Daily Mail: 'British Babel'

I'd like to write briefly about the lead story that the Daily Mail ran on its front page today. Here's the web version:

English is a second language for one in seven school pupils

The article seems to use the terms 'foreign language' and 'second language' almost interchangeably. This leads me to wonder how many school pupils there are in the United Kingdom who speak Welsh as a first language, for example, or Scottish Gaelic. After all, these aren't foreign languages to the UK.

I also spotted that one of the captions in the article distorts what is said in the body copy. The caption in question reads:

Schools Minister Jim Knight acknowledges there can be problems with high numbers of students whose English is not up to scratch

Whereas the body copy reads:

Schools minister Jim Knight has admitted that 'undoubtedly there can be problems' for schools with large numbers of non-English speakers.

There is, I should think, a great difference between being a non-English speaker and speaking English that is "not up to scratch".

Oh, and this made me smile:

Nelson Primary in East London faces daunting problems.

Only a quarter of its pupils are native English speakers and the rest use some 56 different languages.

I think that any student who can use 56 languages would be an asset to his or her school.

Finally, do read the comments that follow the Daily Mail's web version of the story. Scary, or what?


The Ridger, FCD said...

I would think there would be a difference between problems with students and problems for schools, too.

Anonymous said...

Those comments are terrifying, clearly the result of a terrible breeding experiment between the two groups "bigoted Daily Mail readers" and "people who post anonymous comments on the Internet". Ban this sick filth!