Our response to the Express: ‘We pay tutors to teach immigrants their own language’

01 May 2012

After raising the issue on the Speak to the future LinkedIn discussion group, Teresa Tinsley of Alcantara Communications wrote to the Sunday Express last month to contest their article ‘We pay tutors to teach immigrants their own language’ of 15 April 2012 which argued against the teaching of community languages. Unfortunately her reply has not been published, but we would like to share the article and Teresa’s reply.

“Your article ‘We pay tutors to teach immigrants their own language’ last Sunday suggested that taxpayers money should not be spent on teaching children a language they speak at home which is not English. Yet this country needs language skills – only this week the British Chambers of Commerce published a report showing how important languages are for our export and manufacturing industries. They say being internationally connected can help businesses tap into lucrative new markets. But our education system is not producing enough people with good skills in the wide range of languages which are needed. Economists say we are not investing enough in language skills and that an over-reliance on English is damaging our ability to trade across the globe. So a small investment in helping children develop literacy and higher level competence in their home languages is potentially highly effective – to take the case of Bengali, it’s the 6th most widely spoken language in the world with over 180 million speakers and its economy grew by 7% last year. Helping children gain useful skills in their home language increases Britain’s overall national capacity in major world languages – with benefits for the whole of society not just for the individual and their family.

Underlying your article seems to be a fear that the more of another language they learn, the less children will want to use English. This is nonsense, as any Bengali/French/Chinese mother living here could tell you. The place of English remains supreme. Some people are bilingual, get over it.”

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