Friday, September 15, 2006

The old and English

To take Australian citizenship, foreigners will have to pass a test in English - or, so the Government proposes. The Government wants the people to be able to communicate and fit in - so they have three years from arrival in the country to get the language under their belts. That is, if they want to become citizens.

Skilled migrants are tested on English to get their visa. Refugees are not. Of course. Nor are family reunion or family members of a skilled migrant to speak English. There are a lot of grannies in this lot - not all with the advantage of an education, so the idea of forcing them to learn the language would be unkind. We have a very old Chinese grandma living a couple of doors away. She still speaks not a word of English, but she smiles a lot and chugs about the district with her wheeled shopping trolley, picking out the things she needs and then offering the shopkeepers her purse to take what they are due. Everyone loves her and forgives her lack of language. After all, her job here is to look after the younger generation, fluent English-speaking students who will be keeping the country ticking over in a few years, be they scientists or techies.

The old granny darlings will never cope with language testing - so will never gain the citizenship which would give them certain rights - voting and pensions. However, so long as they are Asian or European, their families will take care of their aged needs - which is more than one can say of most Australians.

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