Multilingualism shouldn’t just be for immigrants.
While the United Kingdom deals with the rise of anti-immigrant fervor, a new report from Cambridge University urges Britons to learn new languages to build social integration.
Polish, Punjabi, and Urdu are among some of the most spoken languages in the United Kingdom, followed closely by Bengali and Gujarati. Cambridge academic Wendy Ayres-Bennett says the onus shouldn’t strictly be on newcomers or immigrants to learn the local language. Rather, she explains, integration should come from both sides.
“Considering the issue from the point of view of language learning, we rightly expect immigrants to learn English but, as a nation, we often don’t see the need ourselves to learn another language, and consider it to be something difficult and only for the intellectual elite,” she said in response to fears that the UK was becoming increasingly divided.
“I would like to see more opportunities for British people to learn some of the community languages of the UK, such as Polish, Punjabi and Urdu, particularly in areas where there are high numbers of those speakers, so that there is some mutual effort in understanding the others’ language and culture.”
Ayres-Bennett recommends language classes be taught in school, at the university-level, and with communities. She also suggests new immigrants take an “Integration Oath” where they promise to embrace “British values.”
[H/T The Guardian]