Sunday, March 6, 2011

Italy makes immigrants speak Italian

As another blogger, The Old Jarhead, said: "Liberals want us to be more like Europe, here’s the place to start". The melting pot that is the USA is in danger of losing that distinction now that we have to press 1 for English. More and more you see neighborhoods where, unless you know the local language, you cannot navigate efficiently. More and more of our incoming immigrants, both legal and illegal, no longer have the English language skills to assimilate effectively.

Much of Europe is starting to bite the bullet. Recognizing that their national heritage is in jeopardy, they are instituting rules to insure immigrants and those seeking work permits are able to be assimilated. This trend overseas is past due here in the English speaking United States of America.

Italy is the latest Western European country turning the screws on an expanding immigrant population by demanding language skills in exchange for work permits, or in some cases, citizenship. While enacted last year in the name of integration, these requirements also reflect anxiety that foreigners might dilute fiercely-prized national identity or even, especially in Britain's case, pose terror risks.

Some immigrant advocates worry that as harsh economic times make it harder for natives to keep jobs, such measures will become more a vehicle for intolerance than integration. Others say it's only natural that newcomers learn the language of their host nation, seeing it as a condition to ensure they can contribute to society.

So far, Italy is only giving a gentle turn to the screw. Cojochru and other test-takers described the exam as easy. No oral skills were tested.

In Austria, terms are tougher. There, where native speakers have been sometimes known to scold immigrant parents for not speaking proper German to their children, foreigners from outside the European Union need to prove they speak basic German within five years of receiving their first residency permit. Failure to do so can bring fines and jeopardize their right to stay.

The government argues that foreigners who master German can better integrate and help foster understanding across cultures. But, like in Italy, critics say it's a just a pretext for erecting barriers.

Britain's government has pledged to dramatically cut immigration, and the language requirement is effectively a tool to put a cap on the number of newcomers, said Sarah Mulley, an immigration expert at the Institute of Public Policy Research, a London think tank.

Home Secretary Theresa May, who aims to cut immigration to below 100,000 by 2015, said language tests will help weed out those who don't plan to contribute to British life. She has singled out spouses seeking marriage visas to join English-speaking partners as a particular concern.

"There is a concern about long-established communities in the U.K. who are not well integrated, for examples, some of the Pakistani (and) Bangladeshi communities, and that's largely linked to language limitation," Mulley added.

Read full Nashville ABC News 2 article here.

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