18 January 2016

Bradford's language bubbles: 'it’s perfectly possible never to speak English'

Selecting a royal blue velvet for her next shalwar kameez in Aeman’s fabric emporium in Bradford on Monday, Nusrat Parveen asked the shop assistant a question. The pair then had a brief conversation, all in Urdu. “I want this job because my English is not so good. Here I can speak my own language,” said the assistant, Shamsa Kanwal, in lightly broken, but perfectly understandable, English.

The sunny 30-year-old arrived in Bradford nine years ago, an imported bride on a spouse visa, barely speaking a word of English. The marriage broke down and she found herself “totally alone”, having to navigate all aspects of British life on her own: doctors appointments, parents evening at her daughter’s school, shopping, the lot. She’d love to take English lessons and go on to do GCSEs, she said, but she didn’t know where she would find the time.

Some 22% of women in Manningham, where Kanwal works, either can’t speak English very well or can’t speak it at all, according to the 2011 census. [The Guardian] Read more