New ways to teach English to immigrants must be found so they do not miss out on the “enormous joy” of TV show The Only Way Is Essex, Eric Pickles has said.
The Communities Secretary launched a £6 million fund to encourage radical projects that will help non-speakers to learn the language so they can "improve their circumstances and climb the social ladder".
In a speech on integration hosted by British Future and the Policy Exchange, Mr Pickles warned too many people were closed off from their communities because of a lack of literacy.
The Tory Cabinet minister, who is pushing a move away from translation services, wants community groups, charities and businesses to bid for a share of the money so they can provide "innovative and creative" ways of providing English language programmes.
He said: "The reality is you need English to succeed. You can't really function as a good doctor, a good teacher, a good mechanic or since we're in the Institute for Civil Engineering, you can't be a good engineer if you can't talk the language.
"Just as you can't talk to your neighbour, read a bus timetable, or experience the enormous joy of The Only Way Is Essex."
He added: "Learning English is a passport to prosperity, Britain misses out and our country is poorer if people can't speak our language. Improved English language skills can allow people to interact with their local communities, make friends, gain employment and increase their self-confidence.
"This competition will allow local communities to tailor language services to suit the needs of their area and give people the power to improve their circumstances and climb the social ladder.
"We don't want people to cease being proud of their roots or loose touch with their culture, but learning English should take priority."