Is English Really a Tool of Integration?

A Case Study of Bangladeshi Community in London

Thesis (M.A.), 2008

55 Pages, Grade: 61%



To God: for giving me the good health in the first place, and the courage and strength to face challenges.

To my mum and dad: for their parental love, care, moral and financial support, without which it would have been impossible for me to achieve such a challenging goal.

And I owe a lot of gratitude to an incredible friend, Alhaji: for his moral and financial support at times of crisis.

To my wife and daughter, Arpa: for their patience and relentless moral support and encouragement towards my academic dreams.

Finally, to Mr Shofiqual Alam : for his financial sponsorship.


This research project is an attempt to examine whether English is a tool of social and economic integration of the Bangladeshi community in London. Integration has recently created rigorous in the United Kingdom (UK). One of the reasons is that UK is a multinational country where people from all countries come to live and integration is not going the way it is expected. An in-depth study of the community’s English language skill as a tool of integration has not been carried out yet. This study is an attempt to discuss subject by answering five questions. I will specifically focus on the community’s survival without English and the community’s present view regarding the necessity of learning English for integration process. It is expected that the findings of study would indicate the community has a positive attitude towards English as a tool of integration. This research will benefit not only Bangladeshi immigrants but also other immigrants living in the UK.

Chapter One

1.1 Introduction

Immigration is the movement of people from one country to another. The emigrants of one country become the immigrants of another country. While human migration has existed throughout human history, immigration relates to long-term stable residence that often culminates in immigrants attaining citizenship. Tourists as well as short term visitors are not considered immigrants. Immigration in contemporary times is vertical in structure as people move from LDCs (Less Developed Countries) to EDCs (Economically Developed Countries). Roskin and Berry note that population is one of the factors that prompts people in LDCs to immigrate to EDCs. but more importantly, they also argue, is the push-pull effect; “Any rich country you can name has poor immigrants. Can you blame the poor immigrants? Typically, they come from lands where jobs, food, land, water and even firewood are scarce. Prospects at home are dismal ‘such that’ even the dirtiest, lowest-paid work in the EDCs looks pretty good.” (Rosking and Berry, 1997: p.188). In fine, while poverty and limited opportunities push citizens of LDCs out, unlimited opportunities, wealth and dreams of a better future pull them into the EDCs. Following push and pull factor People from all over the world come to the United Kingdom (UK) to reside permanently and they want to be integrated in the host society. Language skills are often used as a measurement of integration and therefore the main focus of this research will revolve around the role of English language skills in relation to the integration of Bangladeshi Community in UK. This research will examine in which ways English language skills are perceived to be a catalyst for integration and in that connection explore the development in language skills throughout different generations of Bangladeshi immigrants as well as what sociolinguistics factors (language maintenance and shift, code mixing and code switching, ethno linguistic vitality, intergenerational transmission, child parent transmission mechanism, attitude of the Bangladeshis towards English, speech community , linguistic ecology, psycholinguistic aspects ) take place during integration process.

The study will conduct its research based on survey/literature review on the subject. Conduct interviews using semi-structured and interview guides and questionnaire to collect data, including formal, informal documents. Immigration and integration are very important issues that interrelated. Thus, integration has recently created rigorous in the United Kingdom (UK). One of the reasons is that UK is a multinational country where people from all countries come to live and integration is not going the way it is expected. The United Kingdom was the most powerful colonial power in the world. As a result, people from many countries come to the UK for several reasons to reside permanently. As time goes by these people are expected to be fully integrated. The Bangladeshi community is one of the leading immigrant communities in the UK in general and in London in particular. Most of the Bangladeshis living in the UK have come from Sylhet district of Bangladesh. Many of them have got British citizenship and integrated into the British society.

A number of research studies indicate that the process of integration does not come automatically. For this process to take place there are many influences and factors that played important role have to be considered. This includes aspects of integration such as housing, employment and education, social, cultural, religious, healthcare and language.

I have chosen this topic for the following reasons:

- UK, immigration and integration are now very important and controversial political issues.

- Since I am a Bangladeshi, I have interest in my own community. So I have chosen the Bangladeshi community in London.

- Many political leaders and critics are saying that Bangladeshi community in the UK are not properly integrated in the British society due to lack of knowledge of the English language. Hence they fail to contribute to the British society.
- They think it is high time government changed the scenario.
- They urge the government to take steps to improve immigrants’ proficiency in English.
- So I have chosen the English language.

This research will benefit not only Bangladeshi immigrants but also other immigrants living in the UK. Moreover, organizations, which deal with immigration and integration, will also get information regarding immigrants’ usage of language as well as immigrants’ attitude towards English. To do this research, I will conduct interviews with individuals formed the main stage of the research. The aim was to carry out in-depth interviews with the Bangladeshi immigrants in order to understand, from their point of view, the things for which this research was undertaken.

1.2 Research question

In this research, I will attempt to answer the following questions, which are relevant to immigration, and integration of the Bangladeshi community of those who have been living in London for a long time and have gradually become part and parcel of the British society. I shall first of all define integration. Is integration one of the most important current political agendas in the UK? Thousands of Bangladeshis immigrants live in the UK. So it is necessary to know ‘what is integration from a Bangladeshi perspective?’ It is assumed that due to poor proficiency in English a number of Bangladeshi immigrants struggle to smoothly integrate. To make this point clear, I shall examine and discuss integration in the Bangladeshi immigrants’ perspectives. This will answer the following question ‘is English really a toll of integration? Can many Bangladeshi survive in the UK without English? Finally, I have seen that many Bangladeshis are now eager to learn English, why?

1.3 Study overview

Chapter 1 focuses on introduction, research questions and objective of research. Chapter 2 examines literature on immigration and integration. Chapter 3 deals with methodology. Chapter 4 explores the historical background of Bangladeshi immigrants in the UK. Chapter 5 illuminates on the Bangladeshi immigrants’ concept on immigration. Chapter 6 focuses on the key question, which is ‘is English really a toll of integration?’ In spite of living in London many Bangladeshis have been living without using English. Chapter 7 explains the Bangladeshi community’s survival without English. Now many Bangladeshis realize, they must learn English to be integrated in to the UK. Chapter 8 explores this. Chapter 9 discusses data analysis. Chapter 10 examines recommendation and finally chapter11 discusses on conclusion.

1.4 Objective of research

The general purpose of this research is to examine the role of English as a tool of the Bangladeshis community’s integration in the UK. From a careful review of the research topic, the following are the specific research objectives:

- to examine the attitude of the Bangladeshis living in London towards integration in the UK.
- to identify the underlying factors that trigger Bangladeshi immigrants’ attitude towards integration.
- to examine how Bangladeshis living in London maintain Bangla language.
- to look at how Bangladeshis survived so long in London without English.
- to identify governments attitude towards English as a tool of integration.

Chapter 2: Literature review

2.1 Integration

This chapter discusses integration and related concepts such as theory of integration and tool of integration, as they are central concepts to my argument in this dissertation. Moreover, I shall also focus on language perceptions and linguistic adaptations of the second generation, as it is also relevant to my argument.

2.2 What is integration?

To denote the process of immigrant adjustment in a new environment sociologists widely use the concept of integration. In this paper I use Bernard’s definition of integration. Bernard (1973) conceptualised this process as follows:

Integration is achieved when immigrants become a working part of their adopted society, take on many of its attitudes and behaviour patterns and participate freely in its activities, but at the same time retain a measure of their cultural identity and ethnicity (Bernard 1973 as quoted by Bulcha in 1998).

Implicit in Bernard’s descriptive definition is that for integration to function the parties involved must recognize and accommodate differences in culture, beliefs, and so on. The emphasis is on participation in the host society. He used some phrases like ‘becoming a working part of the adopted society’ and ‘retain original cultural identity and ethnicity’. These phrases imply functional integration. Immigrants have to take on the important attitudes and behaviour patterns in order to function in their new society. But there is no need for cultural and normative integration. In other words it encourages multiculturalism. In my analysis of the experience and situation of the subjects of this dissertation, I will adhere to notion of integration implied in Bernard’s definition as his concept suggests multiculturalism. The setting of my dissertation is the UK and the UK is seen as prototype for multiculturalism. According to Rex (1991) and Favell (1998) the British integration policy encourages multiculturalism. In the UK immigrants get complete liberty to nurture own culture and language. (Rex 1991; and Favell 1998). In other words, in the UK immigrants can be integrated by maintaining own language and culture.

Now I shall shift my focus on integration model of Hollifield (1997) to better understand integration. Hollifield (1997) distinguished three models for Europe, which are:

(a) The guest worker model
(b) The assimilation model
(c) The ethnic minority model

Although Hollifield (1997) distinguished three models , I shall consider the ethnic minority model for my dissertation because this model is relevant to my argument. The UK is seen as a prototype for the ethnic minority model. According to the ethnic minority model in the UK immigration is seen as permanent. In addition, immigrants are defined in terms of ethnic or national origin. They form new communities, which are culturally different from the existing communities. In other words, immigrants can be integrated into the UK by maintaining own language and culture since the British government does not impose any pressure on immigrants to follow British culture as a precondition for integration. But I did not consider the guest worker model and the assimilation model because of some reasons.

The guest worker model does not encourage immigrants’ integration into the host society as immigrants’ presence is seen as temporary. So the guest worker model is the opposite of the ethnic minority model. Germany is a prototype for the guest worker model. On the other hand, according to the assimilation model though immigration is seen as permanent and immigrants are welcomed as individuals as well as given legal status, they must show that they are willing to assimilate to the dominant cultural pattern and language. France is a prototype for the assimilation model. This model is the contrary of multiculturalism. While in the UK immigrants get full liberty to nurture own culture and use own language, in France, however, to be integrated into the French society immigrants are forced to follow French culture and the French language. Next, the topic of integration inevitably must focus on language. So, I shall shift my focus on language as a tool of integration.

2.3 Language as a tool of integration

Immigrants should learn English .

(Liam Bryan, Immigration minister: version=1).

The above statement is very important because it has raised the following questions: Why does the host country urge immigrants to learn the dominant language of the host country? What is the role of language during the process of immigrants’ integration? In other words, is English really a tool of integration?

In the UK Knowledge of English is essential to naturalization. In Canada, Australia, Denmark, Germany and Sweden naturalization generally requires the demonstration of at least a minimum level of fluency in the dominant language (Brian, 2006). But why? It is because knowledge of host society’s language reflects a commitment to the adopted country. Moreover, it also reflects an adaptation to the circumstances to that country.

Next, In his research on National culture and European integration Zetterholm(1994) notes cultural barrier as one of the major barriers towards integration. According to him ‘One major communication barrier remains largely . . .it is, however, a practical cultural barrier, it is the question of language’ (p154). On the other hand ‘the more frequently persons interact with one another, the stronger their sentiment of friendship for one another are apt to be’. (Homes 1965 as quoted by Brian in 2006) .

Thus, social integration starts with the establishment of contracts between immigrants and their hosts. It is through social interaction that barriers are removed, attitudes change and differences ironed out.

Researchers have proved that the dominant language of the host society helps immigrants remove barriers, which immigrants confront in the host society. In his research on Ethiopians in Sudan, Blucha (1998 ) found that Ethiopians whose knowledge of Arabic, the official language of Sudan, was good had made good friendship with the local Sudanese. Their social ties increased along with their increased proficiency in Arabic. In other words, the study of Bulcha (1998) indicates there is a strong relationship between knowledge of the dominant language of the host society and immigrants-host populations social relation. This is so because the power to integrate depends primarily on the power to communication. In other words, language possesses a power and language related power is essential to immigrants’ integration.

Next, immigrants’ social and economic integration into their host societies begins with the process of securing job (Bulcha, 1998). But this occurs only after long delays for many immigrants, as they cannot enter into the labour market in their host countries due to some obstacles. One of them is lack of ability to speak the dominant language of the host society. In their research on immigrants in English speaking countries, Cheswick and Miller (1995) showed that the income of immigrants depend on their proficiency in English. Their research indicates immigrants who can speak English well earn higher than those who have lack of proficiency in English.

Thus, the ability to speak verbally through the dominant language of the host society must have strong economic and social value. It is language, which is the most basic form of human capital. The relationship between integration into social networks and the perception of language skills increases over time. A good knowledge of the host society’s language expands immigrants’ chances of social integration. With the passage of time, language skills become the most important factor in social and economic integration. Moreover, language proficiency increases the occupational opportunities. For immigrants the following things largely depend on the dominant language of the host society:


Excerpt out of 55 pages


Is English Really a Tool of Integration?
A Case Study of Bangladeshi Community in London
London Metropolitan University
Post Graduate
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
639 KB
Immigration, Integration , Tool of Integration, ESOL
Immigration, integration, ESOL, code mixing, code switching
Quote paper
SM Ruhul Alam (Author), 2008, Is English Really a Tool of Integration?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Is English Really a Tool of Integration?

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free