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Why Don’t You Speak English?

Why Don’t You Speak English?

Tue Jul 23, 9-10pm, C4

By Gabriel Tate
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Episode one
Immigration is the itch that C4 simply cannot stop scratching. This time? Four immigrants entered the UK over a year ago, and their enduring inability to speak the language is denying them access to jobs and, indeed, many of the pleasures of British society in general. So why not house them with typical Brits happy to given them a crash course in our mother tongue?

We can think of a number of reasons, but C4 has done it anyway, with ultimately endearing results. A Polish lady turns out to be a bit lazy. A Colombian has, it transpires, pretty good English, but not good enough to deflect the casual prejudice he faces in the pub where he’s lodging. (‘You know what banter means?’ he’s asked, dismayingly.)

Good intentions abound, but it’s too rigidly formatted to prove especially revealing. Moreover, the endless editorialising in the voiceover (absurdly trumpeting that this represents a last chance for these immigrants to integrate) is enormously irritating, but can’t negate the genuinely touching effects of the bonds formed between hosts and guests – not least the remarkable, redoubtable Congolese refugee Sifa and the soft-hearted military types with whom she stays. Next week, the tables are turned as the Brits endure the conditions of their erstwhile visitors.
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