Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Speak English!

No stranger to controversies, Andrew Flintoff has made some stunning anti-immigration statements ...

"I have no problems with a multicultural society, I think that is to the benefit of the country. But you have to be careful what levels you take it to," Flintoff said.

"It annoys me when I phone a hotel receptionist in my own country and they don't understand what I am saying because they don't speak English," he added.[source]

I know I am a brown guy and I am supposed to be angry at Andrew Flintoff here, but I know exactly how he feels.

The other day I was at a No Frills grocery store, at the seafood section. There was a Chinese lady cutting the fish and dealing with the customers. Now, I had a question about lobsters - never bought or cooked them before.

"Excuse me," I asked her, "These lobsters, how long can you keep them in the bag before you have to cook them?"

"Lobster 6.99 per pound." She replied.

"Er, ok, what is the size of that one?"

"Lobster 6.99 per pound." She replied.

"Do you steam the lobster here or do you give it live?"

"Lobster 6.99 per pound." She replied.

"Look, this is the first time I am getting a lobster and you can't answer a single question!"

"You hold!" She then beckoned to another man to come and deal with me.

It was then I lost my temper. Here am I, in Canada, and I can't get serviced in English. Why the hell are you working here then? If you can't speak English, and that too PROPER GOOD ENGLISH, you should not be working in any capacity that involves dealing with customers.

So while I don't understand what Flintoff exactly means by "levels you take it to", I can certainly understand his frustration with people who reside in an English speaking country and make it a point of pride not to speak English.


Anonymous said...

The other day I was at the bus station when a woman in her early 20s stopped me and asked me if I would translate what the man on the phone was saying. WTF?!
Wait, the best bit is coming up.It was from a govt. dept. asking her what uni she would be attending (ack!)and her bank details so he could give her tuition fee loans to help with her finance! (double ack!)

Grr, people like that make me mad!
Excuse the mini rant.

Tisha said...

Salaams Mezba, is your comment racist? I'm not sure, but it's definitely a bit prejudicial. As for Andrew Flintoff, I found his line of not being able to get serviced in English in his "OWN" country, kind of amusing. I wonder if that's the same way non-English speaking Aboriginals feel when they can't get serviced in their OWN country in their respective languages as well ;) Also, having worked extensively with newcomers and immigrant groups who come from a variety of cultures and don't speak English as their first language, I can definitely tell you that there are ways to communicate and overcome these language barriers without having to resort to angry outbursts. Moreover, I found your reaction @Loblaws kind of interesting, especially given that you identify yourself as Muslim & isn't our religion all about showing patience and kindness towards the other :)

Will said...

it was IMPOSSIBLE to find work in Holland without speaking Dutch - and 80% of the locals speak English!

there comes a point where you should learn the local language if you plan to operate in that country. if i want to live in Russia, i'd better learn to speak Russian...or Arabic in Egypt, or Hindi in India, Mandarin in China, etc

'liya said...

I lost my temper at the non-English speaking woman who drove into my car. It was the first time I ever swore out loud at someone, I accused her of not knowing how to drive (well she obviously didn't if she drove into my car that was stopped at a red light), and I accused her of not knowing how to speak English (since she was trying to convince me in urdu, hindi, punjabi or whatever it was - I guess she assumed I spoke one of them, but I knew she was saying not to call the cops since her husband showed up to translate).

mezba said...

Boba: oh my goodness don't people have to pass some english language tests to get into university nowadays?

it is definitely a grr-worthy rant!

Tisha: Wasa. Thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog.

The thing with the Aboriginals prove that uncontrolled immigration is bad, and people SHOULD learn the language of the area they live in (besides, isn't that also the Sunnah way? didn't the prophet encourage the learning of new languages?).

You are right, our religion is about showing patience and tolerance, but not everyone is the Prophet! I find that once you are working in a service area, you are expected to be able to service!! That's just part of the job description. If someone cannot speak English when dealing with customers in Toronto, then that person is not doing their job properly.

I am a customer and if I am not getting value for money, I may not have the time to wait to speak to another person who CAN speak English. Besides, it's also the attitude fo that specific person. She should be apologetic she cannot speak English, and she should make it a priority to get me someone immediately who can, not make me wait in line again!

Will: Not only does knowing the local language help you professionaly, it's also courtesy to the people you are living with, working with and helping out, and who are providing you employment.

Also, I find immigrants in Canada who don't speak good English and never bother to learn are most disrespecting and ungrateful to Canada.

Liya: She was just trying to scam you by not going to the police! God knows how some people get a license nowadays!

I am extremely sad they now allow driving license exams to be taken in non-English/French languages. If you want to pass G1 in Hindi or Chinese you should be in India or China, not in Canada.

Big Pun: I would publish your comment if it was only disrespectful of me, but you were rude to another commentator (and friend) on this blog, so I chose to reject your comment.

Ironic that a comment telling me and the other person to be more tolerant and respectful is made in such a rude manner!

Suroor said...

You write good post. I like good post.

And now Lobster 6.99 per pound.


tani said...

I do agree that immigrants should learn the language, but as a society we make it very difficult for new immigrants to integrate economically and socially.

Double wammy if your an immigrant women with children. The government already provides free language training to those who want it, yet the cost of an English/French class isn’t the only barrier many immigrants — especially women — face to language training. A big part of it is when they get into the country, we no longer provide language classes with child care and transportation and a bit of income support.

Women are often stuck in the house as someone has to take care of the kids. And if your forced to work minimum wage at a loblaws counter to supplement that income, I would assume she has very little time to explore language training.

I am not discounting the rant :-p (in fact i have been in comparable situations), but maybe looking at the underlying issues from a public policy perspective will help us (especially those of us who have recently migrated here) in pushing for more changes in easing the immigrant experience.

Any comprehensive language-training program must provide other types of support such as income, childcare or transportation to be effective (something the Ontario Public Service needs to do better).

Acutally if you look at immigration statistics, immigrants from refugee classes tend to get more comprehensive social and cultural assistance than any other immigrant category, and are able to integrate better in the long run.

Naomi Alboim, a professor at the Queen's public policy program gave this presentation at UofT, and was extremely vocal about how we are shortchanging newcomers in Canada -especially Ontario.

For those of you interested, lots of little pearls in there (and its in powerpoint! :-p



Musa said...

I kind of resonate with your comments. However as for Flintoff's comment, I am sure all Englishmen learn the language of any country they live in.......

There are some South Indian workers in the UAE (not entirely blue collar, some are plumbers or gorocery men) who don't know Arabic, or English, or Hindi/Urdu. they rely on their mother tongue, and grunts to make themselves undersootd.....

Now this situation is different because they are temporary workers and not immigrants, nevertheless its annoying when people dont know the 1st, or 2nd or even 3rd unofficial language of the country they live in.

Its also extremely annoying when an Indian starts speaking to a Bangladeshi in Urdu/Hindi or even worse, Malayalam expecting the latter to understand just because he is brown...

mezba said...

Funny... I thought I had commented here. I definitely remember replying to Suroor's comment.

Suroor, Lobster tails here are now 1.99!

Tani, well society is one thing - the government is there with its social programs and I think they should increases services and help to immigrants - but businesses are not in the process of social engineering. Businesses should hire the best people for the job for the most part.

Musa, it was strange in the middle east (especially UAE) that you didn't need Arabic as a kid!

mystic said...

I think it was a good priced lobster..You should have take it irrespective of anything...lol

I know sir...its hard when you hear...Nooo englishhhh...

mezba said...

Yes, lobster isn't usually that cheap here!

Muslim Girl said...

That's crazy.

I'd blame the employers more than the lady; she got lucky being hired considering she can't even speak english.

I don't know what kind of a business would hire a person who can't even sell their service !