Thursday, September 13, 2007

The barrier method

I was reading a thread today on a website which I regularly read and came across an off-topic post about language in the United States.

While the person who wrote it clearly has issues with staying on-topic, this individual had some valid points.

The statement was nothing more than a rant (well-written, though) about immigrants and their frequent inability and unwillingness to learn the English language. But rather than focus on the negative, I will do as I always do and focus on the positives.

Nearly every day I run in to immigrants. I do, after all, live in the greater Twin Cities metro area and America is, after all, a melting pot today as it always has been. My Danish grandpa learned the English language and made friends as he farmed and raised a family. Maybe he's the exception to the rule but I highly doubt it. The same holds true for the Mexican fellow who makes the world's best steak soft shell tacos at my favorite restaurant and the Korean priest at our church. Sure, they have thick accents but they speak English.

Overcoming a language barrier is everywhere. I was watching 'The Power of 10' last night and the contestant I caught was a Greek immigrant who confessed to learning English by watching episodes of 'The Drew Carey Show' which drew a laugh from the host of the show, Drew Carey. These are examples of people who knew that to adjust to our culture they had to learn the most dominant language of their new home, English.

I'm not going to get into immigration issues but to assimilate to a new home, you have to make some changes. After all, nobody prances around the yard of their new Phoenix home wearing a heavy parka just because it is early December. Even Minnesotans adjust to their winter retreats. Immigrants to America realize that to gain the level of prosperity that drew them here, they'll have to learn the language. That doesn't mean leaving behind your native language, that's just ridiculous. I know that my grandpa had more than a few heated moments with his seven children that escalated into what was surely colorful language spoken entirely in Danish. The same goes for my mother-in-law. She remembers her aunts and uncles having entire conversations in their native Czech. They did so outside of the public eye because, get this, people 40-50 years ago used to be far less tolerant of cultural differences than today. Wow.


Pharmacy tech guy. said...

Well Sornie I just googled US language, and it appears we do not have an official language. I believe we should though. I am probably the definition of melting pot. My grandfather from Mexico has learned English very well, and he only speaks his native tongue when he is around other Mexicans or is angry. I do not know very much Spanish, I wish I did though. It is frustrating on my end at work trying to explain medicine what to do and most importantly what not to do while on that med. and my wife is a nurse so if she has somebody that does not speak English she needs a translator. If people would just agree on learning the language that is most prevelant when they move there, this would be a much better place. If I where to move somewhere I would learn the language and customs, while I still hold onto my current ones.

Sornie said...

I think that if someone who only spoke English moved to another country where English wasn't the dominant language, you would have to learn the local language just to survive or end up living an extremely sheltered life. I do remember that the U.S. has no official language and that it was almost named at one point either Spanish or French but I agree with your point that both your job and your wife's are rather difficult when trying to bridge the language barrier. It would make life simpler and probably begin to overcome some of the more racist overtones in this country if people at least had common ground in the form of a language. Oh, well, a guy can hope.

The Future Was Yesterday said...

"Immigrants to America realize that to gain the level of prosperity that drew them here, they'll have to learn the language. "
Another problem is increasingly, immigrants expect to receive all that America has to offer, but are unwilling to give anything up themselves. When you have that condition, we're not the famed melting pot we used to be; we're a salad bowl. "Melting Pot" is just what it infers - everything melts together. That does NOT mean the flavor of the ingredients needs to be lost.

Dorky Dad said...

I don't know if immigrants are unwilling to learn the English language. Indeed, I'm pretty sure they desperately want to learn it because it's a pain in the butt to live here otherwise. It's just difficult to do so, not to mention time consuming.

And I also disagree with Future's comment on what immigrants are giving up. Immigrants aren't sitting on their butts here collective welfare. They're working very difficult jobs that many Americans don't want to fill. And Future should check his history -- people have been griping about immigration since Plymouth Rock. There's nothing different about what's going on now versus what went on with the Irish or the Chinese or even, God help me, the Germans.

No said...

I'm gonna have to agree with Dorky Dad on this one. Perfectly said...

Sornie said...

I agree with alot of Dad's comments but the assertion that Americans don't want to do those jobs can be construed a few different ways. Maybe Americans don't want to do them because we are 'above' picking apples or slaughtering turkeys. If the pay for those jobs was in line with what Americans consider to be a living wage, would they consider doing those jobs? That's another thing to debate. I agree that immigrants are a very hard working bunch. I've seen the work performed and it's amazing based on the speed and quality of the work.

While my response this time added nothing, I love the feedback.