Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No English, no service?

Assimilation is generally a good thing. But how far do we go in expecting each other to assimilate? From Britain comes this report on a Sri Lankan-born man named Deva Kumarasiri who refused to serve anyone in his post office if they don't speak English.

I'm always intrigued by the mindset of those migrants who embrace their new country so wholeheartedly that they end up complaining about "bloody immigrants" and so on. Mr Kumarasiri should perhaps remember that he's had an advantage that many new migrants do not have, in coming from a country with an English-language education system. And where does this stop? Would he refuse to serve someone with a speech impediment, or an intellectually disabled person with severe communication difficulties? And clearly a newly arrived refugee needs help, rather than hectoring.

On the other hand, I can't deny that another part of me kinda agrees with him - dealing with someone who cannot communicate effectively is sometimes amusing, usually a little annoying, but occasionally life-threatening. While the majority of migrants are very eager to learn the language of their adopted country, anyone who knows migrants knows that there are a minority who, for whatever reason, will not push themselves to learn any more than the bare basics. They could do with a bit of encouragement, perhaps of the tough-love kind.

Is it Mr Kumarasiri's responsibility to do this? Clearly not. At least according to the post office, who have sacked him. But this may not be an end but a new beginning - he has since accepted an offer from the United Kingdom Independence Party to stand as an MP. The tabloid Daily Star are creaming themselves over this as you expect.

Not sure whether to root for him succeeding or failing.

But reading about him, I couldn't help but be reminded of these characters from "Goodness Gracious Me".

And then a few years back there was this guy in Queensland who's dedication to the English language came with a crucial flaw:

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