You might as well go back and slap your six-year-old self for saying words like "stupider" if you believe that immigrants' first priority is to learn English upon arrival.
Spoiler alert: many native-born Americans don't even speak English perfectly. [If you don't believe me, take a standardized test sometime and let me know what you score on the English Language/Comprehension portion. I'll wait.]
Furthermore, only "one in five Americans...now speak[s] a language other than English at home," according to the Daily Mail.
And yet, we somehow expect all immigrants to learn, practice, and become fluent in English immediately--alongside completing several critical and time-consuming steps, such as acquiring a work visa, applying for jobs once the visa is secured, keeping food on the table for their family members, and assimilating into American society and culture.
So, why are so many mono-linguistic Americans demanding that immigrants speak English already if they do not speak another language themselves? In what galaxy does that scenario actually make sense?
And how does an immigrant's English language skills (or lack thereof) influence his or her potential value in American society? It's almost as if we assume that a non-native English speaker isn't worth our time, energy, or attention here in America. Our social attitudes reflect xenophobia, and that is not something to be proud of.
Maybe that's why The Washington Post noted that "the embarrassing truth is that the United States has always been hostile to immigrants."
Kind of ironic considering our history, am I right?
But let's back up and focus on the fundamentals of the "speak English" issue. For one thing, according to Psychology Today, "English is...inherently difficult to learn" due to its confusing setup and nature.
Concepts such as spelling, idioms, and even basic grammar can become huge obstacles to non-native speakers--especially if those individuals do not already speak a language that is related to the Germanic language family (of which English is derived).
Research from Public Radio International notes that "babies respond to the signals they first hear in utero," including vocal cues and specific language characteristics. Essentially, this research suggests that if you weren't born in an [English]-speaking country and didn't grow up around [English]-speaking friends and family members, it may be difficult for you to learn [English] simply because you weren't exposed to the characteristics of the language early on.
If nothing else, as human beings, we need to remember that languages--like most concepts and life skills--are learned through years and years of observation, trial and error, and practice.
Instead of dishing out judgement on the talented, innovative, kind, and goodhearted immigrants who make our nation complete, let's show a little empathy to those who can't fluently speak English yet.
Or, better yet, if you're so concerned with being able to communicate with immigrants, why don't you take up a foreign language class yourself?
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