Tuesday, June 03, 2008

¿No Habla Ingles: Should Immigrants to an English-Speaking Country be Required to Learn English?

The “Need” for Spanish?
When an AP news Wire service website recently posted an article on the fact that in certain cities in the USA, Spanish is replacing English as the lingua franca, hundreds of online reader comments ensued at “The Theologian’s Café”. The article, entitled “In Miami, Spanish is Becoming the Primary Language” detailed how English-speaking American citizens were moving out of the region as the need for Spanish began to encroach on their ability to function in the area, find work and conduct their everyday affairs.

Nearly 500 Comments from Readers
On the one hand, some readers felt that the US is a country of immigrants, a “melting pot”, so that acceptance of the Spanish language was the proper way to go. Other readers commented that the US should be more of a bi-lingual or multi-lingual country. But other readers opposed the apparent “takeover” of Spanish in the predominantly English-speaking USA, further citing that using their own first language (L1) is fine, but immigrants should at least make an effort to learn English. One reader even commented, “If I moved to Spain, I’d learn Spanish”.

Chinatown, Little Italy, Jackson Heights
Another strongly-emphasized point was that although the origins and culture of the USA are English-based, many cities with high immigrant populations have historically exhibited “clusters” and ethnic neighborhoods where the use of the English language was minimized or practically non-existent. The are many cities with a “Chinatown”, “Japan Town”, Little Italy, German-speaking, Polish-speaking, Russian-speaking, Spanish-speaking or other foreign language, religious or ethnic-based cultures where residents may use their original first language on an everyday basis. In New York City there are scores of “ethnic, religious and language or culture-based neighborhoods like “Jackson Heights” where Colombians predominate. These same or similar “pockets” exist in Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston and San Francisco, even Paris and London among many other cities across the USA and world wide, for example.

Additional Factors to Consider
Opinions expressed also took some additional factors into consideration. “I could understand older people not learning English”, said one comment, “…but younger immigrants should make an effort to learn the language”.

Comments from non-Spanish-speaking residents brought out the fact that many of them, “no longer felt comfortable” living in an environment where Spanish was becoming a requirement.

What Do You Think?
So what do you think readers, should non-English-speaking immigrants to the US or other English-speaking country be required to learn English?

If you move to the province of Quebec, in Canada, for example, Canadian immigration laws require you to learn French within one or two years. From personal experience I can tell you that if you immigrate to France and don’t learn to speak French, you’re in a lot of trouble, in more ways than one.

Would you try to learn a new language if you relocated to a foreign country where English, or your first language, wasn’t the lingua franca of the country? Should learning a new language be mandatory or voluntary?

Post your comments, opinions and ideas please!

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, "If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

1 comment:

Leo Cullen, Ireland said...

Hi Larry,
Wasn't Florida originally a spanish colony? Hence the spanish name! and before that it was native american speaking, ne c'est pas?