A stranger in his own land - Referat
The UK – Erwartungshorizont
Textinformation: A Stranger in His Own Land
Autor: George Alagiah
a) Joshua is different from nearly all the other pupils at his school in the colour of his skin and hair and in the
language that he speaks and his accent. This is because he is English, whereas they are the children of immigrants
from other countries. This is unusual because you would expect more English children at an English school.
b) Most of the other pupils are from Bangladesh and speak the dialect of Sylhet. The rest are from Somalia, the
West Indies, Thailand, China and Vietnam or else from an eastern European country like Poland, Lithuania, Albania
and Bulgaria. It is likely that they are living in England because their parents have emigrated there to find a better
life. The author says that the list of countries “tells its own story about what is happening in the world around Britain”.
a) The author wants to paint a sympathetic portrait of Joshua and he achieves this by a number of means.
It is fairly clear from the title (“A stranger in his own land”) that the text is about someone we are supposed to feel
sorry for. Straight away we learn that Joshua “knows all about being different”. And when he goes to school, he is an
“outsider” because of his appearance (“his pallid skin, his red hair”) and the way he speaks.
The author then compares his own painful feeling of cultural “dislocation” as an immigrant child at an English
boarding school to Joshua’s situation as one of only three English pupils at a primary school in London. The author’s
identification with Joshua makes it even clearer that this is going to be a sympathetic portrait. Some hard facts
follow. The other children come from places like Somalia, the West Indies and the Far East or, those who have
immigrated more recently, from Eastern Europe. The vast majority however come from Bangladesh (92%).
Then we learn about Joshua’s feelings from his own words. He has one white friend at school called Jack. His other
friends, the author points out, do not have names like “Bill, David, Shane or Christopher”, so they are obviously not
English. When Joshua talks about his situation, he does not seem aggressive or negative. He wishes he knew more
than just a few words of Bengali so that he wouldn’t feel so cut off and different. The author adds that he would be
picking up a dialect spoken only in one part of Bangladesh – in other words, this would be a nice gesture, but hardly
worth the effort. We feel especially sorry for Joshua when he says that he has tried to make contact with the Bengali
children outside school, but this has been prevented by their parents.
The descriptions of Joshua are also sympathetic. His appearance (“the autumn sun … highlighting just how fair he
is”), his body language (“hands tucked under his thighs”) and his “impish smile” give the impression of a shy and
vulnerable, but likeable young person who is caught up in an unfair situation.
b) The author, George Alagiah, was born in Sri Lanka of Tamil descent and came to Britain as a child so one would
expect him to have a positive view of multicultural Britain. However, in this text describing the situation in Bow, in the
London borough of Tower Hamlets, where 92% of the pupils at Mayflower Primary School are from Bangladesh, he
obviously sympathises with Josh, one of only three English pupils attending this school. This is perhaps partly
because of Alagiah’s own painful experience as an outsider at an English boarding school, which came as an
“abrupt and unnatural dislocation” from the culture of his home. But perhaps more importantly because he himself
has adapted to the English way of life, has become English and is a news presenter for the BBC. His attitude seems
to be that the immigrants from Bangladesh should adapt too. They shouldn’t form ghettoes and only speak their own
language and they shouldn’t refuse to let their children mix with non-Bengalis. They have turned Bow, “once home to
the quintessential cockney”, into a place where the English are an ethnic minority, where an English boy wishes he
could speak the Sylhet dialect of Bengali so that he wouldn’t be such a stranger in his own land. As you would
expect, Alagiah doesn’t argue against immigration. He appears to find it quite positive that Britain accepts
immigrants from places where life is much harder. The important thing is that they are assimilated, like the head
teacher Lisa Zychowicz. Alagiah doesn’t actually express any direct criticism, but he doesn’t have to. The facts he
presents speak for themselves.
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