A Postmaster from Nottingham has banned foreigners who can not speak English. According to the BBC Mr Deva Kumarasiri said that he could not serve people if he was unable to understand what they were asking for.
He claims to have refused service to six customers as they were unable to communicate effectively in English. He believed they were wasting his time and upsetting other customers who had to wait to be served.
Mr Kumarasiri came to England 18 years ago and made an effort to learn English, he had no choice. The United Kingdom is now much more open to foreign language requirements. His point is that if he did it so should other foreigners who move to the UK. A valid point, but refusing to serve these people in a post office which is supposedly a service available to all is unacceptable.
On the BBC Mr Kumarasiri is quoted as saying:
“I was born and raised in a different country, my language was different, my religion was different. But when I came to England I obeyed the British way of life, I got into the British way of life. That is what I ask everyone else to do – respect the country where you are working and living.”
Britain has become a multicultural society and people should be encouraged to speak their native language. At the same time, if they have chosen to live in the UK they should be prepared to take on the British way of life and try to learn the language.
Local language skills are vital to help people get by when doing everyday activities. Obviously translation services are also important, especially for legal and medical services. People might speak English but still feel more comfortable communicating in their native language when dealing with complex documents.
It is an awkward debate and immigration is currently a sensitive political issue. The immigration laws were amended in November 2008. The new laws basically mean that if the immigrant is from outside the European Union Economic Area they must have a basic understanding of English before they can enter the country, if they are coming here to work. Many other rules were also brought in to make the process more efficient.
Those coming in from abroad should also at least be prepared to learn English. Translation services are available when needed and at little cost to government services and departments, but it seems only polite to at least try to learn the language. Perhaps that is a particularly British thing to say. This debate will continue for years to come as long as Britain remains an attractive option for foreign immigrants.