Speaking English

Senator Burch, in his capacity as the Minister responsible for immigration, has recently made a few announcements relating to ex-pat workers. These include changing the term limits to ten years and stressing that all ex-pats must be able to speak English properly.

I am in support of changing the term limits to ten years. I am generally in support of the idea behind term limits, although I recognise there were some bugs in the system as it was originally instituted. To me the extending of the term limits from six to ten years is an adequate compromise and should alleviate some of the concerns IB had towards the policy. I am however slightly confused whether this new policy is just for ex-pats in IB or if its an across the board policy. And Senator Burch’s statement about it being policy, but one that he will not actually issue any ten year term limits just seems to really muddy the waters.

Nor do I fully understand his rationale for not issuing such ten year term limits, despite it now being policy. As far as I can tell from his statements (in the breaking news RG) is that he is having a fit of pique because he views some people in IB as being two-faced with him. Maybe it’s just me, but governing on the basis of personal pique doesn’t seem the ideal form of governance, let alone instilling any confidence for IB. I can understand if the reasoning was just that the Minister wants to have some time to review the policy before implementing it, but as the Ministry in question formulated the policy in the first place I find that a bit strange.

Now, as to the requirement for ex-pats to speak English, I do not have a problem with that idea in and of itself. To me it is just logical that someone wanting to come and work in an English speaking country should be able to communicate in English. The only exceptions there would be refugees, but in that case I would expect them to be provided with English as a Second Language courses. However, with the exception of our Uighur friends, Bermuda generally doesn’t have any issues in terms of refugees, so that is a moot point.

I am however quite concerned about how the policy appears to being implemented, in that it is opening up any number of ex-pats to harrassment, and risks wasting alot of Ministry time dealing with bogus reports. It would make much more sense to institute a policy so that all people applying for the right to work in Bermuda, or to extend their term limit, from X day forward will be required to prove their proficiency in English should English not be their mother-tongue. This would prevent harrassment on ex-pats, as well as, in the long-term, save the Ministry a good deal of paperwork.

From my personal experiences with this issue though, I really haven’t encountered any guest workers who have trouble speaking English, or understanding my English. I have encountered guest workers who have an accent which, while I can understand them fine, I have observed some of my fellow Bermudians having difficulty with. More often though I find that guest workers have some difficulty with broad Bermudian accents and the idiosyncratic manner of speaking of many Bermudians. Our dialect, while English, is not Standard English by far, and that in my opinion is one of the biggest stumbling blocks between guest worker-Bermudian communication.

I am not saying we should kill of the Bermudian dialect. Even if we could do such a thing it would be tantamount to actively killing of some our heritage and culture. All the same we DO need to ensure that all Bermudians are able to switch effortlessly between dialect and Standard English, and that skill, along with more than basic literacy, is one which is embarassingly lacking in many of our people. Indeed, many of our politicians themselves seem to have difficulty speaking Standard English – even Senator Burch, who can articulate his words fine, employs these words in dialect syntax and mannerisms that can be confusing to non-dialect speakers. This doesn’t reflect in any way on their ability, but it does pose problems for mutual understanding.

Ironically I, who only speak English (although I have some basic knowledge of a few other languages), have often found myself being lectured in proper English grammar by non-native speakers. These speakers, having learned English as a second language (or they are Indians who are native speakers, but very particular on Standard English I’ve found), precisely becuase they have learned English as they have, have a better grasp of Standard English than myself.

Afterall Standard English is only the native dialect of a handful of English speakers from around London, everyone else speaks various dialects which are mutually intelligble only up to a point. For example, despite being ethinically Scottish, I have great difficulties with the Glaswegian and Aberdonian accents, but am fine with Fife or Dundonian (in general). Similarly I am mostly okay with Singlish (Singaporean English dialect) and various Creoles, but have great difficulty with some North American accents such as those from New Jersey, Boston and Pennsylvania.

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21 thoughts on “Speaking English

  1. I agree with a lot of what you say about speaking English.

    I am Bermudian and British speaking but lived in India and Malaysia until I was about 8 when we came to Bermuda. I remember sitting in the car outside The Supermart, some broad speaking Bermudians walked by, and thinking “Oh geesh, now I have to learn another language”.

    Who is the person, who will deem what is good enough English, going to be?

    Perhaps we should all be tested, as you say, many Bermudians have a very poor grasp of “Standard English”.

  2. I would like to commend Senator Burch on some of the policy changes. I think the English language issue, and also not mentioned here but his changing visa procedures for women from Panama, Dominican Republic , and Philippines due to shame Bermudian marriages to these women. Reform in the right direction to protect Bermudians. Good job Col. Burch.

  3. Requiring english proficiency will probably hurt the portugese construction and landscaping workers coming from the azores more than any other group. – reason being is their bermudian employers are often fluent in portugese themselves, hence they can communicate with their workers fine in portugese and dont need them to have a great understanding of english. they have their own community here in bda and can generally function better than any other group without english.

  4. i think the whole rally against sham marriages is a sham. can anyone remember reading in the paper about even one case of a sham marriage? i cant. – top that off with the col.’s definition of a sham marriage – someone who marries for lust or money? hell that covers 90% of the island!if we’re honest with ourselves that is –

    and how about his comment about bermudians should only be able to marry a foreigner once? hell he’s got that backwards! the man is a drama queen.

  5. @32n64w
    That was my question. Is it a 10-year work permit or a 10-year term limit? There’s a big difference.

    In my opinion, expats in IB didn’t have a problem with needing to renew a work permit every 3 years. It was the 6 year term limit that was the issue.

    The argument has always been that a 6-year term limit doesn’t protect Bermudian jobs. It just boots one expat with experience out of a chair to be replaced by another expat with, presumably, less experience in the Bermuda market (if no qualified Bermudian is available to take the job).

    If indeed the new policy is to have 10-year work permits, well that in effect hurts a Bermudian’s chance for obtaining the job because the job will not be posted in the paper every three 3 years when a work permit is up for renewal.

    So in the end a 10-year work permit is giving something to IB that, although is very nice to have, was not necessary and only hinders a Bermudian’s chance for advancement.

  6. @ James T

    Please see Bermuda Sun article:Burch announces new immigration policies

    Work Permit Holders’ Competency with the English Language

    While it is appreciated that employers in a number of industries are finding it more and more difficult to recruit from English-speaking countries, it is unacceptable to have foreigners serving persons, whether it is in a restaurant, a hotel or a rest home, who cannot communicate effectively in English. It is dangerous in a job where one has to also read prescriptions or the labels of dangerous chemicals. Consequently the following policy is being put into effect.

    The job categories that are being targeted by the new policy are those in industries where the job holder interacts with the public or in jobs where lives could be threatened if the person cannot speak or read English, namely:

    (a) Restaurant workers: pot washer; cook; waiter

    (b) Hotel workers: cleaner/houseman

    (c) Health professionals: physician; nurse; nursing aide; physiotherapist; occupational therapist; radiological technician; social worker

    (d) Caregivers in nursing jobs: nursemaid/nanny

    For workers in the above categories from countries where English is not the first language, a condition is placed on the work permit stating:

    As you can see, I don’t think this pertains to the construction industry, it pertains mostly to service, hospitality, and healthcare.

  7. And with regards to sham marriages, they put a strain on Bermuda’s infrastructure. Of course you don’t read about sham marriages in the paper, who’s going to admit to that? Do you think Burch is lying when he talks about all the problems he deals with? I don’t, I think it’s very real. In regards, to the one time marriage to a foreigner, this will not happen, it was his emotions talking again. LOL

  8. now he needs to send the blue collar sector import workers, who r taking bermudian jobs home.

    extend the reform of geared to income rentals to all govt housing

    implament a minimum wage to bring bermudians out of poverty

    lower the wages of govt workers makin over 70k to 70k iincludin mps…..for far too long thers been an eletist minority of bermudians making all the money off of the working class tax payers while we struggle.

    produce housing that ordinary people can afford to buy.
    300k to 450k

    reform the employment act 2000

    regulate businesses in bermuda to ensure bermudian employment and proper pay

    pass workforce equity act

    reform the workmans compensation act which hasnt been reformed since 1965 only giving injured workers $170 a week

  9. As others have said, there is a difference between ten year work permits and ten year term limits. It’s also unlikely that any company is going to apply for a ten year work permit for anyone that they don’t regard as “key” [the sort of person that the employer is likely to move off island rather than lose – of course all the supporting functions will go with them]. The reality is that it doesn’t matter why someone has to leave [term limits or simple non-renewal of a work permit] all that matters is that they have to leave.

    Having said that, as Kneesox points out, term limits are much more of a problem than work permits. A work permit can always be renewed (subject to the usual restrictions) whereas term limits may or may not be waived for individuals. But it’s not just IB that’s impacted. “Local” companies are affected at least as much (and I know for a fact that those local companies with international offices can and do move senior employees that run afoul of term limits off island – of course that means that entire units of said company get moved with them). And I say “at least as much” because the big international companies seem to be treated very differently from the local companies. [Any discussion of this topic will raise the issue of “what exactly is IB?” How about the accounting and law firms – technically they’re local but because of their client base they’re functionally international. The list goes on.]

  10. Just to pick up Sara’s point about Burch and lying.

    This where my difficulty kicks in. Like many others, I am tired of spin, tired also of new policy – new laws, that haven’t been thought through fully and carefully before hitting the deck.

    The man may well be right about the sham marriages – my problem is I don’t trust either him, or what he says, sufficiently to accept that at face value.

    Sad perhaps – but there you have it.

  11. I find the hypocrisy quite laughable.

    EB and Burch , smuggled 4 terrorist Uighur Muslims from Cuba,in the dead of night, who don’t know a word of English,without the consent of UK, or even his own party

    Then gave them well paid secure jobs at a Govt. golf club!

    Four unemployed Bermudians should have those jobs .

    This is a sham, shakedown, to force Portuguese , Asian and other construction and landscaping workers off the island and replace them with non productive BIU-PLP agitators

  12. Hi all,

    Can’t beleive that you guys are worried or even putting time into this topic its April 1 and you do not make as much as you did yesterday thanks to the PLP spending machine. Patheticly distracted again.

    CDF

  13. @ Sal,

    Did you see my above post about the article in Bermuda Sun.
    I will post the section again:

    “Please see Bermuda Sun article:Burch announces new immigration policies

    Work Permit Holders’ Competency with the English Language

    While it is appreciated that employers in a number of industries are finding it more and more difficult to recruit from English-speaking countries, it is unacceptable to have foreigners serving persons, whether it is in a restaurant, a hotel or a rest home, who cannot communicate effectively in English. It is dangerous in a job where one has to also read prescriptions or the labels of dangerous chemicals. Consequently the following policy is being put into effect.

    The job categories that are being targeted by the new policy are those in industries where the job holder interacts with the public or in jobs where lives could be threatened if the person cannot speak or read English, namely:

    (a) Restaurant workers: pot washer; cook; waiter

    (b) Hotel workers: cleaner/houseman

    (c) Health professionals: physician; nurse; nursing aide; physiotherapist; occupational therapist; radiological technician; social worker

    (d) Caregivers in nursing jobs: nursemaid/nanny

    For workers in the above categories from countries where English is not the first language, a condition is placed on the work permit stating:”

    Sara:
    As you can see, I don’t think this pertains to the construction industry or landscaping for that matter, it pertains mostly to service, hospitality, and healthcare.

  14. Some of the issues he brought up probably do need addressing….Quietly and sensitively with a bit of decorum.
    Why shout it from the roof tops?
    Because it gets the local population riled up and hating on immigrants during a time of economic hardship.
    It transfers the anger and frustrations of struggling locals that would have been aimed at the government, to the immigrant population.
    If there are hate crimes against immigrants in the coming months I will hold Col Burch at least partially responsible.

  15. @ eastend

    Haven’t you noticed how Burch (and Bermudian politicians in general) speak on emotion!!! That is his emotions talking and that is how much of the politics of the day are ran in Bermuda.
    Remember his reasoning for hating marijuana smokers:
    his brother smoked too much of it and they are responsible for all the gangs!!
    If that isn’t speaking on emotion I don’t know what is!
    It’s just the way he is. But that aside, I do feel these reforms are necessary.

  16. Speaking of “emotion”, I wonder where you get this from. Do you know something that we as ‘older’ persons know? How the hell did he make it through life and the Civil Service and become a Lt. Colonel in the Bermuda Regiment based on your “emotions” capsual.

    There’s more too it than meets the eye, and I can assure you that I am aware of more than you think.

    A bad comparison and I do have great respect for Lt. Colonel Lamb whom I know quite well but that would be like him saying and acting out his job…..’I’m a Colonel, I demand respect, I’ve no clue what the hell I’m doing in Prisons but I get emtional at times when confronted by decision making and snarky little recruits and bad ass Majors ann spacially doze Birmyoodianz…just imagine if dee Kubanz came…I’d be so emotional I’d have to call the Minister and ask for advice…………….

    The Minister needs to walk away. He has more serious issues to deal with.

  17. sal i see ya blog is gettin national press coverage via hott 107 … apparently u said sumpin they didnt like

    every bermudian shoud have a job that pays the same as the wiggars are getting…. 51k and no bermudian should be living under the 70k poverty line

    its unfortunte bermudians are so passive

    i thought the burch as going to have a stroke on tv news it was quite amusing to watch.

    Eat end…the people re not going to be so easily distracted since more people are losing jobs , and more proof is comming ut that this govt has been reckless with the public purse.

  18. agree with Eastend.
    Also, I actually think that Burch is one of the more effective and hard working members of the government. It’s a pity he suffers from Tourettes when it comes to presenting issues that in his heart he disagrees with. He’s always been a train wreck when it comes to dealing with the media too.

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