Friday, 25 March 2011

'Never Too Old To Learn', Eh?

Ben Chu is a rather confused young man:
My 84-year-old grandmother was rescued by the Big Society. Or was it the big state? Or was it the doctrine of state multiculturalism?
Blimey, I don't know, Ben, she's your grandmother. Make up your mind!
Chau Yuk Sim arrived in Britain from Hong Kong in 1960 with two young boys (one of them my father). Along with my grandfather, who had arrived in the UK a few years before, they set up a laundry in Sheffield and worked long hours doing tedious manual work. When the Chinese laundry industry collapsed, thanks to the arrival of domestic washing machines, the family moved into the restaurant trade. But in the mid-1990s, after a life of hard work, things went wrong for Chau Yuk Sim. She separated from my grandfather and found herself living in a grim Sheffield council estate. Speaking only limited English, she felt unsafe, isolated and unhappy.
Yup, that'll do it, every time...
Salvation came in the form of an organisation called Tung Sing in Manchester that houses elderly members of the Chinese community.
So, more separatism is the answer?
She values the weekly contact with her Cantonese-speaking support worker, Christine Sin. My grandmother also benefits from the services of a Manchester charity called Wai Yin that works closely with Tung Sing in providing help for the elderly Chinese.
It sounds like she's determined to avoid actually living in England...
Some have a different objection to organisations such as Tung Sing and Wai Yin. By providing translators for people whose grasp of English is shaky, the argument goes, these bodies promote cultural segregation.
They're certainly doing a bang-up job with your grandmother, aren't they?
But translation is not a straightforward business. My grandmother has been in Britain for six decades. Many other elderly Chinese Tung Sing residents have been here just as long. I agree that she, and they, ought to have developed a surer grasp of English when younger. But we are where we are.
What happened to 'you're never too old to learn'?
You could cut funding for organisations that provide translation services, but then you would merely have confused old people unable to communicate properly with doctors, council workers and utility companies. That would not encourage integration, only misery.
In other words, Ben, they're hostages. We go on funding these services, or old people suffer.
What was it that rescued my grandmother? The Big Society, the big state, or multiculturalism? My answer would be: all three.
Would it? Would it really? And just what would they have 'rescued' her from, exactly?


Anonymous said...

Don't get me started. Old people who arrived decades ago from other places, lived here for years -- and a good number benefitting from the state apparatus such as NHS, etc, along the way -- never bother to learn English.

Someone will translate for them and sort it all out free of charge and anyway, what's the point in coming here to mix with the people you live among?

If I went to China or Pakistan or Iran or some other place I wouldn't fancy being, I would almost certainly have to learn the language. Something about when in Rome, etc.

Still the message is clear: bring your tribe here, stay in your tribe, dress and act like you were in your tribal homeland... the dumb Brits will do it all for you. You don't have to meet us halfway at all.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Turks here are the same.

It is also not just the "older generation". We constantly have to provide translators for "youths" who's Mothers and....Fathers(?) went to school here, and they obviously went through the entire German education system themselves, yet they need translators!

Yet you try to get someone a translator for English. "FORGET it pal! Pay for it yourself or go without".

staybryte said...

I forced myself to read the whole article. This gem jumped out at me:

"When my grandmother needed a walking stick last year, the two organisations combined to sort one out for her."

As opposed to her fit and healthy grandson just going to Wilkinsons and buying one for £4.

English Viking said...

The chinks aren't so bad.

At least they don't think they have a god-given right to behead me for anything they disagree with.

PS Most English people cannot speak English. The grasp of the language is not ever-so important. The grasp of the culture is equally, not ever-so important.

The grasp of right and wrong is vital. And the chinks have it in spades.

Gordo said...

Bloody right separatism is the answer.

JuliaM said...

"Still the message is clear: bring your tribe here, stay in your tribe, dress and act like you were in your tribal homeland... the dumb Brits will do it all for you. "

Bring this to a halt, and we'd be able to get a handle on a lot of our problems.

"It is also not just the "older generation"."

Now that's worrying.

"This gem jumped out at me..."

Ah, I thought that must be you in the comments!

"At least they don't think they have a god-given right to behead me for anything they disagree with."

True enough.

Anonymous said...

Any Foreign language/ English dictionary is what ..99p ?.. in all British bookshops.