Sunday, March 22, 2009

Immigrants Need to Learn the Official Language

There is a great deal of concern regarding the amount of Canadian Immigrants who are not able to speak English or French. Not having basic skills in your Country's official language can cause a great deal of difficulty in functioning in society. Many of these people end up in low paying customer service jobs, causing even more frustration and resentment towards the immigration population. There was a case last year where a nurse was not hired even though she was bilingual because she could not speak the language of the local immigrant population.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has expressed concern about this issue. He said that he had sat in on immigration interviews were the applicant was not able to carry out the interview in either English or French. This includes people who have been living in Canada for 10 - 15 years. The interview stage is designed to review applicants who failed the 20 question multiple choice test. He suggested that he is considering adding a language requirement to the application process.

The problem with such a proposal is that it is not easy to learn a new language. It harder as you get older, especially if you are struggling to put food on the table. While bringing in basic language requirements is a good idea, it needs to be implemented in a way that would also address these concerns. There are also concerns that it is possible to be a good citizen without the language skills.

In Israel, every new immigrant is entitled to up to approximately 500 hours of free language training. Plus their is some financial assistance during the first 6 months while people are getting settled. Canada could easily take some ideas from this system.

The Canadian government should require a minimum amount of language skills. They should also make language classes affordable to those who need it. The end result would be immigrant who are better able to function in society. The cost would be minimal compared to the benefit of a well functioning society. People need to be able to speak the official language. This is just a practical solution.

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