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The long adieu: how Britain gave up learning French (Edward Heath in The Guardian)

Mis à jour : 26 Jan 2016

We have embraced cosmopolitanism and cultural diversity. What a pity, then, that we are more stolidly monolingual than ever.

Is it important that more people speak English? Only this week, David Cameron launched a new scheme encouraging more Muslim women to learn the language, one argument being that the inability of many to do so weakens their voice , and in doing so strengthens radicalisation.

It’s true that ignorance of English is a personal cost for anyone living here, perhaps a personal tragedy, but I doubt it’s a long-term social problem.

The vast majority of immigrants do learn English, and while immigration discontent can be fuelled by the language issue, as in Catalonia, where migrants tend to learn Castilian, our tongue is hardly under threat. English is so all-powerful in fact, that it has even replaced Arabic as the lingua franca of jihad, and recordings of foreign fighters in Syria show Chechens, Turks, Arabs and Brits communicating in the language of the King James Bible. Isis has even opened two English language schools in Raqqa for the families of foreign fighters. So it’s on the same page as the prime minister, in that regard at least.

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