Posted on June 11, 2007

Immigrants Told: It’s Time To Learn English

Brendan Carlin, London Telegraph, June 11, 2007

vA crackdown on councils and other public bodies routinely translating documents into foreign languages was indicated yesterday amid fears that they discourage immigrants from learning English.

Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, said translation had been used too frequently and could become “a crutch” which acted as a barrier to integration.

Ruth Kelly said translation had been used too frequently

The practice allowed new arrivals to avoid learning English and meant that many never did, Miss Kelly said.

“I do think translation has been used too frequently and sometimes without thought to the consequences,” she told BBC1’s The Politics Show.

“So, for example, it’s quite possible for someone to come here from Pakistan or elsewhere . . . and find that materials are routinely translated into their mother tongue, and therefore not have the incentive to learn the language.”

Some councils, Miss Kelly said, were guilty of handing out money to particular ethnic or cultural groups instead of using community centres to bring people together.

A report from the Commission on Integration and Cohesion, which was commissioned by Miss Kelly to look at ways to help immigrants to integrate better, will be published on Thursday.

The commission, which has focused on fears that segregated communities have acted as a spawning ground for extremism, is likely to suggest spending less on translation and more on English lessons.

Reports suggested yesterday that councils spend £500 million a year on translation.