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From Spain: 16 December December 17, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in From Spain.

From ejh, gloom, some thoughts on British Labour’s latest thoughts on language and immigrants and reflections on being somewhere and not knowing the language as well as others may wish/demand.


1. Logan - December 17, 2012

I think there are more practical reasons why people in England dislike the fact that many immigrants who work among them cannot speak very good English. I have a workmate with parents living in London. His mother had to move into a nursing home a while ago and my workmate claimed that about one in four of the people working there had passable English. I presume you think having care assistants who work with vulnerable elderly people understand what is being said to them is important? ( i am not claiming that as unimpeachable evidence by the way, but if it is not true, then surely there is no problem with what Miliband said he wanted?). I note that you say that you wouldn’t employ yourself in a shop in Spain. That is all very well, but it unfortunately appears that a lot of nursing home owners do not have your high standards when it comes to employing only those with the appropriate skills. Having people who work with the public being able to speak English is a worthwhile aim for a left-wing (or pseudo left-wing, remembering which site I am on!) politician in Britain – and which only exploitative business owners could have any disagreement with, who want nothing to get between them and their exploitation of the least prepared immigrant with the least bargaining power.


ejh - December 17, 2012

many immigrants who work among them cannot speak very good English.

On what basis do you say so? (You might be right or wrong, but what’s your actual evidence?)

my workmate claimed that about one in four of the people working there had passable English.

I suspect this is nonsense. Secondhand anecdotes not being very reliable as data, especially where immigrants are concerned, some actual figures might be helpful.

Pseudo left-wing, remembering which site I am on

Your point being?


Logan - December 18, 2012

Obviously it is only anecdotal evidence, but my workmate is a bit of a leftie if anything, he wouldn’t have made it up out of xenophobia.

But it ties in with an exposé of immigrant hotel cleaners being exploited that I saw on Newsnight a while back, it was obvious that very few of them had much English at all ( pretty irrelevant for hotel cleaners, obviously, although not other jobs).

As for the pseudo – leftie comment, it was because I know that on this site describing Miliband as a left winger could be seen as almost incitement by some, just pointing out gently that there was no need to try to enlighten me!

I guess my broader point was that your experience in Spain doesn’t necessarily tell hs anything regarding whether Miliband is wrong to be concerned about this issue. If anything he suggests he has a point, in that you have failed to pick up Spanish easily while living there.


WorldbyStorm - December 18, 2012

I would see Miliband as being of the left, certainly as far left as is conceivable for a leading BLP politician.


ejh - December 18, 2012

If anything he suggests he has a point, in that you have failed to pick up Spanish easily while living there.

Well not really, because there’s no reason to think I’m a typical immigrant in that or any other respect. For what it’s worth, I would have thought most imigrants were rather younger and considerably more sociable than I am, and therefore much moer likely to have (or develop) good Spanish much more quickly. But of course, I don’t know that either, not for sure.

By the way, hotel cleaners and care asisstants are two very different things. (Obviously you know that, but it’s a pooint worth making: the linguistic requirements we’d expect from one group bear little resemblance to those we’d expect frrom the other.)


Logan - December 18, 2012

Well, one would imagine so, yes, but the point of issue is that it is bring claimed that people are being employed for jobs like care assistants without necessarily having much English. I noted that in Jackie Ashley’s column in the Guardian today (18 Dec) she takes it as read that care home assistants without English skills is a fact of life. And note that Miliband promised that he would ensure that “public servants” must have good English skills ( whether this will apply to privatised “public servants” like care home assistants is an interesting point). He is not suggesting any changes to freedom of travel within the EU, just changes that will ensure the it doesn’t mean that people are offered services by organisations who employ staff more on the basis of them having appropriate skills rather than them just being the cheapest to hire. That would be a progressive outcome, don’t you agree?


EamonnCork - December 18, 2012

IS the linguistic argument your only one against immigration then? You’d have no problem with unlimited immigration by people from Commonwealth countries, including Asian and African ones, who speak fluent English?


2. Paul Wilson - December 18, 2012

On a more general point I dont think you can have a cohesive society in any one place unless there are some common strands among the population of that place, the most obvious would be a basic understanding of a common language.

Here in Spain all official forms ETC are in Spanish and the Immigrant is expected to Learn or get a Translator. I think they are right. I am 58 and I have been learning Spanish for close to a year. It is a long hard slog to be honest. I live in a completely Spanish town and I go out every day, to the bar, corner shop and try to communicate with my neighbours, it is an ongoing process and I just have to keep on trying. To be honest I enjoy it now.

Where an Immigrant has gone to a country looking for work from a poorer country as in the cases described in the UK above, it makes sense that they should learn the native language and join a Trades Union Etc as a counter to the process of exploitation. It should be the duty of any progressive Goverment to assist in this process. While immigration to provide cheap labour does not apply to retired Brits/Irish going to live in Spain for the most part, the dynamic of emigration from peripheral ecomnomy’s to richer ones to create a surplus of cheap labour that then reduces wages in the centre is an integral part of Imperialism. The Left in Britain and elsewhere need to seriously address this issue.

On another note my Spanish school informed us all yesterday that the Government has just ended Tax Relief on language classes for the likes of me. ¿Que paso?


3. Paul Wilson - December 18, 2012

I have presented no argument against immigration. My late Mother and her sister were shipped off from Ireland in the 50’s as cheap labour, repectively in the NHS and as a domestic servant.

Yes I agree.


EamonnCork - December 18, 2012

I wasn’t saying you did present an argument against immigration. If I had I’d have posted under your argument rather than Logan’s. I just suspect Logan of being one of those people who appear here from time to time suggesting that ‘what we need is an honest debate about immigration.’ Perhaps that’s unduly suspicious of me.
And by the way, you could be perfectly capable of opposing immigration while having a parent and an auntie who emigrated. People in Ireland do it all the time.


4. doctorfive - December 18, 2012

Paul Mason


5. Paul Wilson - December 18, 2012

Thanks my mistake. No I am not opposed to immigration from anywhere to anywhere, I am one myself. I think though that the issue of cheap labour needs to be addressed by the Left. The ‘Posted Workers’ Directive for example.


EamonnCork - December 18, 2012

And I might have been jumping the gun on Logan myself, if I was I apologise to them. I take your point on cheap labour, it’s just this has been used often on this site as a false flag argument by the anti-immigration right.
I’m looking out the window at the weather and envying you in Spain. Unless obviously you’re in the plain where most of the rain apparently falls.


ejh - December 18, 2012

Rains more in Galicia than Ireland, or so they say. (And quite a lot in the rest of Northern Spain this past week…)


eamonncork - December 18, 2012

The perils of learning geography from musical theatre are made apparent to me once more.


6. Logan - December 18, 2012

In regards to Eamon’s comments on Commonwealth immigration, one of the changes in the post-2004 situation regarding EU free movement of labour is that Britain took in less immigrants from English speaking countries such as Commonwealth Caribbean counties after 2004, as it became impossible for employers to get permits to bring in care home workers or hotel cleaners. The result was that the average immigrant to Britain became whiter, but with less English language skills.
Regarding Eamon’s rather condescending comment on my motivation, all I can say is that it seems to be a bit mystifying (surely immigration policy ought to be on a politics site?) unless it is some sort of backhanded swipe at WBS, who was the one who started the debate (“honest” or otherwise) by posting the OP on behalf of ejh.


7. ejh - December 23, 2012

This week: Osasuna or later. On football, and a football match,


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