Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Sunday, 2 October 2011

How much do foreign Languages cost this country?

The de facto official language of this country is English and there are six recognised regional languages, the main one being Welsh of which there are said to be some 600,000 who speak the language. Most of those who speak the recognised regional languages also speak English, albeit rather reluctantly in parts of Wales.
But what I want to address is the multitude of other languages that are spoken in this country by immigrants, and what they cost the country each year, particularly in view of Friday's ruling by the High Court that  the rights of a banned extremist were infringed because immigration officials could not speak his language and explain to him why he had been banned from entry. (here).

This ruling is totally ludicrous, and is typical of the extremely liberal interpretation of the Human Rights Laws by our judges. But the implications are horrendous; are we to have immigration officers available at all our international airports and sea ports who are capable of speaking every language of the world in order that they might inform potential unwanted immigrants of their rights in their own language?  According to Wikipedia, there are ten languages which are spoken by more than 100 million people and a further 75 which are spoken by more than 10 million people. Are we expected to keep interpreters available who are capable of speaking all these languages?

But I wasn't just thinking of this requirement, but of the on-going use of interpreters and translators in the daily life of our Government, Local Councils and businesses.

Every time I receive a document from our local council, such as my rates demand or their quarterly "newsletter", somewhere there is an indication that if I am unable to understand the document, I can apply for a copy in any of a wide range of languages listed. Of course, if I couldn't read English, the information that I can have the document in another language would completely escape my attention!
I'm staggered by the wide range of languages that the Council feels that it is necessary to have available which presumably reflects the diversity of those living in this area; Incidentally, Welsh is not amongst the languages listed. 
But its not only our local councils, it is everywhere; any government department, the NHS or other quango which produces any piece of paper for public consumption seems to have it available in a multitude of languages.

But apart from the cost of translation, there is the cost of interpreters.
Again the local councils seem to be in the forefront; benefits offices apparently need to be able to explain to claimants in their own languages how to be able to complete their forms and live off the taxpayers. Someone's human rights might be infringed if the benefits officer didn't explain to a claimant that he could not claim for three wives in this country.
Then there is the Courts. Every defendant apparently has the right to have an interpreter if English is not his primary language. All court papers have to be provided in his own language, even if he has an acceptable command of our language.
The police also have to be able to call on interpreters at any time of day or night; anyone arrested must be informed of his rights and cautioned; I wonder how many allegedly non-English speaking criminals escape because the police are unable to caution them and inform them of their rights?
And let's not forget the NHS; I gather that our local hospital employs permanent interpreters speaking three Asian languages, and many of the notices are in unknown (to me) languages. I wonder what my rights are, were I to be admitted to to hospital and faced with a non-English speaking nurse or doctor.

I'm sure that I've only just skimmed the surface of the subject and that others could produce many more examples of the cost of our pandering to non-English speaking immigrants in this country.

I'm tempted to write to my District and County Councils, under the Freedom of Information Act, asking how much they spend on translation and interpretation services each year, but my problem at the moment is how I should phrase the question in order that the Councils don't manage to dodge the question.

1 comment:

  1. Does anyone really know how we got to this stage and why its been allowed ,it is plainly ridiculous that services on this scale should be provided at taxpayers expense .
    I cant comment on all european countries (although i believe Germany has a similiar outlook!) certainly inFrance for nearly everything you speak French and are given documents in French ,if you need an interpretor you pay for one ,why also are some London boroughs street signs in a foreign language this is not even new but on my infrequent (now) visits to the capital seems to be spreading,there are even parking restrictions ,well i presume they are,in urdu in Tower Hamlets ,no wonder there are so many immigrants who can't speak a word of English even after many years here and become even more ghetto'ised as a result ,but worse is we have a political layer who really believe this is how it should be,well it isn't and once again the taxpayers money is being wasted on a scale undrempt of a few years ago.