Speak with one voice on language

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

The statement from Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, that "the number of pupils with English as a second language makes life difficult for teachers, parents and pupils" is misleading and demonstrates the kind of muddled thinking based on ideology rather than facts ("The Week", March 20).

His point that "whether or not they can speak English, everyone suffers", implies that the apparent difficulty is caused by those who speak a language other than English. His argument presupposes that people who speak two or more languages are the cause of problems in education.

On the contrary, many other countries would argue that having citizens who speak more than one language is a vital economic asset.

Most of the pupils included in the shadow minister's figures have lived in the UK all their lives, and are as proficient in English as any other pupil. Those who are newly arrived will need support to develop their bilingual or multilingual repertoires, which include English, but many schools can tell you that these pupils grow up to become successful, productive adults.

Pupils who speak more than one language do not cause difficulties. It is those senior politicians who use them as a means to argue for fortress Britain who do.

Professor Angela Creese, National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum, Birmingham University.

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