There’s a couple of ‘true’ stories circulating at the moment. Here’s one that’s being propagated by one of the more rabid tabloids.
‘Polish is now the official second language of England.’
That’s interesting. England doesn’t have an official second language. It’s not like say, Belgium or Liechtenstein, it has just the one. If you said Great Britain, then you’d need to add in Welsh, since that’s an official language in Wales (big surprise for you there), but in England we’re reduced to only one.
If you read more closely this is what the story says.
‘Officials have stated that more people in the UK speak Polish than any other language than English.’
Two points. Be very wary of any newspaper report that starts with the word ‘Officials.’ It could be the receptionist at DeFRA for all we know. And exactly what are we supposed to make of this, even if it’s true? That those people only speak Polish, or that they speak English and Polish?
What I take out of it is a wickedly insidious effort to spread the ‘These people come over here, take our jobs, and don’t even speak our language’ message. That’s what I take out of it.
The second scary statistic is this. Supposedly, Patel is now the most common surname in England, having knocked Smith off the top spot it has occupied since time immemorial. I don’t know where the journos are getting their information from, since the 2011 Census results aren’t fully released yet. They’re probably reporting something they overheard from a couple of people were taking a smokeo outside the Office of National Statistics.
But again, let’s assume there’s a kernel of truth here. It should come as no real surprise. Patel is the second most common surname in the world including India, where Singhs rule the roost. So there may be a lot of Patels over in the UK. And many of them were born here of parents born here, of parents born here, of parents born here. They’re British.
It’s just another despicable example of biased and unscientific reporting, designed to create mischief and distrust, and it makes me very cross.
So I’ve decided that if I can’t beat the racist bigots, I’ll join them and do a bit of massaging of figures myself. Assume both of the above statistics are true. This means that a lot of the population have family ties to the Northern Indian subcontinent. The main languages there are Gujarati and Hindi. So if they’ve ‘come over here’ recently, as is implied by the reporting, we now have a thriving population of Patels who are multilingual, fluent in Gujarati/Hindi, and English (since their ‘native languages’ don’t figure in the statistics,) and in Polish. That’s a lot of linguistic talent. We should nurture it, don’t you think?
One last thing before I dismount from my high horse. The Daily Express has been at it again. Under the headline ‘This says it all,’ is a story about an advert in the JobCentre that’s written in Polish. It may be true, it may not. But even if it is, we’re lacking some context here. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Polish person advertising is deaf, and has to lip-read. He/she, who is creating employment remember, perhaps can only lip-read in Polish. If this is the case, hats off for surviving and thriving in a country where they’re so disadvantaged.
Right, that’s it. I feel better now.