Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Does the same apply here?

In parts of London, children in primary schools are taught in their native language. Official  documents are automatically translated into many different languages for the benefit of those that cannot speak English and Boris Johnson says that there are generations of families living in Tower Hamlets who have never spoken English. In London and other parts of Britain, multiculturalism has changed the whole culture of the country.  

Nigel Farage, for UKIP, now says that all staff in public services should be able to prove they can speak English and I dare say many would agree with him. His comments are in response to the fact that many in the National Health Service cannot make themselves understood in English. Recruitment in the NHS has meant that there are many nurses and doctors who do not have a command of the native language.

Johnson concludes that, all those who live and work in London should be able to speak English. Farage goes a step further and says that a basic understanding of the language should be an entry requirement for those wanting to move to Britain.

In 2012, there were an estimated 808,000 British expats living in Spain (that number could be less now). I wonder, what proportion of those are able to understand Spanish even at a basic level. From my experience of expats here in Bigastro, I would say it is a minority. Many get by with just a handful of words in Spanish and rely on shops, bars, restaurants etc to speak and understand English. When they visit the doctor, the hospital, the town hall, the bank etc. etc. they expect the staff to speak and understand English and if not, they rely upon an interpreter.

Of course there is a difference here. Apart from those who work solely in services set up for foreigners, I would guess that most workers here are able to speak Spanish. As many Brits have found, it is almost impossible to find work here anywhere outside expat communities if you cannot speak Spanish. Even those who work with just British people still have to be able to communicate effectively in Spanish with suppliers and bureaucracy.

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