[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: English Definitely Spoken Here

Friday, November 30, 2007

English Definitely Spoken Here

A big issue of the anti-illegal immigration drive we've experienced in the past couple of years revolves around language, in particular the ability and willingness (or lack thereof) of immigrants to speak English. Many people who are anti-illegal immigration for all the right reasons (such as national security, respect for our laws) also point to a perceived lack of interest amongst illegals to assimilate, which largely depends on their English-speaking skills. As such, there are efforts out there championed by people such as Tom "Miami is Third World" Tancredo and Mitt Romney to make English the official language of the United States.

Before I get to my point, let me state that immigrants ought to make a concerted effort to learn English. Nothing unites us more powerfully than a common language.

As I've stated before, however, making English the nation's official language is unnecessary. First of all, who's going to actually FORCE people to speak a language? But that's irrelevant because as we all know, dominant cultural and economic forces take over. The end result is that children of Hispanic immigrants (second-generation) speak English in very large numbers, and by the third generation, Spanish is all but gone from the equation as this article published in today's Herald illustrates.

For those of us that live in a Hispanic-dominated area such as Miami, the results of the study aren't surprising in the least, nor should they be (unless you don't pay attention or believe in stereotypes). I am constantly amazed at the power English holds as a dominant cultural influence, even in Miami. I know of kids who arrived here from Cuba as 9 and 10 year-olds who couldn't speak a simple sentence in English who 4 or 5 years later speak English as well as any native. The ones that lag behind after spending several years here are the exception.

A myth regarding bilingual education is that it retards or severely impacts students' abilities to speak English. I have two younger relatives who have either gone through or are currently attending bilingual schools. Their English hasn't been affected one bit, and as an added benefit, they can speak Spanish. How about that?!

To make a long post short, the English-only folks who worry about Hispanics' lack of assimilation and English skills are worrying about nothing. In the end, it smacks of xenophobia, even if they don't feel that way deep down. Time and cultural pressures (not to mention economic ones) takes care of the language issue.

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2 Comments:

Blogger 1anotherone said...

Learning English is easy with not much effort. Libraries have free classes or there are free online sites like Livemocha.com where you can practice reading writing and speaking at no cost. It just takes a desire to do so.

3:06 PM, November 30, 2007  
Blogger Henry Gomez said...

learning a foreign language as an adult is not easy.

btw the largest advertising spender in spanish language media is a learn to speak english course called ingles sin barreras. the idea that hispanic immigrants don't want to learn english is ludicrous.

who is buying all those english courses?

11:14 PM, November 30, 2007  

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