MOSCOW, January 7 (Sputnik) — Boris Johnson, the charismatic Conservative Mayor of London and likely candidate in a possible upcoming Tory leadership race, has said in a weekly call-in radio spot that everyone in Britain, and especially public sector workers, should know the English language, The Telegraph has reported.
"I think everybody in London, everybody who comes to work in our economy, should be able to speak English," Johnson told LBC Radio's 'Ask Boris' program on Tuesday.
Answering a caller who sympathized with comments made earlier by UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage that many health care workers in the National Health Service have trouble speaking and understanding the language, Johnson noted that he "passionately" agreed. "I am amazed by reports that people cannot make themselves understood when speaking English to people working in the NHS. That is completely wrong." The mayor added that he believes that "everybody in this country, particularly people working in our public services, should speak English."
Johnson noted that the managers of the NHS will be "taking steps to sort it out." The Daily Mail has explained that the country's General Medical Council had already announced new checks on medical staff language skills two years ago.
A Generational Problem
Johnson noted that there were parts of London, such as the Tower Hamlets, where entire generations of immigrant families have grown up without learning English, attributing this to the availability of media in their native language, which has meant that they simply haven't had the need to learn the language.
“People can be tuned into their own community and not feel the need to speak the common language of this city, of this country,” he said. “This is a wasted opportunity for these people. I think that is a great, great shame and a huge wasted opportunity for them."
"I think that we should have a culture in this country that if you come here you do as the Romans do –you learn English and you speak English. I don't mean this in a punitive sense – I'm not saying that people should be 'punished' if they fail, [but] this is a wasted opportunity for these," the mayor said.
Johnson added that he was not "hostile to speakers of other languages." He noted that he considers other languages to be "beautiful things, but this is a country that happens to speak English." He encouraged anyone who considers their English to be "a bit rusty" to "go out, find a course for English for speakers of other languages – we fund them, they are available in your council."
Johnson attributed the language problems faced by London and by Britain to Labour policies, including the cutting of funding for teaching of ESOL – English for Speakers of Other Languages. He also explained that the country had gone "through a long period…of having kind of multi-culty, Balkanisation culture in the past in which councils translated all their publicity into English and children were taught in a variety of languages. I think that’s a disastrous approach," he added, noting that "we should be teaching, they should be learning, in English." He explained that as far as the London Mayor's office is concerned, "we've dropped a lot of this kind of 'we'll offer to translate your document into umpteen languages'. I think this is complete nonsense. This is a country where English has been spoken for getting on a thousand years."