A project of the Center for Community Change

Finding their way with English

I’ve been meaning to post this second installment of Adult English Education videos for a few weeks – my apologies to Will Coley who did a great job pulling these together.

Earlier in August, I posted the video “Classroom 206: Making Time for English” – you can check it out here.

This week’s post is “Finding their Way With English”:

The video is pretty simple, but it reflects the desire of many adult immigrants to learn English. Language is power and for those new to this country, the ability to communicate is central to success. However, as I was watching this video, I began thinking about a friend of mine who is Mexican-American, but grew up in a strictly English-speaking household.

I fully support adult English education and I think there should be more funding for programs like the one featured in the video, but I have to wonder what is lost when first generation immigrants place so much focus on English that their own native languages aren’t passed down to the next generation. I firmly believe that bilingual people have a strong advantage over those who only speak one language. It has been well-documented that the so-called 1.5 generation of immigrants (those born abroad and brought to the US as children) have been some of the best and brightest world-changers in our country’s history.

They are immersed in their native culture long enough to learn their native language and cultural values, but come to this country early enough to easily learn English and become part of mainstream America. 1.5 immigrants tend to be fluently bilingual and bicultural, communicate easily between two worlds, and can easily connect to different cultures, approaching the ideal global citizen.

I’ve wandered a bit from the topic at hand, but I think that its worth remembering that while English acquisition is an acquisition of power, it shouldn’t come with the cost of sacrificing heritage and native language to “integrate” into American culture.

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