When discussing the UK citizenship requirements on two separate occasions:
On saying that I only passed 3 of the 7 ‘Life in the UK’ practise tests I took (to show how arbitrarily irrelevant to life in the UK they actually are):
Random: But I guess it puts off people who don’t take the application seriously.
Me: Hmmm… (followed by dumbfounded silence).
What I wish I’d said: The people seeking the security of UK citizenship right now aren’t likely to waste silly amounts of money to book a test, travel to a test centre and use valuable days of holiday to not take the – frankly ludicrous – ‘Life in the UK’ test seriously. These people are worried enough about losing their families, jobs and lives to take the action of applying for citizenship in the first place – do you honestly believe that they’re not going to take the commitment they’ve made seriously?
On saying that the English test, necessary to prove fluency was an enormous waste of time:
Random: Surely the English test is a good thing? My (distant, tenuous relative) met a Sweden girl who came over here and couldn’t speak a single word of English.
Me: You’re sure they were from Scandinavia? Because I’ve met a lot of Scandinavians who span a lot of generations and even my husband’s 12 yr old Danish cousin could interpret for me at dinner.
What I wish I’d said: Do you have any idea how much courage that must have taken (if it’s even true)? I’m going to go out on a limb and presume you’re one of the majority of Brits who don’t speak a second language fluently and ask you to imagine that you’re on holiday and your car breaks down – you ask for help, but no one has a clue what you’re saying, and as a result start speaking with increasing volume and decreasing speed. Then they get mad at you and leave you to your own mess. Because that’s what every single simple every day task is like when you live abroad and don’t speak the same language as everyone else. Even after four years of university level Danish, two summer schools and in a country with a high level of English, I found it so terrifyingly difficult to move abroad and function. Things like opening a bank account, getting the equivalent of a national insurance number and renting a flat were mind-boggling affairs. In the beginning, there wasn’t a day I didn’t cry. And I’m not the sort of person who gets homesick.
And all that aside – do you have any idea how people even learn languages? I’m guessing not. Total immersion is the only real way to gain any degree of fluency. That’s why schools offer exchange trips, why language degrees insist on a year abroad… unless your brain has the chance to work with language in context, you’re never going to learn it well enough to live with it. People coming over here without a level of English you’re happy with is the only way they’re going to learn a level of English which meets your unrealistic standards.
And you – you want to punish people brave enough to do this for a minimum wage job?