Unemployed people who cannot speak English will have to show that they are learning the language or face losing benefits.
The government is expected to issue guidance to Jobcentres in April advising staff to ask non-English-speakers to learn the language as part of the agreement they sign when they receive jobseeker's allowance.
Benefits can be taken from those who are not seen to be keeping their part of the bargain.
The government says that up to 40,000 people without jobs say that their poor English is a barrier to finding work, while £4.5 million is spent on translators in Jobcentres. Ministers say that this money would be better spent on teaching the jobseekers English.
Jim Murphy, the Welfare Minister, told a Work Foundation seminar earlier this week that it was that ethnic minorities in Britain earned a third less on average than their white counterparts – a figure he described as “unacceptable”.
“We must put the emphasis not just on translating language to claim a benefit, but on teaching language to get a job,” Murphy said.