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President Obama in Controversy over Healthcare Translation Policy

Accoring to various news reports there is controversy in the USA this week over ‘ObamaCare’ policies which state proposed healthcare reform plans which include providing on site interpreters for patients who have limited English. The healthcare reform legislation is currently pending in Congress.

English language advocates are up in arms as this could add a significant increase to the cost of healthcare in the USA and they believe it will discourage foreign immigrants from learning English. Surely, in today’s multicultural society the provision of translation services to medical institutions is essential.

America needs to look at itself and its history to see that America was made what it is today by foreign settlers who didn’t all speak English and certainly not American English!

Have some respect for your history and accept the fact that not everyone speaks English. The Spanish for example were one of the first European settlers in the US in 1513. Surely they have a right to speak Spanish if they wish to do so. America is meant to be the ‘Land of the Free’ after all.

Yes it seems logical that if you move to an English speaking country you should learn the lingo but even if you do, when your child is dying in A&E (sorry America suppose that’s ER to you) you may not be able to express what is wrong in your second language. To be sure the patient or their guardian fully understands what is happening it is essential that adequate language translation services are provided.

Ponglish: Diary of a Pole

Ponglish: Diary of a Pole

Eight years ago I arrived in the UK with my fellow countrymen: rocket scientists, brain surgeons, state attorneys, film directors and hairdressers. They let us flow out of the plane and spread all over the country.

Back home, in Poland, I grew up watching Mr. Bean, listening to Brit Rock and thinking every Londoner has marmalade on toast with tea for breakfast. Having lived here for nearly a decade I have developed an affection to my current whereabouts. I can’t really imagine living without this beloved dry humour! Even though Mr. Bean is yet to be spotted.

Apart from the friendly mentality of the Brits (most of you will frown now), I like the language. Which paradoxically becomes a lingua franca even amongst the Poles themselves. Some fifteen years ago I had my auntie come over from the USA, she tended to throw in some odd American-sounding words into her ever exaggerated statements. Back then I thought: “What did she catch out there?!” Read more

English-speaking Australian Required to Take English Test To Work as a Nurse

On the surface, new Australian regulations requiring all foreign nurses to pass an English proficiency test before they begin working sound like a great idea. After all, communication breakdowns between nurses and doctors or nurses and patients can have devastating consequences. However, for Gerard Kellett, the testing requirement has proved to be an unnecessary burden.

According to this article, Kellett is a native English speaker who was born in Singapore to English-speaking parents. He is an Australian citizen and has lived in the country for 17 years. However, when Mr. Kellett tried to become a registered nurse after graduating, he received a letter from Australia’s Health Practitioner Regulation Agency which read in part:

“As you have not completed both your secondary education and nursing/midwifery education program in Australia, you are required to demonstrate English language competence. If you are unable to meet AHPRA’s English language requirements within three months . . . your application will be withdrawn.”

Mr. Kellett went to high school in Northern Ireland, which would explain the letter and the testing requirement except for the fact that English is also spoken in Northern Ireland.  Of course, there are differences in the way the language is spoken in each country, but given that Mr. Kellett has been living in Australia for the better part of two decades, surely he’s picked up on those.

Ultimately, Mr. Kellett had to fork over $535 to take the test. Results are not expected in for another 2 months, and until then he can’t work.

Still, his situation is better than that of many newly graduated nurses because he does have Australian citizenship.  According to this article on The Courier website,  foreign nurses who just graduated were not informed of the new requirements in time to allow them to take the test before they graduated. Now, they are stuck in Australia on tourist visas, unable to work at all.

Foreign Language Ban Enforced by Postmaster

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.