Should Australian immigrants sit an English test to get citizenship? 649



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Victorial Liberal MP Sharman Stone is pushing for harsher requirements for Australian citizenship, including a mandatory English language test. But is this too harsh on those hoping to start a new life?

The Sydney Morning Herald spoke to some prominent Australians who originally emigrated to Australia, and responses have been mixed to say the least.

Maha Sinnathamby, who entered the country in 1971 and became one of Australia’s most influential property developers, suggested communication was essential: “For a person to be here and to be able to be part of society, to express their desires, their aspirations and their love for their new home, they have to have some ability to communicate their feelings towards the rest of the community”.

However, he suggested it was important everybody is given every opportunity, and all the support they need, to learn English.

On the other hand, beloved scientist and media personality Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (the son of two Holocaust survivors) expressed concern for elderly migrants. “If you consider somebody who’s coming here in their 50s and 60s, it’s in some cases hard for them to learn the language”.

Dr Kruszelnicki also expressed concern that the “fabulously wealthy” would be able to bypass such strict rules.

On the other side of the political fence, Labor’s Sam Dastyari entered Australia without knowing a single word of English, but learned alongside his fellow Australian children in a western Sydney school.

“It is a mistake to judge the contribution a migrant can make to their community based on something as flimsy as their English proficiency”.


Tell us: should English skills be an essential barrier to Australian citizenship? Or should we allow new Australians to learn more naturally, through interactions with the community?



Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Yes, I believe they should if they are truly committed to making Australia their home, this would be mutually beneficial to both the new citizen and Australia alike.

  2. They should be made to speak English go in to some shops and they are babbling away in their own language , downright rude and also how do they read street signs when driving. half the accidents are caused by not knowing the English language. Our country needs to get it right we are letting people in the country who cannot understand our language and cannot read or write. Should be one of the main criteria!

    22 REPLY
    • I am very interested as to where you get your evidence that ” half the accidents are caused ….. language.” Could you enlighten us please?

    • Blimey Fay. I agree with you in principle as it applies to NZ (where I am) but your arrogant tone and lack of qualifying statistics just make a you sound like a bigot. You’re not a bigot are you? I’m sure I heard you say “I’m not fascist but……”. from here.

    • I have met australians around the world just bubbling away in their own language, getting inpatient because the locals couldn’t understand them. Soooo rude!

    • If you can’t understand English how can you read road signs that’s what I meant and as for being fascist June Bartlett never said it maybe you are!

    • So Fay, do you speak English when visiting a non-English speaking country? Just because these people speak to each other in their language doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t speak English also. It may well be that some members of their family don’t speak it as well as others. Harsh to judge without knowing the individuals and their situation.

      1 REPLY
      • I agree with you Rosemary, and the likes of Fay should learn tolerance. I was born in a french speaking country and arrived in Australia with my family when I was fifteen. We all speak French and English, the older generation feel more at ease when speaking French and the only reason they would fall back to French on some occasions is the fact that the likes of Fay will stare blankly and not make the effort to comprehend their ACCENT. It is not rudeness on their part, it is just very embarrassing having people treat you rudely because you do not speak as they do.

    • My apologies I meant to say rascist. Dog bumped me as I was typing and I didn’t check before I sent 🙂 Fay you said a lot more than “road signs”. The fact you can’t or wont qualify your comment with stats or evidence and way you try to back out of it by deflecting you bigotry onto me merely emphasises your attitude. Re NZ? No I meant about people new to NZ not speaking English well enough to make themselves understood in day to day interactions.

    • Ladies! Stop the bickering to make your point! I have been to non English speaking countries, and of course we speak to each other in English, just as I’m sure people who move here speak to each other in their language. It is usually the wife and mother who have trouble with our English. The husband and children go out to work and school, so mix with people and pick up and learn English, the mother does not have those advantages, every day. Found this out when I worked in Maternity unit back in the 70s. A lot of Italian Greek and Yugoslav women came in in labour! Quite often with their young son or daughter, to translate, if not the husband. We were lucky to have women formally of these countries, working as cleaners, who could come and translate when needed to. I’m not saying they shouldn’t learn English, to their benefit to do so, but it takes time. Our language is supposed to be hard to learn, but I can’t comment on that. I have spent several months in Brazil, where my daughter lives, and tried to learn some of the language, found it hard, except for different greetings, please and thank you, I admit I was pretty hopeless.

    • Well he did but anyway…. My comment made no sense with the word fascist. Either way I’m still waiting for you to qualify your statement or at the very least explain what you mean. If you were moving to say, Italy. Would you learn conversational Italian before you moved? Or would you get a few basics and hope to pick the rest up when you get there? If you go on holiday to Nouméa for example do you google French road sign meanings before you go? Just pointing out to you that a it’s a big subject.

    • I have phased it wrong but my neighbour been living here 30 years still cannot speak English hello and goodbye, that is what I mean.When anyone settles here they should do a language course so they can understand. Have you ever seen another language on a shopfront and think what does that say! If you are on holidays you think I am not intending to stay so it doesn’t matter if you learn the language.

      1 REPLY
      • Fay. I must say if I lived next door to a bully and had another languager up my sleeve I would speak it regularly to piss her off. Take my hat off to your neighbor, hope she keeps it up.

    • Why is it rude if they are talking to each other Fay? And they may be already learning English. It can’t be learned in a blink of the eye you know.

    • Well I hope so otherwise they would all be the same nationality. my opinion mark end of story.

    • Well said Molly Holland. I am a nurse & in the past have looked after greek ladies who have been Australia for 30 years & can’t speak a word of English we had to get family members to sit with them because we could not talk to them.

    • I come from a small country town with a predominant Greek community and I must agree with you Jane Whitfield. However most their children have gone on to become productive and wonderful Australians

    • Wouldnt have had too many migrants in the past if English was a pre requisate . But most of them from 50s 60s and 70s have gone on to be pretty good citizens .

      1 REPLY
      • So Fay, what other languages do you speak except for English?

  3. Yes they should. We are to soft .most will not integrate and have no intention to.they come here for a better life but will not respect our ways.they should at least try to learn our language .They should be on probation for 12 months if they haven’t made any effort to learn our language or our way of ,life .cancel there visa and deport them.

    7 REPLY
    • How much would you respect their ways if you go to their countries? During my travelling I have see enough arrogance coming from people like you….

    • Yes it does go both ways Marisa, BUT we are not trying to settle in THEIR country which is what we are discussing here. Many travellers may not respect their country’s conventions about dress etc which is more ignorance than anything else. Many travellers expect countries to have the same values as we do e.g. wearing short shorts with strappy top in the heat which can absolutely incense a muslim as they find it disrespectful and as a traveller you should try to be respectful of the laws of the country you visit which is what WE expect here.

      But many come to our country as it is better than where they come from, but don’t want to learn our language (but then I do appreciate for older people extremely hard to learn English as it would be for us to learn their language) and just want to create a little narrow world in our society and don’t want to integrate with the normal Australians which includes many nationalities who love our way of life.

    • What a crock! How could you possibly know if “most” migrants want to learn English or not? Why on earth would anyone choose to put themselves at a total disadvantage by being unable to communicate with anyone including all the service providers you are so certain they came here to exploit? Where exactly would refugees get the opportunity to learn English before they come here?

    • Margaret Byrne, the article refers to learning English before being granted citizenship, not before coming to Australia. As for your comment about migrants not wanting to put themselves as a disadvantage by not learning English, I’ve also worked for Centrelink and know that translation services are readily available. I’vealso known many who don’t consider English essential, or even desirable, as they live in their own community groups, with their own community shop keepers. I also know this from personal experience, having been previously married to a migrant from a non English speaking country (who did learn English).

    • So. You live in a country that comprises of over 300 nationalities. How many languages do you speak? Personally I am fluent in three. Born in UK. Just made the effort to be a human , years ago.

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