[lg policy] Mandatory English language classes, new test under consideration for migrants

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Jun 15 16:00:12 EDT 2018


 Mandatory English language classes, new test under consideration for
migrants
By political reporter Jane Norman
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/jane-norman/5873958>

Updated Wed at 8:54pm
[image: Words on a Scrabble board.]
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-14/scrabble-board---gareth-cattermole---abc-news.jpg/9869044>*
Photo:* Alan Tudge says a common language is essential for multicultural
integration. (ABC News: Gareth Cattermole, file photo)
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-14/scrabble-board---gareth-cattermole---abc-news.jpg/9869044>
*Related Story:* Migrants living in 'cultural bubbles' need to improve
their English skills, Government warns
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-07/english-language-tests-need-to-be-tougher-government-warns/9522412>
*Related Story:* Reducing migration rate would be bad for budget,
Government report finds
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-17/budget-would-suffer-if-australia-cut-immigration-report-shows/9666232>
*Related Story:* Children from migrant families are standout performers in
spelling
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-13/migrant-refugee-children-standout-performers-in-spelling-naplan/9250622>

The Federal Government is considering new English language requirements for
anyone seeking permanent residency, with figures showing close to 1 million
people in Australia cannot speak basic English.
Key points:

   - Coalition figures suggest number of Australians who don't speak
   English is rising
   - Government considering options including mandatory language classes,
   customised English tests
   - Malcolm Turnbull says any new test would be assessing "conversational"
   or "primary-school" level English

Australia accepts up to 190,000 permanent migrants each year and while they
need to prove they can understand English, their spouses, children and
extended family accompanying them do not.

Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge argued this had created the
"concerning situation" where "close to a million" Australians now do not
speak the national language.

"That's not in the interests of those migrants but nor is it in the
interests of social cohesion, because if we can't communicate with one
another, it's very difficult to integrate," he said.

Figures released by the Coalition suggest the numbers have been steadily
rising.

In 2016, about 820,000 permanent residents in Australia had little or no
English, compared with 300,000 in 1981.
Behind Dutton's visa switch
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-13/how-dutton-slowed-immigration/9646602>[image:
Behind Dutton's visa switch]
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-13/how-dutton-slowed-immigration/9646602>
New analysis of the immigration program reveals how a tiny tweak from Peter
Dutton will slow the growth of Australia's immigration.
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-13/how-dutton-slowed-immigration/9646602>

According to Mr Tudge, in some suburbs, up to one in three people "cannot
speak the national language well or at all".

He said the Government was determined to ensure Australia did not repeat
the experience of some European countries where migrants become isolated in
"parallel communities".

"Australia's multicultural model has been built on integration where
communities merge together, where we play together, where we work
together," he said.

"But in order for that to occur you do need to have a common language."

The Government is considering a range of options, from mandatory language
classes for anyone seeking permanent residency, to a new, customised
English test.
The bar set too high?
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-20/does-new-english-test-for-would-be-citizens-set-bar-too-high/8457834>[image:
The bar set too high?]
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-20/does-new-english-test-for-would-be-citizens-set-bar-too-high/8457834>
A tougher English language test under sweeping changes to citizenship laws
will exclude people from disadvantaged backgrounds, an expert warns.
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-20/does-new-english-test-for-would-be-citizens-set-bar-too-high/8457834>

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged concerns with the Government's
previous attempt at toughening language requirements for migrants and said
any new test would be assessing "conversational" or "primary-school" level
English.

"Everyone should recognise that we all have a vested interest in being able
to converse and engage in our national language," he said.

The Coalition has been forced to change tack after the Senate blocked its
controversial changes to citizenship laws
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-18/citizenship-bill-headed-for-senate-doom-despite-dutton-changes/9062412>,
which would have required new citizens to pass a Level 6, or
university-level, English test.

That proposal sparked a backlash, with a Coalition-dominated Senate
Committee warning it would "disqualify from citizenship many Australians
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-05/senate-committee-says-citizenship-english-proposal-too-tough/8875926>
who, in the past, and with a more basic competency in the English language,
have proven valuable members of the Australian community".

Mr Tudge has spent the past six months consulting widely over the
Government's plans and is likely to present a new, watered-down version of
that bill to Parliament.


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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