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Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Fight in several languages in Britain
by Hugh Muir, for The Guardian
So, I ask my new friend Andy: are you part of the problem or the solution? He is taken aback, as well he might be. What's he been doing? Translating stuff into foreign languages. You should be ashamed of yourself, I say. He refuses to take the bait.
And yet we live in strange times, so it is true to say what Andy does is frowned upon. Why do we need documents on how to claim benefits in Urdu, goes the complaint from the ideologues and the penny pinchers on the right. Who needs another housing discrimination leaflet in Polish? Or health leaflets in Punjabi? Doesn't this stuff cost a fortune? Doesn't it discourage integration? Why don't the blighters learn English?
Andy says translated information doesn't deter people from integrating. It helps them integrate. No point telling someone to learn English if there isn't a leaflet they can understand pointing them in the right direction. Yes, translations cost money, but so does not having them. "An eviction costs about £35,000. Isn't it better that people know how to avoid it? How much is wasted on NHS treatments for people who might have presented earlier if they had been aware of symptoms? Isn't it better to help people settle, to work, to pay tax?"
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