Minority Expansion

The United Kingdom has traditionally been home to a large number of language schools offering “English in the home of English”. Students from the world over make linguistic pilgrimages to the major cities of England in order to learn, study, brush up on or tweak their English language skills.

However, due to the influx of so many Polish people, the Polish language is now in vogue. Language schools and local community centres are all registering a large number of people wanting to learn Polish. Evening classes offering Polish have become incredibly popular in the south of England.

What is more interesting is the fact that the greatest number of people wanting to learn Polish are English men, the reason being is that they are eager to learn the language of their newly-acquired Polish girlfriends or wives.

The effect of minority languages on nations has never really been a focal point of research within modern linguistics. Bilingualism and diglossia usually prevails in the literature, although it could be fascinating to learn what effects (new and old) minority languages might have on a society and its linguistic habits.

Polish made its first modern impact on the British Isles after the war with a whole host of communities being scattered all over England, Wales and Scotland, however, the post-war Poles left a fairly weak linguistic imprint on modern-day English. The new Polish influx could be different. Nowadays, British citizens are more eager to learn foreign languages than their parents and grandparents before them; linguistic tolerance is at a much higher level than before.

Polish will never have the same effect as Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati or Bengali but in the upcoming years it will be curious to see the linguistic ripples (or waves) that this Slavonic language might have on the already colourful linguistic patchwork that is the modern-day United Kingdom. The hope is that linguists will have the foresight to map this interesting process.


6 thoughts on “Minority Expansion

  1. Polish will never have the same effect as Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati or Bengali
    Just on the grounds of English men … eager to learn the language of their newly-acquired Polish girlfriends or wives, I’d imagine Polish will have MORE of an impact than any of the above-mentioned, which as far as I’m aware mainly attract interest from heritage learners. To put it bluntly, there’s little motivation for non-South Asian Britons of either gender to learn a South Asian language for romantic purposes; those interracial relationships just aren’t that common, and often face opprobrium from both sides.

    Similarly in Hong Kong, we have precisely ZERO language schools offering instruction in the languages most common among our immigrants – Tagalog, Indonesian, Urdu, and Vietnamese. Many single women among those communities, but if you actually got into a relationship with one, you’d have to put up with all your mates and aunties making stupid racist jokes about how you’re dating the maid. On the other hand, there is one night school offering courses in Thai now (Thais are another decent-sized minority here); maybe change — and love — is in the air?

    One interesting case of minority languages making an impact in their adopted land is that of Latinos in Los Angeles learning Korean (and of course the converse, US immigrants of all stripes learning Spanish) – link – typically no romantic motivations there either, it’s purely business, foremen who want to be able to employ cheap workers who don’t speak English well, store clerks who want to help their customers more effectively, etc.

  2. To my mind romantic and economic (I mean cheap manpower) reasons are fully understandable. The worst case I’ve come across were some Englishmen visiting Cracow some time ago. I had a dubious pleasure to listen to the list of the worst Polish swear-words pronounced very incorrectly but with an undeniable certainty to what they were saying. Listening to the strange litany of native swear-words is nothing in comparison to what they have said about it. According to them, Polish language is of for nothing and the only words which can be used are used in a shop with alkohol or when they talk to their “servants” as they said. It occurs to me that in not-so-narrow circles of English people Polish language is nothing but a funny tool to enrich native lingo with swear-words which mean nothing to them, but pronounced in a presence of the Polish sometimes can irritare or offend us. For those “gentlemen” it was funny.

  3. I don’t think Polish is perceived in Great Britain as a language worth learning. Of course, there are exceptions, but I know from my personal experience that Polish language is not always welcomed. During my last visit in England, I met a Polish girl whose English husband has forbidden her to talk in her native language and forbidden their children to learn Polish as well. I know that this is a very extreme example, but it shows that Polish is not that popular on the isles as some people might think.

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