Poll: Should immigrants be made to learn English?

Immigrants should be expected to learn English before coming to Britain - or be enrolled on compulsory language classes when they arrive, according to a parliamentary report. What do you think?

Dame Louise Casey recommended English lessons
Dame Louise Casey recommended English lessons

MPs and peers also called on ministers to consider a radical overhaul which could see regions handed immigration powers in place of the current "one size fits all" system.

They are the headline proposals in a sweeping report from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on social integration to be launched on Thursday.

It follows a landmark review which last month warned the country is becoming more divided as it becomes more diverse.

That inquiry from Dame Louise Casey called for more English classes for isolated groups and suggested ministers should consider whether immigrants intending to settle in Britain should swear an "integration oath" on arrival.

In its report the APPG said that integration should begin upon arrival in the UK and described speaking English as "the key to full participation in our society and economy" and a "prerequisite for meaningful engagement with most British people".

The study said: " The APPG believes that all immigrants should be expected to have either learned English before coming to the UK or be enrolled in compulsory Esol (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes upon arrival."

The Government was urged to reassess the current "one size fits all" approach to immigration policy and consider r eforming the system to more actively shape immigrant settlement patterns within the UK.

"Through the introduction of policies aimed at directing population flows to areas of the country which require higher levels of immigration or do not currently attract a great many immigrants, policymakers might minimise strain on public services and on community relations whilst bolstering regional economies," the report said.

It suggested that a devolved or regionally-led system could draw on the model used in Canada, where provincial governments can set region-specific requirements for immigrants.

The paper raised the prospect of region-specific visas with quotas for their dissemination agreed by devolved administrations or city regions.

The APPG also called for:

  • A new national Government strategy for the integration of immigrants including issues such as access to the labour market and awareness of the UK's laws, traditions and culture;
  • Councils to set up local integration action plans and the immediate introduction of an Integration Impact Fund;
  • The Home Office to investigate whether new immigrants could be placed on pathways to citizenship automatically upon arrival.

Net migration to the UK has been running at or close to record levels of around a third of a million - well above the Government's target of below 100,000.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, chair of the APPG, said a "meaningful" integration programme was needed.

He said: "It's clear that immigration has impacted on different communities in different ways and the pace of change has alarmed many.

"The Government has a duty to address the lack of integration of immigrants if it is to address this. Failing to do so has left a vacuum for extremists and peddlers of hate to exploit."

Jon Yates, of social integration charity The Challenge, called on the Government to consider the recommendations in the report, adding: " It is no longer enough to focus solely on the numbers of immigrants arriving in the UK, while ignoring what happens to them and their host communities after arrival."

A Government spokesman said: "Our country has long been home to lots of different cultures and communities, but all of us have to be part of one society - British society.

"That is why we are rolling out a £20 million fund for English language provision and have also made £140 million available through the Controlling Migration Fund to local authorities to manage impacts on communities caused by issues such as poor English language skills.

"However, we must also recognise that uncontrolled, mass immigration makes it difficult to maintain social cohesion and puts pressure on public services.

"Our priority is to build an immigration system that works for everyone in the UK and delivers the control we need."

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Comments for: "Poll: Should immigrants be made to learn English?"


I would say that this is an absolute necessity. They should be made to sit an exam at their port of entry, a failure should earn them an instant return ticket to wherever they came from.

More importantly, they should be obliged to abide by our laws and regulations. If they want to live in the UK, they should do so according to UK legislation,,,and get rid of the burka.

the fat controller

And you would learn french if you picked up a poorly paid, six week, building contract in France or went over to pick grapes?

The law argument is a non-starter - the law of the land applies to everybody and you pay the penalty if you break the law, likewise Brits living abroad.

Mr Majestic

On holiday last year we struck up a friendship with another couple .

She was an interpreter for police and immigration dept exceptionally well paid and said she was also being used by other agencies who were becoming reliant on her services and these people she had to converse with had been resident in the uk for a few years . She said they didn't seem to have a desire to learn English .

However she said the ones she saw via the police force were possibly playing stupid and knew English very well .

Compulsory English classes yes the amount currently spent on interpreters and paperwork written in at least 12 languages, a social housing providers employing interpreters could be largely removed.


There are hundreds of thousands, probably into millions, of people who have been in this country for two, three or four generations who do not communicate in English either by choice or because they are not allowed to. They should also be made to learn English as it is stopping them from being put forward to employment and live off benefits instead.

As for making new entrants to learn English it will be taken over by shady 'training providers' that will crop up where the ESOL or similar tests are done for them for a few hundred quid.


Agree with you on Shadey training providers. However is someone has been here for decades without learning English they have failed to intergrate or adapt to our culture. they live in a closed circle of those who share their language and culture.

Culture can clash with the law and as we have seen imported cultures breed things like FGM, and the sex gangs who exploit our children because they have no idea about female equality or respect. These may be the exception though it is looking less and less exceptional every day.

People who can't speak or read English can not follow the national conversation but depend of biased translation. Back in my employment days I was taught to always get an job applicant to write something in English. The logic was simple. If they can't read and understand safety rules and notices they are an unacceptable risk.

These days that could come down to "Armed Police do not move". What follows for a non English speaking Muslim might be tragic. Innocent by stander or not.

the fat controller

How do you make people learn english who are not allowed to? How do you get kids to eat a healthy lunch who are not allowed to? Abused women in, for example, middle-class, white households who aren't allowed out - how do you get them to go out?

R Suppards

All official documentation pursuant to England should only be in English.


So you want a low paid fruit picking job?

the fat controller

Including for tourists who become victims of crime, R Suppards? Would you be happy as a witness to a murder on the Costa Del Sol to be told, "sorry sir (or madam), official documents pursuant to Spain should only be in Spanish"? Or if you fall ill......"Lo sentimos señor, no entendemos Inglés, usted tendrá que tomar una oportunidad"


We don't encourage our own children to gain another language unless in private education even though the majority of other countries particularly in Europe ensure their young people are equipped with English as well as their native tongue.

Where will the money come from to give free lessons here though I know of many many of our young people who teach English abroad and make a good income out of it?


I think the money would come from savings in translation fees that we are currently spending. You are right about our standard of foreign languages, but I do not believe that is relevant to the question of people moving to this country but not learning the language.


You really think the cost of teaching all immigrants English would be less than translation fees!!! ha ha

This is an unrealistic concept and anyone here who has had their car cleaned at the supermarket is a hypocrite.

jim jams

We spend £100million a year on translation services, if the immigrants were charged a token £20 for English lessons,as an incentive to stay in this country, we could recoup most of those costs and savings.

the fat controller

Would you allow a discount for slaves and people who have been trafficked or are they equally responsible for their poor standard of the local lingo, whether that is in domestic servitude, on demolition sites in London, or in illegal brothels in the north?

Would the same rules apply to us when we leave our sovereign shores, whether for a holiday or a job, however short or long the contract?

What about Wales?

jim jams

No, Yes, Yes and you really should keep out of those northern brothels.

Cunning Linguist

Do you find the southern ones more to your liking jim jams?

jim jams

Dunno about them, tell us all what they are like then and we can make a decision.

Cunning Linguist

Oh I don't like soup.


It's absolutely imperative that foreigners must learn English properly if they want to be allowed to stay. This is only fair, because when the British move abroad we make sure we’re fluent in the local dialect within a fortnight.

Wander through the Costa Del Sol and there’s no way of telling who’s Spanish and who’s from Manchester, so integrated have we become, with characters such as Bert “Flamenco” Sidebottom , who within seven years learned to say “adios” in a Mancunian accent, causing his mates to shout “blimey, hark at Picasso”, while watching City play United in a pub by the beach in Torremolinos.

Despite us going to all that trouble, when the Spanish come over here they speak English with a slight Spanish accent. Is it any wonder we get fed up of foreigners when they mug us off like that?

jim jams

And how much do the Spanish spend on translators a year? Not the £100 million that we do, I bet and that doesn't take into account all the literature that our councils send out in various languages.

Mr Majestic

HMM interesting view on the Spanish , however the issue is not what brits do in spain I and many other couldn't careless as it is up to Spanish government to implement their own rules. The issue is foreigners in the uk not wilingl to learn their new adopted countries language.


So you have never had your car washed at Sainsburys Mrs Maj? Was it a problem the car wash person not speaking the Queens English or were you just glad someone would do the unpleasant task for you?


I am terrible at languages, always have been, however I wouldnt expect to work or live in a country where I couldnt speak the language. If anything I feel it would make me vulnerable and I would be singled out.

Mr Majestic

No i have not actually, Hubby power washes the van and the car goes to the valeter in coleham ,

I would also add an email wassent to the big stores about this service and nobody explained to me from the big stores why they have car washers who are clearly unskilled economic migrants doing this , when we have british car washing businesses who don't seen to get a look in? I think it was because the foreign company gave a "unrealistic % of income for a registered british firm to compete with."


One complaint about immigrants who don’t speak perfect English is they can’t work here, as they won’t be understood. This compares to the English who move to France, who have all mastered French so perfectly from a year of GCSE French, they can work anywhere they like, understanding even the finest details.

For example, if they were in a call centre, and a frustrated French businessman rang to report his internet connection was down, the average Englishman living in France would have no problem replying “the cat is in the garden”.

the fat controller

Jett, if you look at the data, most expats in spain do not speak spanish. Translators are provided.

jim jams

Are you sure? I know people who visit every year or have apartments there and they know a fair bit of basic Spanish and one guy who has been living out there for a few years now who can converse with the locals in small mountain villages. I have never found police stations in parts of Europe to speak english when I've been arrested for drunken brawlery so maybe you are mistake,


If true, the actions of the people you mention are highly suspicious. The British way has always been to refuse to speak in another tongue.

This is why the report may actually amount to a subtle trick. Because by insisting that immigrants integrate into our culture, it’s those who fail to learn any English at all who are actually going to great lengths to adopt real British customs – by being unable to speak a word of a foreign language. And it’s the ones who learn to speak English perfectly we should be wary of. Don’t they understand anything about the country they’ve moved to?

As regards European police stations, they are inanimate objects and therefore cannot speak at all. Were you hallucinating?


Ha ha. Love it Jett.

jim jams

Similar sense of humour then...now that does surprise me...NOT!

jim jams

I never expected to find anyone who would find Jett's comments funny but there's always one.


jim jams are you one of those ladies who go to supermarkets in their pyjamas?

I don't have a problem, being surrounded by people in jim jams, kind of gets you used to it some kinds of employment but I would draw the line at finding you in a see thru negligee in the frozen isle.


Jim jams goes to supermarkets in her pyjamas? What will they think of next?

jim jams

Actually , I'm not a lady...the clue's in the name...try looking up Jim and believe it or not you may be surprised and learn something useful.


Good for you! You should be free to wear whatever clothes you like.

the fat controller

I think jimjams should be banned for public wear. And the head-scarves that nuns wear. Not to mention full-length trousers. A law should be passed about the percentage of flesh that we should have on display when out and about, regardless of sex, ethnicity or religion. Covering up should be banned.

It's a joke, before anyone takes it seriously.

Cllr Stuart Parr

They should be able to speak English *before* they get here, not be given lessons once they're here. How can you live and work in a country where you don't speak the language? How do you get to know your neighbours and integrate into your local community if you can't talk to anyone?

And isn't it interesting how it was racist to say this for years when only UKIP were saying that immigrants should have to speak English but now the parties of government have said it it's suddenly ok?


Only a councillor could make such a dumb comment.

Has he no idea how many expats live and work abroad and only speak English?


En primer lugar usted tiene que identificar aquellos viviendo en y aquellos que realmente tienen que trabajar en otro país para identificar la necesidad de la capacidad lingüística sobre todo en el contexto de movimiento de trabajadores.

............. Bendecir.

jim jams

Ja, natuerlich. Gesundheit.

Tony in BC

Buenas tardes, primero que todo , hablar de este tipo de temas en otra lengua diferente a la maternal, conlleva un cierto nivel linguistico, por lo que le sugiero siga hablando su lengua maternal, por que no se entiende nada de lo que quiere decir.

Gracias y saludos,

Tony in BC


Gesundheit means good health and, as you know is a translation for bless you after a person sneezes - but pete didn't sneeze, therefore, the translation of bless you is:

Segne sie

jim jams

Danke schoen fuer Dass, Tony.

Tony in BC

Sie sind willkommen.


If they worked in a hospital and someone came through the door screaming their appendix had burst, a plucky Englishman living in France would be able to helpfully inform the patient “J’aime le football, mais je n’aime pas le tennis”.


Steady on... that would be like commonsense, yo costner ave that with dis bunch wut , mon you'd be bist'ner sent to covuntree jockey lad.


Cunning Linguist

Impressive, multi-dialectal drivel.

jim jams

Surree mon If thee costna understand weern sayin, then mebee theest better off guwin wum, thee bistna guwin to be that chuffed if thee costna understond us but dunna chafe theeself wut, there's a spare hoss over theer, thee cust hop on, if it wunna move just throssh it with a sponner or a hommer or mabee offer it an oppl.

Cunning Linguist

Of course I can understand it, that's why I know it's drivel.

Tony in BC

Rather than complain about folks not speaking English why not roll up your sleeves and volunteer at your local colleges or community centres and help out! The programme we have running at the moment in my small community is for volunteers to teach the newly arrived Syrians and other refugees the basics of our languages - French and English.

This isn't rocket science, it is what people do to help new community members without stigmatizing them for their lack of language skills, and giving them a helping hand into living productive and successful lives.

In turn, those of us who volunteer in this way, learn much from our students - their struggles, their culture - and indeed their own fascinating languages


I think its a fair thing to ask really. Its about moving to this country, integrating and becoming a useful member of society.

Look at the immigrants of the 60's and 70's - sadly they had a very hard time from a lot of people which was undeserved, but they did it, they integrated, proved their worth and now are valued members of the community and they are proud to be in the UK.

I have no objection to helping people out who are living in countries which are unsafe for them and their families, however a bit of gratitude and an urge to fit in and be a proud citizen wouldnt hurt. Coming to the UK - expecting it to change to make you special and criticising the nation which has made you safe gives a lot of immigrants a bad name and sadly means racism is back.

If you come here, work hard, pay tax and abide by the laws of this country - I have no problem with you having equal rights to me. Expecting preferrential treatment and being rude about this country is not fair at all.

the fat controller

"If you come here, work hard, pay tax and abide by the laws of this country - I have no problem with you having equal rights to me. "

What about grandparents bringing up their grand kids so that both parents can work and stay out of the benefits system? They don't pay tax. What about Google? What about people who were born in Britain who can't work because of illness or caring responsibilities? Or children? People who keep the country going by volunteering for the many charities that could not function without it. They don't deserve to be treated equally because they don't "work hard and pay tax? That is the logical conclusion of your argument.

Sweeping generalisations about large groups of people are meaningless. Unless, of course, you have done a statistically significant survey and have found that the majority of the people, men, women and children, you describe "come to the uk expecting special treatment and criticise the nation which has made them safe". Your description doesn't match any of the people that I've met but it does smack of racism.

Don't blame the rise of bigotry and xenophobia on "nasty ungrateful foreigners" not integrating. The rise of bigotry and xenophobia is the fault of bigots and xenophobes who lose sight of the fact that people are people. Some good, some bad. Some hard working, some unable to work, some work-shy. Some pay tax, some avoid it some can't etc etc.


The idea of me moving to a country where I couldnt speak the language horrifies me!

I would at least learn the basics, especially verbal communication before I went there. I wouldnt expect people there to know English.

Being not able to speak the language would make me feel vulnerable and isolated. I would want to know what people were saying, I would need to understand in order to just live!

How can you look after yourself in a country if you cant speak the language? Banking? Shopping? Medical treatment? Laws? Transport? Safety and emergencies?

So I dont think its unfair to ask people to learn it helps them as well as those around them.

We are very lucky that a lot of countries do speak English so we could just about get by. If that wasnt the case I think a lot more UK citizens would have to learn other languages.


I believe some are missing the point of this suggestion, it is not a complaint about foreigners not speaking English it is a suggestion to assist isolated groups who live here. Because they cannot speak the language they remain confined to their own communities and cannot join the wider society.

James B

That would be a fair enough comment, but for the fact that this government has been relentlessly cutting funding for English language classes :


But really, the fact that English people complain that foreigners coming to the UK don't speak English absolutely stuns me. You might or might not find Jett's sketches above amusing, but I have no doubt that they are painfully truthful. And many ESOL or EFL learners, whether in the UK or not, could write far better English than we read in these forums.

Tony in BC makes some good points too, especially this :

'The programme we have running at the moment in my small community is for volunteers to teach the newly arrived Syrians and other refugees the basics of our languages - French and English.'

I did this kind of voluntary work some years ago - it was a genuine eye-opener.


We should go further. Anyone wanting to move to Liverpool should have to do a course to learn grabbing someone in a headlock and saying “you’ve gorra have a laugh mate”, or they’re not allowed in.



Is that an attempt at humour or just another banal comment

jim jams

If it is humour then that person really needs to get out more.


Before you live in south London you should have to attend a gangsta study group. Your exam to become an accountant should include an oral test, in which the examiner says “listen up blud, I have bear cash, you get me, so a man say I come to you for advice on capital gains tax, you get me? I see you right. Sweeet”.


I stand corrected ,

None sense posts

the fat controller

Jett, what about The Queen?

I wonder how long before the anti-immigration masses will be braying for her to take classes in the local dialects of the land she rules so that genuine communication can take place?

Mark my words, they will be - never ones to shy away from equal treatment and expectations, regardless of hue or fortune.

jim jams

We are not amused.


The effort for this isn’t just to assist communication – our security depends on it. The government say Muslim women who don’t learn English are “more susceptible” to radicalisation. This must be because, once they can understand Take me Out with Paddy McGuinness, they’ll realise there’s so much fun to be had there’s no point in blowing things up.


There are many hundreds of workers at food processing factories in Shropshire that do not even have the most basic grasp of the English language. Some have no understanding at all, goodness knows how effective their Health & Safety knowledge is.

Give them an independent test when they arrive and another after 10 or so months, if there is not significant improvement they should be retrned to their country as ther employer has not offered them sufficient support.

I am sure the agencies who bring the workers on from Eastern Europe will be keen to support their education if it meant them going out of business.

the fat controller

I agree that to take part properly in society you need to be able to speak the mother-tongue of whichever land you happen to live in, whether that is UK expats in Spain, eastern european builders or agricultural workers coming to the uk or oil workers and engineers chasing higher wages in the oil fields of the Middle East.

But how many of the vociferous advocates of compulsory english lessons for immigrants to the uk would pay a bit more for a punnet of strawberries so that the workers can be part of our society with a salary, a decent home and money for english lessons?

How many people will turn down a builder promising to do a job for less when you have a suspicion that he is using illegal immigrant workers and, on hearing that the worker are living in squalor, refer the case to the relevant authorities?

How many people would support the Government properly funding anti-discrimination campaigns to tackle the fact that, for example, muslim women (whether or not they are english or foreign-born) are regularly abused on the streets and are far less likely to be offered jobs than non-muslim women.

How many of these people get annoyed when, in Welsh speaking corners of Wales, the locals speak in Welsh in the local shop when you are there on your holidays?

How many of these people would become fluent in the language if they were going to work abroad, even for a short, seasonal contract?

The list goes on.

Doesn't society have a responsibility too, and the individuals that make up that society?

jim jams

Do you report those illegal northern brothels?

the fat controller

You appear to be suggesting that I pay for sex, am a sex-worker or even, maybe a pimp? But what is your response to the points I make?

Or perhaps the issues are less important to you than throwing mud at people with differing views to your own?

jim jams

It's called a sense of humour...sorry has it been banned now as being non-PC?

You started telling us about your experiences of "illegal northern brothels", no-one else...;-)

the fat controller

No I didn't, you made that up?! Ho ho ho.

the fat controller

Winking Face. A classic winky emoji; winking and smiling. Used to imply humor in written form, or may alternatively be used suggestively, as a form of flirtation. Are you flirtin' with me jim jams?!

jim jams

"Would you allow a discount for slaves and people who have been trafficked or are they equally responsible for their poor standard of the local lingo, whether that is in domestic servitude, on demolition sites in London, or in illegal brothels in the north"

Nope didn't make it up, you were concerned about the people in domestic servitude, people working on London demolition sites and illegal northern brothels which I assumed you knew existed as you must have had real world experience of all three, then you went on to ask if people would report a builder using illegal workers, so I naturally asked if you have reported the illegal brothels, that i assumed you knew about....simples.


The parliamentary report suggests the only language that opposes radicalisation is English, and that all the languages a terrorist might speak don’t have any words for “don’t go to Syria and blow yourself up you idiot”, or “I think you should put that rocket launcher down, you could have someone’s eye out”.

It may be that the better someone speaks English, the less jihadist they become. So we should send elocution teachers out to direct their videos, and say “No, no, NO Jihadi Gerald. It’s ‘we shall kill WHOMEVER aids the infidel in glorious oceans of blood’. Now let’s try again with a nice round mouth on the O for Holy.” Eventually, when they sound like Prince Charles, they’ll realise the error of their ways and come back to be Master of the Hunt in the Cotswolds.

jim jams

We had a terrorist come into one of our camping shops once, tried on a rucksack and turned to his mate and said in perfect English...."Does my bomb look big in this?"...We all rushed out laughing.

Which just goes to show that everyone needs to speak english to get their point over.


The English language has many nuances. Despite this insistence on proper English, the Government cut the funding to the organisation that teaches it to immigrants from £45m to £20m which resulted in 47 centres closing. This proves what a difficult but rich language English is to learn, as it takes a while to grasp that the phrase “I insist we have more of something” sometimes means “I’m going to cut it in half”. But if a determined foreigner sticks with it, they’ll soon pick it up.

jim jams

Wow, I am impressed. Your English really is coming on in leaps and bounds. That is the first piece that you have written that NEARLY makes sense.

B+ keep up the lessons.


We should then go on to the next stage, and insist foreigners have to learn English if they want to stay in their own country as well. Otherwise they will be forever susceptible to all kinds of mischief, listening all day to their funny foreign words.

You'd be ideal to go and carry out such necessary and important work.

Try our beta site!

We’re getting ready to launch our brand new website for shropshirestar.com and we’d like to give you a sneak preview.

We’re still applying the finishing touches, so please bear with us if something’s not quite right.

We'd love to hear your thoughts, good or bad, via the simple feedback button that you'll see to the right side of every page.

Try the beta