In Luton people dream of all speaking the same language

122 different languages, corresponding to 122 different ethnic groups, are currently spoken in the British locality of Luton (only 50 kilometers north of London). A recent background of migrations from the centre of the capital towards bordering towns, where accommodation and daily life are more accessible, has shaped its transformation.

An inorganic and spontaneous babel tower has materialized in its shops, bars or schools and for the time-being, this tower does not seem to succumb to the financial crisis instabilities and social lack of cohesion. Amongst other things, all documents produced by the Town hall were even being translated into the spoken 122 languages upon request of any of its citizens, so that all citizens could actively participate in an informed manner in the public affairs of the town.

Nonetheless, upon a suggestion made by the British Secretary of State for local tax authorities, Eric Pickles, the municipal assembly will have abolished this measure on 10 June 2013. “Those translation services may be useful for strictly necessary cases and emergency situations, but I am afraid that their generalization might be unnecessary and due to a wrong interpretation of the right to equality and human rights”, Pickles declared to the press.

Acknowledging that he is also trying to decrease expenses for the local public administration, Pickles has claimed that this practice might discourage the integration of immigrants into the British community. “It does not incentivize people to learn English, which is what allows them to progress and acts as a cohesion factor amongst individuals and within the community.”

This conservative politician omits the fact that integration of immigrants into a European community is not achieved only through social and economic integration, but also by their capacity to obtain information and enjoy their rights right from the moment they begin to live and start an economic activity in the community. Monolingualism is a tool not very adapted to the requirements of a globalized world, in which every corner of the planet has to or can take advantage of the interconnection with other latitudes of the globe.

Moreover, Pickles ignores the fact that the first generations of adult immigrants, with less facilities to fully dominate a foreign language, usually are those which are in most need of translation and interpretation services to fit in abroad, whereas multilingualism imposes itself naturally in the following generations, without any effort from the rest of the community.

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