signs/pamphlets/etc., it would bring us together more, and there are so many aspect’s that would be better if we all had to speak English.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    P.S. I went to a school with ESL classes (English as a Second Language), and it was so stupid that we taught high school students in Spanish!!!

  32. 32 abdulahi
    March 19, 2009 at 15:35

    am SOMALI and i can speak english, amaharic (ethiopian), kswahili (kenyan) and i can read and write arabic… thanx to my mom cuz she moved around those country … now am enjoying not only the formal language but the informal language…

  33. 33 Andrew in Australia
    March 19, 2009 at 15:37

    And why shouldn’t you. You move to another land presumably to benefit from the improved situation otherwise you would have not left, so in an effort to show not only gratitude but that you are a worthy addition to that society why shouldn’t you learn the most basic of requirements – language. For some new arrivals it may not be instant but that should not stop an immigrant from beginning the acquisition of language skills. At some point you will be required to move through your new homeland and interact or seek assistance it seems highly odd that you would ever think either someone will always be there to help you or that a problem will not arise. Even travellers make an effort to learn some basic phrases or words for a trip only lasting a few days. If you are relocating to another country with a different language you should be smart enough to know you should speak the local tongue.

  34. 34 Andrew in Australia
    March 19, 2009 at 15:42

    Actually here is a point I find rather amusing or is it astounding. We often hear stories (it is a hobby in Australia) in the popular media about how some migrants take exception to customs of locals when relocating to another nation to live or wish they could be more accomodating of them. You would think then it would not be too much to ask for a certain level of language proficiency on their part. Extended families who come with older family members will find it unnecessary for them to learn another language as either the state will provide translation services if they in need of them or family members will insulate them from having to speak to the wider population. But all this aside as a reasonable human being living amongst others wouldn’t you feel that you are at a great disadvantage or socially isolated if you do not make the effort to speak the native language? Or are you so insulated in your own enclave that this is unnecessary?

  35. 35 Carol Amuge, Kampala Uganda.
    March 19, 2009 at 15:44

    Here in Uganda or at least in the places I have been able to visit, for instance Kenya, it is important that you learn or at least say a few words in the local language. Otherwise you’ll be labelled as proud and even get not so polite names alluding to your place of origin. Whereas it’s not polite to force someone to speak a language, it’s important that an individual make an effort to learn. It pays.

  36. March 19, 2009 at 15:49

    its better not to clamour for local languages .if a country like india too stubbornly follows the local language hysteria world would be in big trouble in this era of globalisation as there is 364 official languages in india and several thousand minor languages ?i am sure srilankan born englishman doesnt knows about this statistics ?

  37. 37 Jerry L
    March 19, 2009 at 15:51

    There are innumerable reasons to at least try and speak the local language even if only brokenly while there are few rationalizations and excuses to not try and speak the local language.
    To refuse to speak the local language is reminiscent of “The Ugly American”.

  38. 38 Kevin Burke
    March 19, 2009 at 15:52

    I’m not sure how you’d go about “forcing” people to learn the language. Encourage? Sure. Coerce? Yes. But Force? What are we planning on doing? Strapping down foreigners in a chair Clockwork Orange style and making them watch Sesame Street?

    I think making a requirement of citizenship is not a bad idea. Simply because the motives there are decent. “We want you to be able to function at a high level in society as a citizen and to do that you need to be able to communicate with the broadest level of people possible.”

    It’s still voluntary to a certain degree. Simply not serving customers because you’re determined that they don’t speak the native language is divisive and, let’s face it, likely motivated by fear and racism rather than a genuine desire to see people communicate better.

    As for the claim that “the social fabric of the country will unravel” well that’s just nonsense. First of all- what social fabric is he referring to? A homogeny of anglo-saxon culture? Is he really suggesting that A. British society would disintegrate if it ceased to be dominated by anglo-saxons? and B. Anglo-Saxons are some sort of idyllic, non-violent, everyone loves each other, economically equal community of togetherness?

  39. March 19, 2009 at 15:55

    Bravo, Mr. Kumarasiri! You are modeling a lesson from history that political correctness has blurred in recent decades: a nation is more than an economic machine. Language is the heart of culture and culture is who we are as a nation.

    When millions of non-English speaking immigrants began to arrive in the US in the 19th century, US society set as its priority to provide public education to teach our history in our language to the newcomers… all to preserve our culture. Though the original immigrants often remained in their ethnic enclaves due to the difficulty of learning the new language and the desire for the comfort of home, they supported their children to better themselves within the context of their new country… the key to which was fluency in English.

    Until recently that same model has been imitated through successive waves of folk from all parts of the world. But now, before one can communicate via phone with the government or a business in the United States, one must press a button whether one wants to converse in Spanish or English. This may be an economic benefit, since technology makes it easy to accommodate this group of immigrants’ money transactions, but the upshot is also a reduced incentive by the immigrants to learn the language and adapt to our culture. The culture suffers. The fabric of the nation suffers.

    I am a firm believer in speaking the language of the nation in which one is living.

  40. 40 Brinda
    March 19, 2009 at 16:03

    Pls,,,,,,,,,,,give us all a break,,,,,,,,,,,,English is almost universally accepted as of now and is not in any fear of extinction,,,,,,,,so if a handful of people can not speak this language nothing is going to happen to the social fabric.

    Language should be the least of his problems.

    Again it all boils down to the fact that how accepting are we to other cultures and how open we to learn.

    This person needs to be more open and accepting like the people of England were to him. Again if he has had bad experience then he does not have to continue this tradition.

  41. March 19, 2009 at 16:13

    I do not support or wish for people to be forced to speak the local language of their locality. However, I believe it is very important for one to try and speak as many languages you can including the language of your local community.
    If one is able to speak the language of their local community, it will enable that person to easily integrate into that society and do as the local community without difficulties.
    For instance, I was born in Liberia and moved to Guinea, a French Speaking Country. So l learned how to read and write French including many other local languages such as Lorma, Creoh, Gbandee, Mandingo and through these languages and dialects, I could easily communicate with Guineans with no problem. Now, I live in Beppu, Japan and I am now learning how to read and write the Japanese Language. So upon completion of the Japanese Language studies, I will have known how to read and write 3 International Languages: English, French and Japanese respectively. With this, I will be able to communicate not only with local community members while in Japan, but also others from French and English speaking areas including people from my own tribe.

    Therefore, in order to make life easier while living away from your own locality, it is useful to try by all means to learn the language of your current locality freely.

  42. 42 sam in kansas city
    March 19, 2009 at 16:23

    When in rome do as the romans do. It not only helps you get better service, you will feel more at home with the grroup. But, No one should be forced to do what he feels uncomfotable to do!

  43. 43 Patti in Florida
    March 19, 2009 at 16:26

    Should you be forced to learn the local language? Forced is such a strong word… how about encouraged? It is most logical to want to learn the local language without being told, but I guess not everybody is logical; however, it doesn’t seem fair that in most countries English is spoken. Sometimes it seems that english-speaking people (I think mostly the US) not only expect immigrants to learn the language and speak it fluently, they want the whole world to learn it.

    The attitude is different, too. When I have traveled to South America, people are very friendly and even try to show off the little English they may know. That is definitely not the attitude in the US!

  44. 44 VictorK
    March 19, 2009 at 16:37

    Liberty is important too, and I don’t care for proposals that would further extend the coercive power of government over citizens.

    Two simple measures are all that’s needed: with the exception of asylum seekers, don’t admit anybody into your country who can’t speak the language; and don’t provide translation or bilingual services for anybody already there (asylum seekers excepted) – give them an incentive to learn the language or suffer the consequences. There’s no need to enlarge the power of the state over the citizen.

    And a common language is only one of the things needed for national cohesiveness, as illustrated by the ‘Islamists’ who hate, curse and denounce Britain in perfect English.

  45. 45 David
    March 19, 2009 at 16:56

    This Kumasiri person is only interested in making money as he rightfully says the people who go to his post office and cannot speak English is wasting his time. I would like to know what languages does he know apart from Srilankan and perhaps poor English.

    I have travelled extensively in many European and Asian countries, South America and Africa. Apart from a greeting word, I knew no more in most of these countries. I have never met such a person as Kumasiri, may be I was not that unlucky.

    Recently I visited China on an international meeting. After the meeting a group of us went on a week’s tour around the country. I can assure you that, although none of us knew any of the Chinese language, the people tried very hard to help us, and they were happy to do so. We finished the tour with “thank you China”

    What makes this Kumasiri a “professor” of English? How many of the people in this blog have been in a country that they could not speak and read that country’s language? You will find they are the ones who advocate “force” as a way of making a person learn English. Of course people are not stupid, if they want to live or work in a country, they will strive to learn the local language.

  46. 46 VictorK
    March 19, 2009 at 17:01

    @Luci Smith: a party that defends the cultural traditions of its people isn’t ‘racist’. It simply believes in its national traditions and wants them to survive. That’s healthy; isn’t the alternative to be decadent?

    Every nation should cherish its identity and promote its language, which is at the heart of that identity. I think it outrageous that African countries maintain French, English and Portuguese as ‘national’ languages and neglect the indigenous tongues that actually constitute the fabric of genuine local identities. The one point in which they might want to follow the example of the Afrikaaners is in the way the latter have made their langauge a truly national tongue, expressed in all media forms, with a modern literature, and employed as a medium of education at all levels.

    Identity is important and language is the most important part of identity. People need to learn the language of the country they live in to have any chance of integrating into it. They should be given every incentive to learn.

  47. 47 Eric in Salem Or
    March 19, 2009 at 17:05

    No one should have a language forced upon them and that includes the host country. I know that here in Oregon the printing cost alone are way out of whack do to the state having to print even thing in multiple languages. So if anyone wants to move to a new country it would be in their own best interest to learn the language.

  48. March 19, 2009 at 17:06

    I do not think it is proper for people to be forced to speak another language.
    If they can’t speak the language, fine. If they can, better.
    I am a graduate of language and i know how difficult and challenging it could be, learning a new language.

  49. 49 Dave in Florida
    March 19, 2009 at 17:08

    I speak fair Spanish; however, when I lived in Guatemala for one year I was vilified by the locals because I came to their country and did not speak “fluent” Spanish.

    Here in Florida we have a huge Spanish speaking population and many of them not only make no attempt to learn English, they have the audacity to tell Englsih speaking Americans what horrible people we are because we will not learn Spanish in order to communicate with them.

  50. 50 Nathan
    March 19, 2009 at 17:17

    Because people refuse to learn the local language the world is about to lose 2000 languages… look at Ireland where Galic, the official language, is dying.

  51. 51 Ogola Benard
    March 19, 2009 at 17:20

    That sounds somewhat strange to be forced to speak a local language given the millions of mother tongues.Why doesnt Deva kumarasiri try to learn the various languages so that he can at ease with his customers!In schools only a chosen prefered second language is taught and those people with interest go on to learn more langauges which deva ought to have done.Even then how does he serve his deaf and the dump customers?

  52. 52 Rose in Oregon
    March 19, 2009 at 17:20

    ‘fellow’ americans seem to forget: the US has no official language. English has just become, over the centuries, the common and accepted language. But dig through the history and it has never been officially declared THE language of the US.

    People have different abilites, some are older and cannot learn a new way of verbal communication. I hardly think this ‘joey’ has the mental capacity for learning another language, is it then fair to say he cannot travel or stay a while in another country without this ability?

    I have lived in Finland now for two years- conducting my masters studies- and I can hardly speak a sentence of Finnish. We can still live together, still communicate and learn together…. toleration, acceptance, peace.

  53. 53 Steven in Oregon
    March 19, 2009 at 17:21

    It is crucial that people learn the local language especially when they are being educated in the new country.

    My wife teaches 8 year olds in America. She has some kids who have been here for 5 or 6 years and still struggle very much with English primarily because it is not spoken at home or even encouraged. Those kids require a good deal of additional dollars and services to get their English skills up. A few years is fine, but there comes a time when one must learn to speak the language of the country in which they choose to reside.
    We moved to Japan without speaking a lick of Japanese and immediately got to work to learn Japanese. We felt it was our responsibility to learn their language as a matter of respect.

  54. 54 Seda in Portland, OR
    March 19, 2009 at 17:22

    I understand that this discussion is focused on the UK, but I just heard a man from the US speaking about English being the fundamental language of this country. While it may be the most common language, there is no politically established national language in the US. I don’t know whether this is the same in the UK or not, but I personally believe this to be the only humane way to have it.

  55. 55 Carolyn
    March 19, 2009 at 17:24

    No one should be forced to learn a new language, but it does make it easier to become part of the local culture. My question to those who argue that immigrants must learn quickly is: how many other languages have you tried to learn lately? English is not an easy second language to learn.

    Many other countries require students to learn English when in school, why is that not a requirement in America. I studied 3 languages and know that I am richer for that.

  56. 56 Bardly Geek
    March 19, 2009 at 17:24

    Joey Bento is on the mark.

    It does not take long to learn a few words.
    Get a bilingual dictionary if you are going to a country where you do not know the language.
    Start with “please” and “thank you”.
    Go shopping (or go get a sandwich).

    In Brattislava, I went hungry into a regular grocery store which was not self-service.
    The clerk was patient with me while I looked up “sandwich”, “bread”, “cheese”, “beer”.
    We had fun with the kind of bread: pointing at a good-looking loaf and saying “please” did the job.

    I got lunch (sans beer, which comes from different stores) without ever making the clerk leave her native language.

    By the way: the native shoppers were appreciatively supportive of my efforts.

    It’s not hard to get to the point of ordering an adequate lunch in any language.

  57. 57 doug
    March 19, 2009 at 17:24

    what about a place that is officially (but perhaps controversially) bilingual? quebec would be an obvious example. furthermore the entirety of canada is bilingual as a result of this politico-linguistic controversy. would any of your guests care to comment on this or similar situations?

  58. 58 Katharina in Ghent
    March 19, 2009 at 17:26

    No way, especially in Europe! I live in Belgium (the Flemish part), and while I learned enough Flemish to survive, whenever it’s about something important, I prefer to speak English, just to be sure. In a united Europe with so many different languages it is ridiculous to believe that every single European citizen should learn all 20+ languages that we have here. Also, many higher educational jobs (ie. science) have English as working language anyway.

    Learn English and French, and if you want to stay longer you can still learn the local language. You shouldn’t be forced, though!

  59. 59 Greg
    March 19, 2009 at 17:28

    I love the richness of non-English speaking districts in US cities. Lighten up. Most people try to learn to communicate with the people they interact with. Stop being offended and just enjoy each other.

  60. 60 Katarina
    March 19, 2009 at 17:28

    I came to the US as a refugee and spoke no English. I made an effort to learn and speak English and it took me less than a year to be fluent. I memorized words and phrases, I used a dictionary to look up words I didn’t know, we started speaking English in our family to practice, I watched TV and listened to the radio. Anyone who does these things will learn the language – it’s impossible not to. Some people refuse to learn and that’s not right.

  61. 61 Suresh in New Jersey
    March 19, 2009 at 17:31

    Jeremy, that question can be answered easily.

    Deafness and physical incapacitation is involuntary and the inabilities are not for lack of effort.

    The same is not true of someone voluntarily refusing to make that effort. Learning languages does not require going to classes. Everyone can pick up a language and speak at least a pidgin form of it with a basic level of effort. Humans have done this for centuries.

  62. 62 A.J.
    March 19, 2009 at 17:33

    So, Joey. If some poor schmoe is visiting the U.S. as a tourist and he hears that the food at your joint is really something special and he comes into your place to have a bite to eat are you really going to be so rude as to just give him whatever the next item is off the grill because this poor fellow just wants to patronize your restaurant and have a nice visit to the United States? If you’re the example for these people of what Americans are like you’re making us all look like schmucks. It’s one thing if someone spends years here and has no intention of learning English. There’s no excuse for that. But, if you’re insulting people who are just visiting our country, I say there’s no excuse for that either.

  63. March 19, 2009 at 17:34

    As a tri-lingual American with bits of a couple more, I do not care what languages you can or cannot speak, with one exception. If by not speaking English you deny me services for which I pay – such as public transportation – you should not be allowed to hold the job. When I lived in SF, I occasionally could not get to where I needed to go because the train conductor did not speak comprehensible English. If you have a shop and cannot understand me or make yourself understood, big deal. I can go next door. If you are the only conductor driving a train, that is a different matter.

    If I run, say a post office, and you cannot make yourself understood, the only ‘punishment’ should be not getting your stamps. But the only ‘enforced’ (sic) learning should be in those situations in which you wish to get money from me via the government by holding a job that someone else who has made the effort to learn the language, and for which clear communication is a necessity, has been denied the position.

    Conversely, the idea that you have the ‘right’ not to learn English (as in, you should be provided with a costly translator because you do not wish to endure the embarrassment of learning how to say “A book of stamps, please”) is as ridiculous as the notion that government operatives should force you into – what? – linguistic reeducation camps?

  64. 64 Wendy
    March 19, 2009 at 17:35

    There are resources for people to learn the language of the country they immigrate to but they did not move there to learn the language, they moved there for capitalistic reasons, namely usually because they can make more money for their efforts. When anything is a secondary priority, in this case the learning of language, often not as much energy will be put into it unless it is necessary. This is human nature. There are so many things I ‘should’ learn to better fit into my society even though I am a native: to understand my taxes, the politics, etc. It is idealistic to say that a country is more than an economic machine. That is why they are here. People shouldn’t be forced to learn a language. It will make it easier for them and us, but if you don’t want their money, so be it. It’s all about capital in the end…

  65. 65 Eric
    March 19, 2009 at 17:35

    It’s too bad that this conversation always turns into an antiimmigrant and proimmigrant argument. Learning the language really has nothing to do with immigrant racism, or being against immigrants. I live in LA and get tired of people that work in gas stations and restaurants not being able to communicate on a basic level. It’s true that in the US english is the glue that binds us together. Leaning the main language should be embraced.


    Los Angeles

  66. 66 Ogola Benard
    March 19, 2009 at 17:35

    Perhaps there is something we are missing! What english? Is it native english or any other spoken english? Various countries have there spoken accent which they say is the best spoken english and crasping the english at hand maybe a problem and even get you embarrased!

  67. 67 Jorge in Oregon
    March 19, 2009 at 17:36

    If you work for a company that provides a service then it would stand to reason that the more customers you can serve, the more profitable your company will be. The Philly cheesesteak vendor is an ignorant bigot. I’ve spent a considerable amount of my life living and traveling abroad and I’ve never found closed mindedness to any degree that compares to the US.
    I think those who insist that an enterprise or a govt cater to their needs that are outside the legal/popular language are being just as ignorant.

  68. 68 Pierre
    March 19, 2009 at 17:37

    While I’m somewhat sympathetic to the “Learn English” position, I detect a strong whiff of racism in the debate. Where does one draw the line as to where one is to speak the local language or not? I live in San Francisco, an incredibly multi-cultural city, and even though there are many residents who don’t speak English well, there is tolerance for those people.

    If a Japanese tourist comes to Joey’s restaurant and, even with the help of a phrase book, tries to order. Does Joey treat them with the same disdain as other non-English speakers? I’ve traveled all over the world and even though I have a phrase book with me at all times and can get my message across, I quite often have no idea what the person is saying in response!! Is that my fault for not learning their language fluently?

    I work for a global airline. Do I turn away or dismiss one of my customers for not speaking English? No, I work with them and try to help them.

    My point is that there needs to be a dose of patience and tolerance in this debate, which is sorely missing.

  69. 69 Beth
    March 19, 2009 at 17:38

    I don’t know why the English guest who just spoke is so offended by a Polish restaurant that does not have products in English. I would be appreciative of that kind of diversity in my community. Why not make an effort to learn a little Polish so that one can enjoy the restaurant and welcome one’s new neighbors?

    I lived in San Francisco for many years, and I loved being able to go to Chinatown with Chinese friends and have them order items that were not presented in English on the menu. Diversity was what gave life to the city.

    For me, diversity is the culture of the community. It is what makes a community worth living in. The “us and them” mentality of many of the callers is quite puzzling.

  70. 70 Jonathan
    March 19, 2009 at 17:39

    I think that everyone should be expected to learn the language of their current country. It is inconvenient for the locals or government to have to adapt to an immigrant language, rather than the other way around.

  71. 71 Grey in Oregon
    March 19, 2009 at 17:39

    You should not be forced to speak the local language. However, if you move to a foreign country, you are expected to learn the language. I moved to the US about ten years ago without having any English-speaking skills. I made lots of friends, took a few ESL classes, etc, here I am now, living my dream. Where we live, without speaking English, I would not be able to survive.

  72. 72 Jim in Arizona
    March 19, 2009 at 17:39

    Living in the Southwest part of the US we have been innundated with illegal immigrants to the point that they have a huge buying power.
    Instead of them learning basic English they have forced us to learn Spanish. They have the highest dropout rate for education, Highest unwed mother rate and crime has increased significantly.
    One of your callers wants to make excuses for them such as working hard and no time to learn english but he needs to remember that no one drug them into the US they walked in through the back door on their own.
    Why should we spend tax dollars on their welfare when they break our laws in the first place?
    Then when we challenge this all they do is play the race card and say we are Racist.

  73. 73 H. P. LEE
    March 19, 2009 at 17:41

    Everyone should speak the english while in the country that do speak english. Her in the US I see this all the time and it creates problems for the person who comes here but does not try to learn. The business man who does not want to give service to those who do not speak english or at least try , is his choice. Simply because it is his shop. It was his hard work that makes his business thrive.

  74. March 19, 2009 at 17:42

    I live in many countries and speak many languages, but I don’t think anyone should be forced to learn a language or discriminate against for not speak.

    I am sure anyone that is living in a country for at least a month will realize how important it is to learn the local language, but that should not be forced.

  75. March 19, 2009 at 17:42

    I am surprised that your guests who feel so strongly that all immigrants should learn the english language are neglecting to consider the issue of baseline education and ability to access resources. I work in a migrant farm clinic in rural Oregon and many of my patients are Spanish speaking only. They come to the U.S. to perform hard labor in the orchards for nominal pay in order to support their families. Often, my patients are illiterate in their own language and have sometimes only a 5th grade level of education, or less. They may lack transportation. They may have many young children at home. They may feel very intimidated to even access a community center where the staffer is not likely to speak their language. It may be easy to say “just go to the local community center or buy a phrase book,” but for some immigrants there are indeed significant barriers to these simple steps. Please be more aware that not everybody has the same background as you and has the capability to buy books and drive to the community center. I work everyday to improve my Spanish skills so I can make my patients feel more comfortable.

  76. 76 Jeff in Oregon
    March 19, 2009 at 17:43

    It seems to me like what is really being discussed is the fear of non-English speaking groups gaining too much socio-economic power. Especially when considering the US. “Taking over,” some might think. It’s certainly polite to try to learn another language when you’re in that country, but forcing a language on others is silly. What are we going to do? Call the police when someone won’t speak English at the counter?

  77. 77 Luz Maria Gordillo
    March 19, 2009 at 17:46

    I think that it is ridiculous that privileged callers expect immigrants to learn a different language. First, they are ignoring institutionalized racism that serves as a gatekeeper for immigrants who do have opportunities to learn the language. Let’s turn the tables: EuroAmerican illegal immigrants are settling in San Miguel de Allende Mexico for the past 20 years. Most do not speak the language but expect locals to learn English when they are in their own country. The point here is that EuroAmericans and Europeans who speak English (some speak worse than some immigrants that I know) are incredibly arrogant and elitist. Have they learned another language? Does the guest from England speak a different language. Does she know the cognitive process involved in learning another language? I am an immigrant from Mexico and a U.S. Chicana/o History professor at Washington State University in Vancouver and I see the difficulty that native students have when trying to learn a different language. The arrogance that Euroamericans have toward other cultures is now working against them, particualrly in the labor market. If they took the time to learn from other people even in other languages perhaps they might be able to become less narrow minded and begin to accept the fact that in this global world cities are centers of diversity. The “bad manners” woman needs a bit of reality check when it comes to being more global and less ignorant and less unilateral when it comes to learning. A statement like “not serving is you don’t speak English” is racist and the fact that some of your guests are even considering this alternative tells and emphasizes the arrogance of Euroamericans and some Europeans. The idea that most immigrants live in “ghettoes” again reiterates her own racist images of immigrants. My advice, chill out and instead of whining about other people not learning their own language and culture they should put more emphasis in their own personal learning and growth as global citizens, because right now they are all acting like ignorant and backward global citizens.

  78. 78 Jorge
    March 19, 2009 at 17:46

    People confuse being asked to speak their adoptive country’s language as a transgression against their culture and values. In the contrary the easy way to share the beauty of their culture is through their ability to communicate it. If you emigrate to prosper how could u do so without the basic ability to communicate in the native language? I did! Look at Miami, a city full of Latinos that have grown complacent about speaking English because they have created a Spanish-centered micro-culture.

  79. March 19, 2009 at 17:47

    I don’t know how people can be forced to learn the local language, although they should of course be encouraged. For some people, especially those with poor education, learning a new language can be virtually impossible. How would you fare in China or Japan for example?

    Bob in Florida asks ‘Why do they continue to separate themselves in their own communities?’ This is typical of the American and British experience; they seldom learn the language of the foreign countries they live and work in. They are notorious for being inept linguists. And for keeping to their own clubs.

    Learning Spanish and French in my youth immeasurably enriched my life. Today I volunteer as interpreter for Hispanic patients at a Free Clinic in the States. I meet people who did not go to school at all and sign their names with a cross. They are disadvantaged by poverty and ignorance. Should they have stayed at home and presumably starved? Last week a woman told me she has been here 23 years without learning English. I asked her ‘Why did you not learn the language? ‘ She was widowed young and raised four children by herself, all High School graduates. She worked in the fields picking vegetables, all that was accessible to her, and prejudiced her health in the process. But her children are launched in a new life with vastly improved prospects over their Mexican origins. Would you call her idle? Or refuse to sell her stamps?

    Before you rush to judgement, listen to their stories. If necessary in their own languages.

  80. 80 Raj
    March 19, 2009 at 17:49

    I have been listening to the PRI online over the discussion..and somehow local language has been replaced by the term “english language”. The deal for everyone..who is traveling/migrating to a foreign country needs to know enough language,customs and traditions to be able to communicate/interface with the local populace. This applies to english speakers and non-english speakers alike. More you travel more is the need to know about the local population.

    Moderator please ..Keep the discussion to “local language” and NOT “english language”. I am already seeing the discussion becoming “us” against “them”.

    Migrants have a choice to learn the local language. If they do not, they risk the possibility of not being integrated into the local society, but remember it is their choice and we all live in a free societies ( hopefully!!!).

  81. March 19, 2009 at 17:51

    Immigrants should not be forced but should not be provided
    with interpreters at government expense. Otherwise you have
    the additional expense to the host country plus employment in
    government offices that deal with the citizens limited to the
    nationalities that refuses to learn. Look at California for a
    really good example. Those who refuse to learn the language
    may be here only to obtain the benefits and then return to their
    original country.

  82. 82 Pete
    March 19, 2009 at 17:51

    I totally agree with Roberto (on the audio program) on this. Maybe it is because of the difference between U.S. immigration and immigration around the world. I think in the U.S. children should grow up knowing how to speak Spanish and one other language. I don’t feel that the impetus should be on an already stretched thin oppressed group to learn English. English should not be privileged with such a fervor it discursively problematizez all non-English languages. This is a huge problem. Why should all immigrants be expected to change when history shows us that language, culture, religion etc. are not static and change with a nation as demographics change. I personally embrace a cultural shift from this English centered U.S. to one which recognizes and values the language of its residents and neighbors. The majority of the people on the program have a xenophobic approach to this and are spending too much time assuming and justifying for the English language. I think it would be wise for the guests to stop for a moment and try and embrace a less assimilation centered approach and imagine a nation that would incorporate other languages through bilingual education and other incorporating approaches. The one last thing is that the way guests are talking about how crippling it is to not know the local language is offensive. Do you think people who only speak Spanish living in the U.S. have gone without milk, cheese sandwiches and have been dying in fires because emergency dispatches don’t understand them? I agree with Roberto–more facts and less conservative xenophobic rhetoric.

  83. 83 Anthony
    March 19, 2009 at 17:52

    @ Kelly in Oregon

    I have one word for you. Mormons. My friend went on his mission in Chile. He went to muiltiple hour Spanish classes for 3 months, and he new PERFECT spanish by the end. These immigrants should AT LEAST know basic English. It will actually help them get better jobs/pay in the long run. And if your to lazy to even do this, then you don’t deserve to come to the U.S.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  84. 84 Hannah
    March 19, 2009 at 17:56

    A Polish shopkeeper IN ENGLAND can kick a young woman out of his store for being an English speaking native. People immigrate with too much of sence of entitlement. English is not my first language but I learned and am still learning. Language is a huge part of a culture. It is disrespect to not learn the language of new community.

  85. 85 K. James
    March 19, 2009 at 17:58

    College Park MD-USA

    My grandfather was an Italian immigrant. No one helped him to learn English and no one facilitated his understanding by talking to him in Italian or publishing documents in Italian. He learned English because he needed a job and wanted his children to be Americans. He was barley legible and spoke with a bad accent, but her rarely spoke Italian. This generation went on to have children that were teacher, doctors lawyers etc. It worked- why change it?

  86. March 19, 2009 at 17:58

    We Understand You! Try to Understand Us!
    TEHRAN – Language is a two-way affair. Everyone must understand English. It is universal.
    We speak a different language. We live a different life. We have different values. It works. It’s not language which leads to great thoughts but customs patterns which have been been handed down through the ages – The Origin of Species. Intelligent Design is at the heart of creation, accessible to all mankind, regardless of colour, race or creed. Every language reveals an aspect of this mystery.

  87. 87 Rob
    March 19, 2009 at 17:59

    The US has always been a country of immigrants and that diversity has been our great strength however as a native born us citizen I’m offended that people stream into my country from all over the world in search of the freedoms and oportunities that are abundant in this beautiful place,and yet are unwilling to make even the slightest effort to integrate or learn the official language of the US.
    An intelligent adult immigrating to any new culture would have to be an idiot to think they can survive or prosper without making a effort to learn the language,its always been so here,weather the immigrants were italian or polish or whatever they’ve all learned the language and all newcomers anywhere have no right to hold on to there old culture and languge if they insist on that course they should have stayed home and fixed what was wrong with their country of origin. In my home state of Oregon we have immigrants from virtually everywhere,some assimalate some do not,they have no right to expect us to cater to they’re lack of effort by learning their language,thats just beyond the pale,and ridiculous on its face,I wonder if they would have that same attitude if I were to immigrate to their backword country,that they were so happy to leave. Whatever happened to the night classes in remedial english that so many other immigrants have used to assimilate into our society? This state already is financially stressed due to having to teach multicultural children in our schools in 15 or so foreign languages and I’ve heard them comment that they try to teach they’re parents who by and large are not interested. To my way of thinking all legal immigrants should be forced to learn the language of the country to which they desire to immegrate in a legal way as opposed to the actual way the majority of the immigrants here chose to enter our country but thats a whole differant discussion. The postman who started this discussion is after all a goverment employee and just needs to try to serve the postal customers as best he can without imposing his own frustrations and anger in his workplace,but human nature being what it is we all judge others by our own standards.

  88. 88 thomasjasen
    March 19, 2009 at 17:59

    Let me say, that as a black American, everything is done to teach foreigners to be part of the status quo. Sometimes I find these foreigners are more racist then the culture in power.
    When I left Vietnam, I came home to find that my former enemy was getting education classes that my little brother could not take part in. Today, I find the Hispanics getting better eduction then my nephew. When my grandfather helped a German to learn English, the first thing he did to get accepted by his white american peers was to show he could say the ‘n’ word.
    after 9/11, a teenage Arab girl said on CNN, why are they treating us like Blacks?
    So, it seems to me, that if you don’t speak English when you get here, you can still be an american if as long as you can say the ‘n’ word.

  89. March 19, 2009 at 17:59

    As a government employee in two foreign countries I
    attempted to learn at least enough of the local language
    to be able to communicate basic courtesy and obtain
    basic information for travel. Quite often retained the
    services of an interpreter because I didn’t expect the
    locals to required to accommodate my shortcomings.

  90. March 19, 2009 at 18:03

    i live in houston tx and i can tell you this language barrier is out of hand .i went to get a building permit and could not find the form in english we have created a little mexico right here in houston.students are taught in spanish and my employees demand that i learn spanish so better commiunicate with them.i for one am sick of this and have pledged to higher only english or bilingual speakers

  91. 91 Bola from Portland, OR
    March 19, 2009 at 18:03

    This conversation is enraging me. All of these middle/upper class people demanding that poor immigrants learn English. Most poor people don’t CHOOSE to move to another country. They do so because they feel they have no choice. The two women on the show were complaining about how immigrants don’t leave their community and integrate into broader society. I wonder how many poor immigrants they know? I wonder how often they leave their upper-middle class communities to meet people who are not like them? Please STOP the hate, racism and xenophobia we have heard for the last hour!

  92. 92 Larry
    March 19, 2009 at 18:04

    Many conflicts start due to misunderstanding, even if all parties are speaking the smae language. Visitors to any country should have some leeway in their language; however, if you decide to move to another country you should learn their language. Those who choose not to learn the language of their new country are showing disrespect.
    I’ve tried to learn 4 different languages and was a total failure; however, if I moved to another country and was immersed in the culture I’m am sure that I would learn the local language. You have to have the desire.

  93. 93 Tom Kirkman
    March 19, 2009 at 18:05

    I believe it is the responsibility of the visitor, or newcomer, to any country to learn the language of that country. It is not the responsibility of the local population to learn the language of those who have come to their country.

    One caller on today’s program suggested that it was the responsibility of the government (the taxpayers) to provide the resources for newcomers to learn the language. Nonsense – the person who learns the new language is the one who receives the benefit and thus it is their responsibility to fund their own learning process. The idea that such a burden should be carried by the taxpayers is offensive to me and shows the continued lean away from any sense of personal responsibility for one’s own health and welfare.

    I will add this – wise business owners often do learn additional languages so that they can reap additional business. This is wise, but is not required. Again, the burden for proper communication should be on the visitor or newcomer.

    Tom Kirkman
    North Carolina

  94. 94 Craig
    March 19, 2009 at 18:08

    I think if you are moving to a country you are not a native to, it is your responsibility to learn the language. A gentlemen earlier made the statement “It is the governments responsibility to give you the tools to become a citizen”. Why? The government is paid for by the citizens and unless you were forced to move there by the government or its citizens, it is YOUR responsibility to learn what is needed to live in the new country YOU choose to move to. A person should take all things such as language into consideration before moving to a new country. This is a major decision and should not be taken lightly.

  95. 95 Henry. LA CA
    March 19, 2009 at 18:11

    Integrating the language of “new immigrants” is not a new concept when looking at American English (German and French words are used i.e. Kindergarden, Angst, Coup d’etat, etc). It does not unravel a culture, but is part of cultural evolution.
    As an immigrant to the US from Germany and having traveled the globe, I believe besides the obvious advantages of learning the host language, simply is a common courtesy doing so. On the flipside, the people of the host country should be tolerant to new comers by trying to communicate with the immigrants.

  96. 96 Madeleine
    March 19, 2009 at 18:11

    “Forced” seems a really non appropriate word when it comes to a learning process. People should be forced but strongly helped. Learning a new language can be a long and difficult road, but from my experience anyone who really needs to learn a new language will take the time and the energy to do so. My parents are Portuguese, when they’ve moved to France, they learn french because they had no choice. It helped them to be part of the community, and feel more integrated in their new country. I’ve experienced the same situation when I moved from France to the USA. It will unrealistic to ask the US citizens to adapt themselves to my lack of vocabulary. It is my responsability to make myself understood since I’m the one who decided to change my life by moving into their country. Bottom line : Learning the language of the country where you’ve moved is above all a form of respect.

  97. 97 Jessica in NYC
    March 19, 2009 at 18:16

    Interesting, in reply to the first caller (Joey?) who seems more xenophobic than taking pride in English language. You are wrong, the US does NOT have an official language. English is the common language, but unlucky for you that the Statue of Liberty does not limit migration to people who speak English:

    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  98. 98 Dexter
    March 19, 2009 at 18:18

    I don’t think you should be forced into speaking another language, that is a choice you should make for yourself.


  99. 99 skewed
    March 19, 2009 at 18:20

    As others have said, it’s common sense, as well as common courtesy, to learn the basics, especially if you’ve immigrated and intend to be in the country for the rest of your days. For those who are in a country without the intention to stay long-term, though, learning the language may be less important. Having lived in a variety of non-English speaking countries for work, I tried to get the pleases and thanks yous along with the bits and pieces that would make my day easier, but knowing I’d be leaving in a year or two and never use them again, didn’t try for more than that.

  100. 100 Ken
    March 19, 2009 at 18:21

    It is embarrassing how proud so many Americans are of their ignorance of languages, including what we call English. Contrary to the uninformed claims of certain xenophobes, immigrants do learn new languages and assimilate, but not always completely until the second or third generation. Citizens of host countries can speed the process by learning only a few words of the native language of their new neighbors. Apparently Americans are no the only ones too lazy to make the effort.

  101. 101 Sara Yurman
    March 19, 2009 at 18:21

    Let’s offer visitors and newcomers a bit of hospitality. People all over the world have been kind to me when my French or Spanish fails, my Serbian or Bahasa Indonesia or Chichewa or whatever didn’t exist. Yes, people should do their best to learn local languages. At the same time, it’s much easier if everyone tries to help. The plain fact is that most people do learn over time.

  102. 102 Jessica in NYC
    March 19, 2009 at 18:22

    I speak two languages fluently, am learning a third and am conversational in a fourth. I think it’s important to acquaint yourself with the language and cultural of the places you visit, relocate to or do business in. However, this conversation is has two sides to it, the business and migration aspects.

    It’s especial to be able to communicate, but it also depends on the place you are visiting. For example in the touristy places in Mexico, they will speak to you in varies languages and even negotiate with you in a currently that is easier for you. I think businesses and communities do a good job of catering to their clients, especially the English speaking ones.

    On a trip to Teotihuacan when a group of friends and I we finished climbing one of the Aztec pyramids we were swarmed with people selling nick-knacks. After a dozen “no, thank yous” in Spanish fell on deaf ears, we decided to turn the accents on and pretend we did not speak Spanish. Well, he out smarted us and was able to give us his pitch in Greek, English, Mandarin and Italian.

  103. 103 Joscelyne
    March 19, 2009 at 18:22

    For me this is a hospitality issue. Isn’t it the responsibility of the host to create a welcoming environment? Instead of angrily complaining about the language skills of others, as a hospitable person, I would instead try to wonder why it is so hard for folks to learn English. Also, I should feel that it is my duty to learn Spanish and French since our neighbors in the US to the north and south speak those languages. Yes, it is very practical to learn the language of the country you live in, but situations and conditions can make that very hard. Let us be good and welcoming hosts, not selfish and narrow people.
    Also, point of fact: When my mother’s water broke right before I was born, her neighbor did not speak English, but he understood just fine what was happening and drove her to the hospital.

  104. 104 Vijay
    March 19, 2009 at 18:26

    Should you be forced to speak the local language?

    No not really,this person is in business and should try to fulfill his customers wishes whether he understands them or not,it is polite and good business practice,the customer is king

    This person protests too much .something is not quite right
    Check this Sri Lankans asylum seekers’ paperwork and kick him out of the UK, surely there is some way to get rid of this guy on a technicality .Most asylum seekers are phoneys anyway.

  105. 105 Kevin King
    March 19, 2009 at 18:26

    If you want to be part of any country or culture you must speake the language.If you work for a company do you not follow the company policies and values.

  106. 106 Ogola Benard
    March 19, 2009 at 18:27

    Do you find it justifiabled if the post office provided another section for non english speaking customer?

  107. 107 Maxime
    March 19, 2009 at 18:27

    In principle Mr Deva Kumarasiri is damn right.
    When in the UK speak at least English, or try to do so, and respect
    the British way of life.

  108. 108 Shaun in Halifax
    March 19, 2009 at 18:29

    There’s a phrase I’m sure all of our parents used at one point: When you are under my roof, you will obey my rules.

    I know it will sound parochial, but a similar turn of phrase could be, When you move to or live in my country, you should try your best to learn the language and customs.

    Should you be forced to speak the local language? Absolutely not. Does it make life easier for all parties concerned? Absolutely.

    In Canada, the two official languages are English and French, yet we have a large Asian population throughout the country. Since Mandarin is not an officially recognized language, no court, legal or government proceedings are conducted in Mandarin. In order to get along, Chinese immigrants must learn either English or French.

  109. 109 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    March 19, 2009 at 18:31

    Tiru, a 70 year old Sri Lankan Tamil refugee, went to the USA without a word of English. My friend, her sister “Sue” whose visa had been approved some years before, was still teaching her sister Tiru English when Tiru died of cancer.

    Tiru died trying. Lot’s more people should live, trying.

  110. March 19, 2009 at 18:37

    Having taught English as long as I have, I can say that the problem with people learning English is quite simply that English speakers don’t actually speak English with any accuracy, or consistency.

    After 6 years in Japan, listening to Americans speak is atrocious! In all honesty, as long as we don’t speak directly, and we dance around the topics, our language will disintegrate.

  111. 111 Maria in SW Florida
    March 19, 2009 at 18:39

    I have been following this conversation for a while now today.

    I want to say that as the daughter of immigrants who came to the US over 40 years ago, it is possible and to an extent not a good thing that some people in my country are isolated in their native language communities and don’t learn the local language. While many do want to learn English and many do try to learn they are not always successful for different reasons.

    I think it is wrong for Dr. Ruth to say that people should just go to libraries and get information or take classes. I will graduate with my MLIS this summer and work in a library system in a county where the Latino population is probably close to 20%, many people fear entering libraries bc they are government entities and fear they will be asked to produce documents that prove they are in this country legally.

    What we should do, instead of alienating and ignoring the buying power and contributions of immigrants around us, is put our money where our mouths are and VOLUNTEER TO TEACH. At the very least these shopkeepers should put out information on local literacy programs and encourage their customers to contact these organizations.

    To say that some people just don’t want to learn couldn’t be farther from the truth. In many cases, newcomers work very long hours, are not offered workplace literacy programs and are just trying to survive in their host country.

    I agree that their children should not be their interpreters and that people should make an effort to learn the local language but the demand far outweighs the available resources. I think we – immigrants and non-immigrants alike, should try to create an exchange in the conversation so that the experience is pleasant and less scary to both parties. We could all be more sensitive and helpful!

  112. 112 Dada
    March 19, 2009 at 18:41

    I understand that UK is home for English people and people, who live in UK they should be able to speak English language. But what should I do, when English people would come to visit my country or live there and they would not be able to speak my language??? Should I try with them like Deva Kumarasiri???

  113. 113 Josiah Soap
    March 19, 2009 at 18:42

    This guy is HERO. He is saying what most Brits are thinking, but are too afraid to say because it would be labelled hate speech. I agree if they want to live in UK they have to learn English or should go home. They should also be forced to accept and celebrate OUR customs, if not don’t come to the UK. If we went to an Arabic or African country that didn’t speak English we would need to learn their language. As for celebrating our own customs and way of life, this wouldn’t be allowed. Why then is it that in Western countries if you push your culture and expect people to fit in with it then its racist, but doing so in other countries is thought of enpowering them? Its the typcial double standards of PC. The Queen should give this guy a knighthood.

  114. 114 Emmanuel Mgbemene
    March 19, 2009 at 18:45

    Let there be no controversy about this.It is the sole duty of the visitor or immigrant to learn the language of his host.However, it should never be by force.

    Emmanuel Mgbemene

  115. 115 Cecilia
    March 19, 2009 at 18:54

    I am a Spaniard in the UK and not for one second I thought I could get away with not speaking the language… Just requires a little effort and you can get great reward and respect from it, on top of enriching yourself

  116. 116 Bruno
    March 19, 2009 at 18:57

    I think mr Deva Kumarasiri has a point in principle but refusing a service to a non-english speaking person like he does is simply rude..

  117. 117 Kurt Patterson
    March 19, 2009 at 18:58

    A language is more than a means of communication, it embodies the culture, values and symbols of a particular set of people. I would encourage immigrants to learn the popular language of the country for practical reasons. Making this compulsory, on the other hand,, has no place in a democratic society that embraces multiculturalsm and diversity.

  118. 118 Andrew from Moscow
    March 19, 2009 at 19:03

    Studying and knowing foreign languages is very good for human memory, developing of human personality. It does not matter what language do you study. How many languages do you speak so many human souls do you have. Rack your brains, don’t spare you, you will have much more knowledges – the only most important thing on earth.

  119. 119 Beth
    March 19, 2009 at 19:11

    The English speakers who complain are usually higher class, more educated, with more leisure time than poor immigrants who work many hours sometimes seven days a week. They feel they are viewed as inferior. I’ve found that many immigrants, non-English speakers are afraid to embarrass themselves, they understand but are hesitant to speak. They desperately want to learn but may have not attended school in their own country – they can’t read in their own language.

    I learned Spanish as a toddler living in Puerto Rico because of my mother’s strong efforts. But I was a rarity – most other Americans didn’t learn Spanish. Knowing Spanish has enriched my life immeasurably. Not only Spanish speakers, but it’s made me curious about every foreign culture and eager to get to know them. Language is a passport into another delicious point of view. I recommend that everyone enrich themselves by learning as many languages as they can.

  120. March 19, 2009 at 19:28

    I am an Indian Singaporean and i am with Deva on this issue. Singapore has four official languages – English, Malay (National language), Chinese (Mandarin) and Tamil. English has always been the first language in the education and business and literature systems. However, since the 1980’s, the then Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew has been promoting the use of Mandarin through state-sponsored media and publications and politics. Since then, it has created lots of inconveniences especially for the non-Chinese residents of Singapore. The non-Chinese Singaporeans face extreme difficulties in seeking jobs because local companies are increasingly demanding for Chinese-speaking applicants or even as means of everyday communications. This inconvenience spreads further when the government demands companies and its employees to master the Chinese language so as to attract mainland Chinese businessmen into venturing into Singapore as a trade-hub. My country has even been lenient towards Chinese immigrants who have zero skills in the English language. That makes it even harder for us (non-Chinese residents of Singapore) to communicate with them on a regular basis – especially when you run a business of your own (like a convenience store) and they converse to you in Chinese as though you are expected to understand what they are saying. I and other non-Chinese residents (i am sure) are feeling the same level of unease and discomfort – feeling alienated and realising our country is slowly becoming more like Hong-Kong. What happened to the good old days when everyone understood and spoke English? If immigrants don’t take the effort to learn the local languages (and English isn’t a difficult language to learn!) then how are non-Chinese citizens supposed to feel as though they are still part of the country?!

  121. 121 Angela
    March 19, 2009 at 19:31

    Duh?!! If someone adopts a new country as their own, it is only natural to want to learn the language of that country as soon as possible.

    I think the use of the word “force” in today’s topic question is a bit overboard. Adapting should come from a deep desire, not force.

    If you go to another country to live permanently, it better be because you love their culture, people, language and customs. When I, an American, studied in Italy, I was very impressed by the way African friends were able to adapt so quickly and learned to speak Italian, it seems, wihout even taking formal classes. Their ingenuity, intelligence and willingness to “become Italian” demonstrated to me that immigrants can quickly adapt to their new homeland. Those who fight this assimilation probably had the wrong reasons for emigrating in the first place.

  122. 122 VictorK
    March 19, 2009 at 19:49

    @ Jessica in NYC March 19, 2009 at 18:16

    What’s the Statue of Liberty got to do with anything? The words inscribed on its plaque aren’t from any of America’s Founding Fathers. They were added several years after the statue’s dedication and come from a poem by a private citizen, Emma Lazarus. The statue was a gift from France to the American people. It had nothing to do with immigration. It was originally a private, not a Federal, venture. Lazarus’ poem appears to have been inspired by her work with Jewish refugees from Russia. She had no more standing than any other private person when it came to American immigration policy.

    In the 1920s when Congress did address the issue of immigration, it wasn’t in the sentimental, open-borders spirit of Lazarus’ poem. It sharply restricted immigration, since neither it nor the American people liked the amount or the quality of immigrants the country had been getting since the 1880s. The restrictionist legislation passed was intended to preserve the traditional character of the US as a Northwest European, Protestant, and English-speaking country. Every country has the right to preserve itself in the same way.

  123. 123 Jon From Philly
    March 19, 2009 at 20:47

    The long and short of it are simple. NO, you shouldn’t be “forced” to learn the local language. Least in the case of the US I think it should be required criteria that a prospective immigrant should have a working knowledge of English or have the ability to acquire the needed education while in-country in specified period of time. If you can not hold a basic conversation and understand and read on a basic level, then you should be either denied entrance or deported. The lack of knowledge of the local language is both a drain on the government and its resources and health and safety issue for its citizens. It is in no way the government’s responsibility to teach you the language of the country to which you are immigrating to, that is your responsibility. If you are moving someplace to take advantage of greater opportunities then you should 1.) Afford yourself the full ability to take advantage of that opportunity by knowing the local language and 2.) Have enough respect for the citizens of that country to make learning the language in its basic form a priority.

  124. 124 Krzysztof
    March 19, 2009 at 22:01

    Now I’m staying in Spain. Before coming here I couldn’t speak Spanish. It was very difficult to communicate with the locals. Almost no one speaks English. Even if they do, they prefer to speak Spanish or Gallego. That’s why I think we should speak the language of the natives. Of course we should speak other languages, but still if one is going to send more time in another country then one have to speak that language. Just to communicate and not to feel alienated. I can’t speak proper Spanish and I feel bit like a little alien in Vigo.

  125. 125 Mike Morrell
    March 19, 2009 at 22:37

    I listened to the programme tonight and – based on my personal experience as an expat – my first question was: whose problem is it if someone doesn’t read/write/speak the local language(s) when requesting local services?

    My second question was: to what extent should service providers cater to people who do not read/write/speak the local language(s)?

    Regarding the first question, it’s clearly the problem of the person requesting the service. He/she needs to ensure that the request – and the response – are clearly communicated. If translation is needed then the onus is on the requestor.

    Regarding the second question, it depends on the local circumstances. For some Central/Local governmental agencies, it may be more effecive/efficient to provide support in a limited number of non-local languages support rather than dealing with the effects of ad-hoc translations. .

    For the case in point, it seems ludicrous to expect that post office staff in the UK to provide support for all languages. Again, if translation is needed then the onus is on the requestor.

    Mike Morrell

  126. 126 Paul
    March 20, 2009 at 00:58

    My grandmother emigrated from what is now Croatia, to the US, in 1911. Her parents died here, speaking very little english. Grandma was six when she came over, never got far in school, and still learned the language while retaining her own. Her children, my father included, never learned the old language. My father has become one of the english only folks, as well; and, no matter what you tell him, no matter what evidence you cite, he always maintains that the Mexicans and Asians aren’t learning the language the way they did “in the old days.” Dad is so wrong. In study after study, the pattern of language learning among immigrants holds pretty steady, pretty much that which occurred in our extended immigrant family.

    The difference between then and now is that Latin Americans, especially, but also Asians, in the US are part of a much larger and more stable immigrant community that allows them to keep their old language across generations of immigrants, and of course, the push to “Americanize” completely isn’t quite what it used to be, and getting rid of the native tongue isn’t seen to be essential, except in mostly low income, mostly white, and usually older, white communities, those who feel the most left behind. Still, the older the immigrant, the least likely it will be they will learn english. Parents learn some, but given their long work hours and the fact their kids can translate for them, they tend not to learn as much. Kids learn as if breathing it in. You fit in better if you can speak to the other kids, and while one can date someone you can’t talk to, it’s much easier to get the girl or the boy if you can at least converse.

    What really kills me are the claims that our culture will suffer. I can’t speak for England, but last I checked, the French–who hate America as much as anyone in Europe, are having trouble keeping the English and the American out of the French language, and American culture out of France. Who wears a kimono in real life in Japan any more? It’s American casual across the globe, even in remote regions, where to the dismay of elderly armchair scholars, even National Geographic is now more likely to show jungle folk whose women wear T-shirts instead of the bare breasts that were once so common among the natives. How on earth could US and British culture be threatened at home when it is so popular, and prevalent, across the globe? Um, isn’t it the Indians who are playing the best Cricket? And isn’t India the biggest english speaking country of all? Oh, I get it, if we don’t enforce English-only at home, it will destroy Indian culture. Of course, stupid me.

  127. 127 primal convoy in Japan
    March 20, 2009 at 02:08

    In Japan, where I live, Japanese people discriminate quite a bit based upon this very same aspect.

    Japan features many English language services, like bilingual Cash-Points (ATMs), some English speaking staff (at post offices) but there are also a lot of Japanese that cannot or will not speak English.

    In these cases, it has been reported that, due to either a fear of encountering non-Japanese language, xenophobia (or just plain, old fashioned racism), foreigners have been discriminated against.

    Examples include hot-springs, restaurants, and bars refusing foreigners or foreign-looking people (even if those people CAN actually speak Japanese).

    Also, similar cases of foreigners not being allowed the rights to rent flats/apartments, join gyms, get credit cards etc also have boiled down to the foreigners “inability to speak Japanese”.

    My Brazilian friends who work in factories have been forbidden to speak in their own language to each other if there is a Japanese worker (usually a boss) present or nearby and must speak Japanese.

    Even in private English “conversation schools” in Japan, foreigner teachers, no matter how good their Japanese ability, are forbidden to use Japanese to help low-level students (and often from speaking at all even outside the classroom), whereas their Japanese colleagues, themselves English teachers, are allowed to speak in either Japanese or English (no matter what level of English they may have).

    These problems cannot be solved easily as Japan is the only developed country in the world with no anti-racial discrimination laws at all in place (you can only settle these matters in the heavily biased, slow as heck civil courts).

    This compounds the problem in Japan of the so called idea of Japanese people’s sense of their own uniqueness, where it is said they believe that “Only we Japanese can speak Japanese and thus understand Japanese ways of doing things and our culture. You foreigners simply do not understand).

    Thus, I have even encountered incidents where I have spoken basic Japanese to a Japanese and they have either tried to speak back in English or said in Japanese “I cant speak English”.

    Although I believe that the UK should use English as much as possible, I also believe that signs should have other languages on them (if you go to “Hartfield” near East Grinstead, you will notice many local signs have Japanese, due to the fact that “Pooh-San” is VERY popular over here!), cash-points should at least be bilingual (heck even Japanese post office machines are AND they speak in English to you too) and foreign language education should improve.

    Otherwise, who is to say that similar problems, like I have mentioned above, will again resurface in the UK like they have continued to thrive and at times, flourish, in Japan?

  128. 128 Dennis Junior
    March 20, 2009 at 02:53

    I think it is semi-good thing to be forced to speak the local language…
    ~Dennis Junior~

  129. 129 Morelia
    March 20, 2009 at 04:45

    Nobody should be forced, but it should be expected that a person would do their best to learn the language of the country they are in. And I also think some patience and consideration should be extended to those struggling to learn.

  130. 130 Philip Salmon
    March 20, 2009 at 09:29

    The question of learning the Language of the country you are in is basic to being a citizen of that country.

    I believe that English is a basic language for communication in almost 75% of the world and if you stay in a country where English is the language of that country you should learn it so as to communicate better and be accepted into the country’s culture and fabric.

  131. 131 Atsu
    March 20, 2009 at 09:30

    If u live in any local community, you should be able to communicate well with others in the same locality. This is a basic requirement of communities. If this rule is not upheld, we can’t live together successfully in communities. So a common language is vital.
    However, i don’t think we should rush people into learning local languages especially when they are recent immigrants. With time they should learn it and integrate better into their communities-this is in their own interest!

  132. 132 Arthur Njuguna
    March 20, 2009 at 09:30

    I don’t think learning English is the reason though I feel that when in a foreign country, Language is very important. Howe long has Deva lived in England? I think his problem must be unique because this is the first time that I have heard this issue raised. The truth is, however there few countries who are comfortable with migrants especially now when everyone is touchy due to economic problems. They go about this by introducing new vetting criterias for vetting and scaling down purposes. This however is just a stop gap and things are bound to change with time.

    English is not just a matter of language alone. It is a whole way of life ranging from the way you eat to the way you conduct yourself in social and even working environment. I think it is important for him to not only learn the language but he should be made to know their way of life. It is not that all English people speak the language. Deaf Brits don’t speak English. May be the problem stem from his approach of doing things there in England.

    Why should Deva not learn English? Does he expect the English people to learn his language enmass? People in his own country are already learning English at home and I think it asking too much to go all the way to England to learn the language.

  133. 133 Livia Varju
    March 20, 2009 at 09:31

    If people have settled in a country, of course they must learn the local language. Otherwise, how can they become responsible citizens and how can they raise children who will be patriotic and feel a dutybound to serve their country in their work and in voting

  134. 134 K.Balakumaran
    March 20, 2009 at 09:54

    If you want to live in pakistan it is not possible at all without learning to speak URDU,the local language is spoken.In Germany they will reply in German language.In Saudi Arabia the same apply.In SriLanka all the signs are in Sinhalese only.If you do not know Sinhala you cannot survive there. But in U.K only these people refuse to learn and speak English.Mr Kumarasiri cannot speak URDU or PUNJABI or HINDI. so that thinking he is a pakistani and speak in URDU will not work and he will not understand a word in those funny languages.He knew only English and live in an ideal world and can serve those who speak English only.
    I myself found in the cold when people think that I am a Pakistani and speak in URDU. my reply is in English the Great KLanguage and very easy and sweet Language to learn.
    All the Muslims learn Arabic other than their mother tongue then why not learn English.This Govt should make it compulsory and stop spending money for interpreters which is a waste of resources.

  135. 135 primal convoy in Japan
    March 20, 2009 at 14:50

    Living in Japan, I and a number of other foreigners feel alienated by Japanese culture. Some, like myself, don’t feel welcomed and feel that we are here as something to be jabbed and prodded at. I also don’t want to engage in the Japanese “group mentality” way of doing things and feel that even Japanese themselves feel alienated by their own culture. Japanese language itself,even if you are good at it, is not a great communication tool, as there are more “taboo” or “unspoken” aspects involved.

    Thus, even those foreigners with great Japanese ability are not always that enthusiastic about conversing with Japanese people all the time.

    Of course this isn’t true for everyone, but I’ve met quite a few who have held these or similar views. Thus, it can dissuade people from learning the language in the first place.

    Couple that with a lack of trust in domestic services, products etc and then you have foreign people who merely want to live where they are (economic benefits etc) and not have much to do with the host culture.

    I’m sure this is also how it is with expat or immigrant communities all over the world, to some extent.

  136. 136 Ibrahim in UK
    March 20, 2009 at 16:03

    Not forced no. British people living in Spain or Dubai or Greece are not forced to learn the local language so why should we expect others to be any different in our country? Of course, it would make life much easier if everyone did speak the local language, but that should be encouragement enough to learn the language in the first place.
    Imagine if every foreign country refused to serve foreigners who didn’t speak their local language.

  137. 137 Jim Newman
    March 20, 2009 at 20:00

    Hello again
    I don’t think you can force people to speak the local language but it is advisable for each person to make the effort.
    I think England has an admirable system for introducing immigrants and refugees to the English language. When I went to live in England with with my wife she spoke very little English. She enrolled immediately in classes that were completely free and within a year she had her First Certificate. A year later, this time paying, she attained the Proficiency level C. Apart from learning the language she met people from all over the world who all had their stories to tell.
    Personally I’ve never had any problem with languages but I can understand that some people, especially refugees who are sometimes torn from their communities abruptly, have great difficulties. In my opinion it is then up to the host to protect and help them and not expect too much on the language side.

  138. 138 A.R.Shams
    March 22, 2009 at 12:16

    No, I should prefer a wise option, if possible, but not compulsion to speak the local language forcefully. Otherwise, it would be against my freedom of living at any region of the world.

  139. 139 Dihan from Sri lanka - Galle.
    March 22, 2009 at 12:46

    I am a Sri lankan. As a Sri lankan I can not accept the decision of Mr Deva .
    Because in Sri lanka , we use Sinhala as our mother tongue. But the tourists come from other countries to settle down in Sri lanka never speak in sinhala.
    So , what will happen if foreigner would like to get a sevice of post-office in Sri lanka? Will he speak in Sinhala? No never. He will speak in English.
    So as a solution, especially government workers in Sri lanka have been given a training to speak in number of languages such as Tamil , English etc. So I suppose that Mr Deva should be able to speak in other languages instead of
    refusing to serve. Thank you.

  140. 140 Dennis Junior
    March 23, 2009 at 06:54

    In my earlier remarks…I think it is a very important idea for the people to speak, even little in the native tongue (language) in the area, where the person(s) is resided….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  141. 141 Dennis Junior
    March 23, 2009 at 16:25

    Deva Kumarasiri, has left his job as the Post-master (Sub) in the area….Because he could not served his customers to the best of his ability….


    ~Dennis Junior~

  142. 142 James Loudermilk
    March 26, 2009 at 07:01

    When in Rome speak as the Romans do.

  143. June 8, 2009 at 19:25

    I live and work in UK 4 years I am getting better and better in understanding and speaking I am willing to learn more and more but now suddenly appears another problem for example my employer force us to speak all the time english even on breaks in staff room. There is lots of employed people from Eastern Europe. We all spek english, but our managers suddenly force us do not use our native lingo. this souds like discrimination. Why we could not to speek on free time our language? Brittons complaint thez feel themself like outsiders in own countrz. That is lie no one can force other people do not use own language.What is this we all live in closest world like before is this some kind of comunism? or what?

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