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calendar   Monday - March 23, 2009

The unspoken truth about our language.

Over the last few days I’ve been keeping up to date on the controversy surrounding the postmaster who refuses to serve people who either do not speak English or choose not to or come to his window without an interpretor.  He has taken to a country that’s given him opportunities not dreamed of where he came from.  Like many immigrants before him and in another age as well, he has become something of a patriot and says he and his wife will not speak any language but English at home and especially in front of their two children, who they want well grounded in the language of this country first. Which btw reminds me of my own grandparents who were bi-lingual.  It was English first and everything else after that. America first and there wasn’t anything else worth knowing about. But that’s another story and I only mention it here because I understand why they felt that way and became so dedicated to their adopted country.

So .... that brings me to the article that appear a day or two go ago by a lady named Jemima Lewis, who writes for the Telegraph.
She says a few things I had not seen in print before in just this way.
I thought you’d find her comments of some interest.

I might mention here that this may be my last post today as am having severe pc problems at the moment. Hope I can post this. we’ll see. We are also experiencing gale force winds at this time. If not, then it sure looks that way.

The unspoken truth about our language
The Sri Lankan postmaster who banned customers who could not speak English has taken an important stand, says Jemima Lewis

By Jemima Lewis
Last Updated: 3:13PM GMT 21 Mar 2009

Deva Kumarasiri has paid a heavy price for his patriotism. The Sri-Lankan-born postmaster has been forced to leave his job for refusing to serve customers who couldn’t speak decent English. His stance, he said, was partly a matter of principle. Mr Kumarasiri is passionate about his adopted country: he moved to Britain 18 years ago, has taken citizenship, taught his children the words of the National Anthem, and flies the Union flag in his front garden in Nottingham. “It’s about making the effort to be part of the community where you have decided to live,” he said.

It was also a practical issue – he didn’t want the queue grinding to a halt while each customer tried to make themselves understood.

Mr Kumarasiri, who is a Liberal Democrat councillor, feels it is his duty to say these things because the white, native-born Brits no longer dare. This, alas, is perfectly true. Living in east London, I often come across council officials or health workers whose English is so shaky, or so thickly accented, that it is impossible to have a meaningful conversation. But I am far too anxious not to seem rude, let alone racist, ever to complain.

When my son was born, we were visited a few times by a health visitor who spoke at length, in a kind of Bantu-cockney dialect impenetrable to all but the professional linguist, about how to avoid cot death. I nodded in what I hoped were the right places, then looked it up in a book. I have given up trying to get an appointment at the local GPs’ clinic because it is too embarrassing trying to make myself understood – repeatedly mouthing my request into the telephone as if it were an elderly dowager’s ear trumpet.

It’s not just a question of inconvenience; in some jobs, the inability to communicate effectively can be fatal. When my sister gave birth recently, she was attended by a midwife who could not speak English. My sister tried in vain to explain that she had been in labour for four days; that her waters had long since broken; that she knew something was wrong.

The midwife wrote some incomprehensible notes, and failed to pass on any of the relevant information. Both my sister and her baby almost died. Even then, no one was rude enough to complain.

TELEGRAPH

who is a Liberal Democrat counselor:  Not anymore as reported yesterday.


avatar

Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 03/23/2009 at 03:00 PM   
Filed Under: • Daily LifeOutrageousRacism and race relationsUK •  
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