Friday, November 02, 2007

Whose Language is it anyway?

A row has erupted in the Borders after a councillor used the words ‘immigrants’ and ‘indigenous’. Sandy Aitcheson of the Borders Party tabled a question about the Additional Support for Learning Act of 2004, in which English language training is a right of all immigrant children. He asked. “Due to the massive increase in immigration into the Borders, what extra provision is being proposed by Scottish Borders Council to provide a better service for the benefit of immigrant children, indigenous children and the staff who are providing an excellent service with the limited resources available to them?”

He was accused by Councillor Bahtia of, “using the emotive language of the far right which has no place in Borders. It is quite legitimate to ask about how the council is supporting children who do not have English as a first language, but to label children as either ‘immigrant’ or ‘indigenous’ is absolutely abhorrent.”

This is typical of what is restricting our society from tackling such an important issue (and it’s not restricted to the Borders or the subject of immigration). Instead of dealing with the problem it turns into an attempt at political points scoring. It’s also political correctness gone potty and it’s exactly what happens when national party politics are imported to local issues.

Just for the record, Ms Bahtia should be reminded that using the word indigenous about people who come from or live in a particular area is an absolutely correct use of English. Similarly ‘immigrant’ is a word to describe someone who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. The truth is that this is a pathetic, childish politics about a subject that is of major concern not just in the Borders but across the country. It is perhaps a bigger problem for the Scottish Borders Council to tackle given the vast area that the Borders covers and the fact that traditionally there have been few ‘immigrants’ in the Borders and there’s been a net out flow of people for years. Accusing someone of using the language of the BNP does nothing but play into the hands of racist bigots and encourages them to think they have control of the language.

Interestingly in answer to the question about what support there is in the Borders for English language teaching. There are two teachers covering 36 schools and arguably they spend nearly as much time driving between schools as they do in schools.

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