Speak English, mate! What are ya, a Muslim or something?

18 Nov

I had a few entries on this in September 2006, starting here. In the past, because it was my business as an ESL teacher to do so, I had spent many an hour going through census figures suburb by suburb seeing just how many people in Sydney spoke English and what their backgrounds were. I did this partly to explain to my colleagues, some of whom had been rather amazed by the phenomenon, how Sydney High went from around 50% language background other than English in the mid 1990s to over 80% today, especially given that after boundaries were done away with the school drew most of its population from the west rather than the east of the city.

I hadn’t really linked English use with religious affiliation, however, and it does seem, given much that has been said over the past few years, that many associate inability or unwillingness to speak English with Islam.

It turns out to be an urban myth.

See English take-up speaks volumes for Muslims: “Catholics are the religious group identified on census forms as having the highest total number of non-English speakers, while Buddhists have the highest proportion of poor or non-speakers, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys for 1996 and 2001. The number of people without English skills in ethnic and religious communities is low and has been falling for a decade. Muslim people reflect the average.”


I might add I live in one of Sydney’s “Little Lebanons”. My observations of the coffee shop downstairs show that the people from Abdul’s and their friends read The Daily Telegraph (I wonder how they cope with Piers Akerman?) and the Arabic newspapers. I never converse with these neighbours in Arabic, for rather obvious reasons. If they are religious, they may well converse with God in Arabic, as Catholics used to in Latin. Fortunately there is nothing wrong with their English, even if some of their wives wear scarves around their heads. And, I might add, often seem to “wear the pants”…


This relates more to the comments than the post, but is so good I want you to know about it: A Liberal’s [US usage] Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives. Great! For example, “We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don’t put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs (‘Blessed are the poor,’ ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ ‘Love your enemies,’ ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,’ and ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn’t just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism — starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.”

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7 responses to “Speak English, mate! What are ya, a Muslim or something?

  1. Watchman

    November 18, 2006 at 6:52 pm

    Sent a response but it didn’t post. May be because you are half a world away. Ha.

  2. ninglun

    November 18, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    No, it didn’t get through, and nothing to do with me. It happens occasionally, but not because I am half a world way. WordPress is nearer to you than it is to me. 😉

    It has happened to me too. Now I usually save a copy on Wordpad just in case, so I can repost. If by some chance that leads you to double up, I can easily fix it this end, especially now I am moderating comments.

    Your comment wasn’t sent to Akismet either as spam; I have just checked that.

  3. Watchman

    November 18, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    Well…that one did. Don’t know why the first didn’t post. Anyway I was saying we have the same problem with languages. Since the Mexicans have over run our border we have tried to make English our national language. They are everywhere and it causes real problems when they do not assimilate. Most just won’t learn the english language, even when it is offered in our schools for free, as they want to keep their heritage. But if you come here we expect you to become American and accept the heritage of our country as your own.

    So it is a real problem here in that they are here mostly illegally and the liberals in our government have managed to put them on welfare, Medicare and Medicade, and even social security. They can work here long enough to get enough credits for SS and then go back to Mexico and retire. Our government will send them a monthly check. Sounds good I know, but all four of those social programs are almost bankrupt, which means none of the Americans will be able to draw what we already paid in. We not only are going to get rid of the Mexicans, but also the liberals who are like termites steadily tearing the country down.

    Will post more on my blog
    Hope to see you there.

  4. ninglun

    November 18, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    Where it belongs, as your comments are quite alien to me and to our experience here. There is no threat to English as the dominant language in Australia, and one curious fact that story contained is this: “Of ethnic groups, Aborigines had the highest proportion of people who do not speak English.” There is nothing unAustralian about Aborigines! Some groups do better than others, but we get people bitching here about some migrants being too successful! A major difference, of course, is that Australia is an island and does not have a land border with a poorer Spanish-speaking neighbour, and a host of other Spanish-speaking countries lined up after that. How do you feel about Cubans in Florida, as a matter of interest? Or about Canada having two national languages?

    So we have the same problem with languages isn’t right; we really don’t have much of a problem. I know: I am an ESL teacher. But we do have some problems, and some of them are down to our intolerance, some down to some dysfunctional cultural practices among some migrant groups — unreconstructed macho sexism for example, made worse by apparent religious endorsement, at least in the minds of some practitioners, but not of others, and probably having more do do with educational level and cultural background than with the religion itself. I have met plenty of Muslims, for that is the group I have in mind, whose views on and treatment of women are quite in keeping with Australian community standards, and that is a fact not an opinion, and I certainly know of plenty of people outside the world of Muslims whose attitudes in this area are quite appalling. Not to mention racism and homophobia.

    See Face the Facts, an Australian government publication.

    Ranting about “liberals” goes down like a lead balloon with me, because I am proudly and determinedly what you might call a “liberal”, part of my Anglo-Australian heritage I am damned pleased with. As far as I am concerned US “liberals” are the most civilised citizens of the United States, so back off on that, mate, and cut the crap about “termites.” Try listening to them instead; your country (and the world) would be better off if you did.

  5. Watchman

    November 19, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Looks like I punched a sore spot with you on liberals. Will get to that later.

    On your statement ” How do you feel about Cubans in Florida, as a matter of interest? Or about Canada having two national languages?

    We did not get overwhelmed by Cubans, and they were welcomed when they came. But Cubans in Florida “did” assimilate, and in the time they have been here, have learned to speak english so well they run for public offices there and all over the country. So what is your beef there mate? And on Canada, it is divided for reasons unknown, but don’t tell me it isn’t a major problem to both languages. But of course that is Canada, and we have our own problems to worry with. One of which is the LIBERAL AGENDA.

    Let me be clear mate, I am not liberal nor am I conservative, I am not Democrat nor Republican. No red blooded American should be, but that is their right, so be it. United we stand, divided we fall. To divide us is obviously the liberal agenda here. What it means to you Aussies or in Great Britain is irrelevent, as to us here in America it is contrary to our heritage, our godly upbringing, our way of life, our Constitution which is solidly based on the Ten Commandments of the Creator God whom we serve.

    ” As far as I am concerned US “liberals” are the most civilised citizens of the United States, ”

    Oh My, well you have a worst case of propaganda than I thought. You evidently do not know what you are talking about. But no need argueing about it, because from the way you rise up in hatred I know they must have really gotten to you.
    CU Around chap.

  6. ninglun

    November 19, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    No, not propaganda, Watchman. I just know which American sources speak reason to me, that’s all.

    I am not rising up in hatred; indeed it is you who seem to have a rather long hate list. Finally, God, when I last looked, is not an American.

    We do seem to have encountered some high American weirdness here, folks. Not the same as, but in the same family as, the stuff I talked about on this post on August 09, 2005, and as I did there I recommend you look at English Catholic Clifford Longley’s CHOSEN PEOPLE – the Big Idea that shapes England and America, a fascinating historical study.

    Go to the Watchman’s site to see where he is coming from; he is also quite an interesting old guy in his own way too, I have to say, but I wouldn’t follow him. He is clearly an extremist even in American terms, but may well deny this. He is entitled to his views.

  7. AV

    November 20, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    Go to the Watchman’s site to see where he is coming from

    “Your Uncle Walter’s going on and on
    Bout everything he’s seen and done
    The voice of 50 years experience
    Drunk, watching the television
    You know he’s been around the world
    Last night he flew to Baghdad
    In his magical armchair
    Cigarettes and a six pack, he just got back
    Now the spit’s flying everywhere

    Hey, hey, hey, hey”

    –BEN FOLDS FIVE, “Uncle Walter”


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