On (not) speaking English : colonial legacies in language requirements for British citizenship

Fortier, Anne-Marie (2018) On (not) speaking English : colonial legacies in language requirements for British citizenship. Sociology, 52 (6). pp. 1254-1269. ISSN 0038-0385

[thumbnail of Soc article FINAL-forthcoming]
PDF (Soc article FINAL-forthcoming)
Soc_article_FINAL_forthcoming.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (239kB)


This article examines the colonial legacies shaping current language requirements for immigrants applying for settlement or citizenship in Britain. The article argues that common sense understandings of ‘national language’ and monolingualism/multilingualism were developed in the context of imperial expansion, the legacies of which resonate today in a disdain for multilingualism and other Englishes conceived as hampering cohesion. Put simply, other languages and other English are spoken here because English was there. Drawing on interviews with applicants and English teaching professionals, the article discusses how participants variously experience English language requirements. The analysis shows how the colonial legacies supporting the rise of English as a ‘world language’ cast it as the locus of a regime of audibility that establishes a hierarchy between ‘the English’ and the ‘anglicised’. In today’s Britain, the multilingualism of the other is not external and prior to Britain, but rather speaks volumes to and about contemporary Britain.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Additional Information:
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Sociology,52(6), 2018, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2018 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Sociology page: http://http://journals.sagepub.com/home/SOC on SAGE Journals Online: http://journals.sagepub.com/
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? britaincitizenisationcitizenshipenglish languagelanguage testslinguistic imperialismmultilingualism of the otherregimes of audibilityother englishessociology and political science ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
09 Oct 2017 09:22
Last Modified:
19 Jun 2024 00:22