Sunday, 16 June 2013

What the . . . ?

"If you are unable to read this letter . . ."

Yes, it really did say that in an official letter received this week.  I stopped reading at that point as I pondered how anybody who was unable to read the letter could possibly understand those few words.  But the sentence continued.

"If you are unable to read this letter or the accompanying booklet because English is not your first language, ask somebody who can speak English to call [a phone number] for more information."

The letter went on to repeat that sentence in Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Farsi, Gujarati, Hindi, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Somali, Turkish and Urdu.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I have nothing whatsoever against people who speak those languages - in principle, anyway.  And I fully accept that ours is a multi-cultural community.  But what sticks in my craw is the fact that people come to live here without bothering to learn even the basics of English and expect national and local government and their agencies to provide letters and booklets in the language of the immigrant's home country.  And interpreters for interviews and court appearances.

And all this at our expense!

I'm pretty sure it wouldn't happen in most other countries.  Certainly, French authorities expect me to understand letters and official documents written in French and offer no translation facilities.  I strongly suspect the same applies in Spain, where there are plenty of British ex-pats - and Madeira, which is Portuguese.


At this time of the year I am always delighted to see the cow parsley.  If there is enough of it, I can sometimes catch a whiff of its rather nutty scent.

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