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marriage and the english language December 5, 2007

Posted by Bradley in : Uncategorized , trackback

Living in Miami one takes multilingualism for granted. So, even though I have read about campaigns for English-only (or pro-English) laws in the US, I was stunned to read that the UK Government is proposing that spouses of UK citizens be required to pass an English test before being allowed to immigrate to the UK. This is another instance of the Brown Britishness fetish. In the foreword, Liam Byrne, the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration writes:

When a spouse applies for a visa to join their love [sic] ones in the UK, it is most commonly with the intention of making the UK a permanent home. We want newcomers who come here with the intention to settle to make a meaningful contribution to our society and to our economy. It is therefore right that we should consider ways to assist a foreign spouse’s integration into life here right from day one.
In April this year we introduced the Life in the UK test for all migrants applying to settle in the UK. With this requirement comes a growing need to promote the development of English language skills at an early stage. Having a pre-entry English requirement would send a clear signal to the spouse that they will be expected to acquire English language skills in order to remain with their loved ones in the UK on a permanent basis.

There are some unanswered questions about the precise terms of the proposed requirement. For example the consultation document states:

In particular we need to recognise that many spouses will already be either fluent in English (if they come from a majority Englishspeaking country) or at a relatively high level. We also need to consider how and whether a requirement might apply to those with mental health issues or physical impairment.

Will people immigrating from majority English speaking countries benefit from a presumption of English fluency? What about people who live in Miami?


1. John Flood - December 6, 2007

It will be interesting to see how enforceable this will be. If you are an EU citizen there can be no obligation on you to speak English, since free movement is permitted. Therefore French, Basque and Romanian will merrily continue in their own language. If, however, you are from Latin America or Vietnam, you will need to hone those English skills. Or, if you were a Vietnamese fluent in Welsh and not English, there could be a problem…

2. Michael Froomkin - December 7, 2007

Will American be considered ‘English’? I know many people who claim it is not…