Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Doing My Head In

All this chatter in the media about Moslems, English language tests, Australian values, etc etc is starting to get on my nerves but it is also having an impact on me.

Of course migrants should learn to speak English. What did they come here for in the first place? Other thoughts flowed from there and try hard not too as I could, I was starting to feel very anti immigrant. Actually I am anti immigration until Australia's water shortage and some of the enviromental problems are sorted out, but I mean everyone, not just those who don't speak English as a first language, like Scots and Kiwis.

Then I remember our Fijian Indian friend whos mother and aunt spent a day in the kitchen preparing food for us. Smiles, nods and laughter was our communication with them, as neither spoke English.

There were our neighbours in Balaclava, Latvian born and a nicer old couple you could not find. "Please, any way can help, please ask us. Except for money, we dont have any of that but anything else, please ask." That was the wife speaking. He barely spoke English at all, but he was very kind to us.

The Greek lady who lived a couple of doors from us in Glen Iris used to often bring us tomatoes from her garden. She barely spoke English.

Then there are my workmates, some of whom are Moslem, who speak English with varying degrees of competency. Often I pretend to understand what they are trying to say, and I am sure they do the same to me. But they are mostly nice people and contribute to society and this country.

Of course migrants to our country should be encouraged and given opportunities to learn English, but gee, I was not a great student at school.


  1. Anonymous12:17 am

    No worries, Andrew.

    I'm so glad to see someone else express these feelings.

    The couple who lives next door to me here in suburban Sydney are both mediterranean born.. The guy who I sit next to at work is Hong Kong born.. They're all such nice people - particularly our gorgeous neighbors, who would do ANYTHING for us, including handing the most beautiful barbecued lamb over the fence ever night in summer - even though their english is horrendous. I'm so torn on this issue.

    I've always been avidly "pro english". As an "IT guy", I'm regularly annoyed by having to talk to tech support staff who have accents you could cut with a knife, they are so thick.

    We all know the PC line that we're supposed to back.. That immigrants are people too, that they are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families..etc, etc But, still, sometimes when that guy who sits next to me starts trying to tell me something in his Hong Kong accent, if I've had a long day it's like instant headache. Nod and smile, nod and smile.

    It's worth mentioning that I myself am an immigrant. To some degree, therefore, I can sympathize. When I first arrived in Oz nearly 8 years ago I was the Hawaiian guy who talked too fast (you don't even usually hear a hawaiian accent on TV, ffs). Too a large extent, my rate of speech is still a problem, although I've adopted enough local colloquiallisms to help me get by.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know you're not the only one whose head is being utterly done in by all this. It's conflicting, and it makes you have a hard look at yourself. If only for that alone, though, I have to believe it's healthy. Anytime you're forced to face your own predjudices head-on and deal with them honestly, you're doing yourself some good.

    There's my two bob (Toldja I'd learned the local lingo ;-) )


  2. Anonymous7:26 am

    I like this post alot, Andrew.

    Very honest, and I like that.

    I am in two minds about it - on one side, if I were to move to Holland, I would make a real effort to have Dutch lessons before I moved.

    But it would be my choice to move - and often migrants have no choice. They should always be given the opportunity to learn English.

    When my cousin moved to Sweden, her school offered her free Swedish tutorials. She was fluent in six months.

  3. 3 of granparents emmigrated from Italy after WWII, one emmigrated before WWII. They all speak fluent english.

    I suppose back in those days there was not so much cultrual diversity as there is today. So learning English was a good way of becoming a member of the commuity.