At the Tate Britain exhibition of 60 years of women artists, there is a three-video work called Mother Tongue by the Paris-born, London-based artist Zineb Sedira. In the first video, Sedira talks to her Algerian-born mother — her mother speaking Arabic and Sedira replying in French. In the second video, Sedira speaks French to her young daughter who replies in the English she has learnt at her UK school. In the final video, grandmother and granddaughter talk to each other. Or at least they try to. The young girl looks confused; the grandmother fond and wistful. They cannot speak to each other in the languages in which they are most comfortable. I thought of this installation when I read that, according to a Pew Research Centre poll published last week, 29% of Americans said they were very or somewhat bothered if they heard someone speaking a language other than English in a public place. The older people were the more upset. More than 40% of those over 50 said hearing other langu...

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