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 How Can We Convince Immigrants to Learn English? 
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Post How Can We Convince Immigrants to Learn English?
by: Donna Poisl

Even though they are able to live here without it.

Everyone in the world knows that English is the language spoken in the U.S. and most immigrants are prepared to learn it. But when they arrive, many of them (especially Spanish speaking) find signs and other information in their own language and quickly realize that they don't have to learn more than a few words of English.

It is completely understandable why they are reluctant to learn it. Learning a new language is hard, if people don't have to do it, they probably won't. But these people also won't ever be fully integrated into our society. In the past, the first thing new immigrants did was learn English. They had to know English to work and drive and shop. When everyone in the country speaks the same language, even with an accent, the country is much more united than ours is now.

Now they can live in their own little communities, watch TV, listen to the radio, read a newspaper, shop, work and even drive without speaking ANY English. They can get government forms in their own language and almost all offices and departments have interpreters available for them.

Many new residents know almost nothing about this country they live in. Without understanding the language, they don’t have much opportunity to learn about the culture. They don’t learn the laws or their rights or responsibilities and very often end up in trouble because of it. They live here the same way they did in their home country and when they are within their little enclaves they are sometimes perpetuating the same problems that they were trying to get away from.

English is what unites us in this country. Diverse people and cultures with one language made this nation. People who know our language are more successful, earn more income, move into better neighborhoods with better schools and make better lives for their families. Their children, in turn, are more successful and the whole country benefits.

We should stop talking so much about multiculturalism and talk again about this country being a “melting pot” where people from all countries move here, learn the language and become Americans. The melting pot doesn’t have to mean Anglo conformity, it can mean a mixture of all the different cultures. The melting pot has always been changing and that mixture would now have more of a Latino texture than before. It was mostly British and Northern European at one time, then Irish was added, then Italian, then Jewish, then Asian, but always a mixture that was American. What else could anyone call that mixture? It was American.

How can we convince the new immigrants to learn English? Maybe more classes and tutors would help. Maybe they would be convinced if they were shown how much better they would do if they knew English. Maybe it would help if they knew there are many more jobs available everyday for bilingual workers.

Will the fact that so many immigrants didn’t understand the warnings to evacuate when Hurrican Katrina was nearing the coast help them to understand that they should know at least some English? They should not expect that the warnings would be in their language.

How can we convince immigrants to learn English? Regardless of the things we do, it won't do much good if they are not convinced it is important. They have to be shown how much safer and successful they will be if they know the language that most of the country speaks. And if they are successful, we will benefit too.

About The Author

Donna Poisl is President of Live & Thrive Press and the author of "How to Live & Thrive in the U.S. / Como Vivir y Prosperar en Estados Unidos". She wrote this reference guide to help immigrants learn our system and succeed in this country. Contact Donna at

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Wed Nov 25, 2009 11:31 am
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