Are All Immigrants Able to Learn English?

Why do immigrants come to the United States, knowing that English is the primary language, without learning the basics of our native tongue? If we went to their country they wouldn’t have classes in school that were designed to help me learn their language as a child immigrant, or have street signs and government documents offered in forty languages. They wouldn’t provide me an interpreter or have sympathy for me not being able to speak their language. So why should we have these benefits for people looking for opportunity in our country? Because we are The United States of America, that’s why.

I used to have a discriminatory outlook on immigrants, hating the fact that they would come to the United States and never take the time to learn the English language. I would grind my teeth at the nail salon when I tried to explain what I wanted done, and I would seethe behind the person ordering from the McDonalds menu in Spanish. Learn English already, I would scream in my head. I admit that, as a young teenager, I was ignorant and judgmental , but after being dropped in a town with a large population of immigrants I was provided with the opportunity to be enlightened.

I moved from a school where being bilingual was useless, to a school where so many were bilingual. I became good friends with a wonderful group of Hispanic girls. I was fascinated with how they could jump in and out of languages, and how beautifully they represented their American pride and their parents Latin heritage. I started changing my outlook right away, and I realized that my perspective was inspired by outside influences and not by personal experience. It was a few years later that I met the most beautiful man that ever lived, my husband, and was introduced to my in-laws from Monterrey, Mexico.

My Spanish speaking in laws would watch English tutorial videos regularly. They both enrolled in night school for English as a second language and studied at local universities. They would study and feverishly practice and when my children were born they would try even harder to spit out English phrases. They were blessed with a granddaughter who is fluent in both English and Spanish, but their grandsons aren’t, and no matter how hard they push to learn more English the language seems to dissolve from their memory. They are intelligent , hard working, tax paying, family loving immigrants, who came to this country for opportunity, not just for themselves but for their children and their desperation to express themselves to their precious grandchildren is evident in their disappointment .

To this day, after twenty years of trying, my in laws still practice English, and to this day they can barely speak the language. It pains me to see their suffering and the segregation that language barriers create, but I know now that if you asked any immigrant struggling to learn English if they want to learn, I am sure they would answer, yes. They want to speak English, but maybe they just can’t. That’s why our country is a beacon of light. It’s because we are a nation of immigrants. Our ancestors probably suffered the same barriers as the immigrants today, but their courage to bring their families to this, the land of opportunity, despite being being muted by their language, is the foundation of our nation. I am proud to say that my in laws are immigrants, and so were the people brave enough to bring my ancestors to a new world so that I may be born in a country that offered the freedoms that theirs did not.

I’m grateful to have been born in a country where there are classes to learn English, sympathy for those struggling for a better life, and documents in foreign languages, rather than to have had to deal with the hardships, insecurities, and prejudice of the first of our immigrated generations. Before you fall into the same ignorance as I did, try and remember that once, someone suffered so you would have the right to express yourself. Don’t misuse your freedoms, and always try and remember the ancestors that earned them for you.

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *