Pros of cultural capital

October 11, 2002

As a bilingual British citizen from a refugee background, home secretary David Blunkett's statement urging parents from bilingual backgrounds to speak English at home disturbs me.

I have seen many Bosnian families arrive in Britain with nothing but their skills and language. Policies and practices that do not support first-language maintenance deprive bilingual and refugee children of their cultural and intellectual capital ("Universities deaf to linguistic diversity", THES , September ).

But this personal loss is also a loss to society. The way to integrate ethnic minorities in a society is not by erasing their languages, but by supporting their existence and making it beneficial to the society.

Languages can play key roles in developing industry, economy, art, science and education. It is time for Britain to see and use its linguistic wealth to its advantage.

Dina Mehmedbegovic
Research student
Institute of Education, London

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