HomeQ&A¿Por qué no aprenden inglés? Why is it that so many US immigrants from Mexico do not want to learn English?

¿Por qué no aprenden inglés? Why is it that so many US immigrants from Mexico do not want to learn English?

6
votes

I ask this question with respect...

Why is it that so many US immigrants from Mexico do not want to learn English? It can be frustrating especially in the medical fields when an English speaking doctor does not understand their patient.

Please elaborate beyond the desire to maintain their traditions.

Thanks.

5026 views
updated OCT 18, 2009
edited by 00494d19
posted by quépasa

26 Answers

4
votes

This is an interesting thread. Please keep it respectful smile

As for my opinion,

When you are in Rome, do as the Romans dowink

Everybody who lives in a foreign country has the obligation to adapt to the host country. One of the forms of adaptation is learn the language. It need not be perfect, but one must at least try.

updated SEP 22, 2009
edited by 00494d19
posted by 00494d19
5
votes

Thanks for the honest and respectful answers. I am a little shy about messing up my epañol so it´s easy to understand in that respect.

updated OCT 18, 2009
posted by quépasa
5
votes

I really don't think it's so much of a matter that they don't WANT to learn English, rather they can't. It's much harder for adults to learn a second language than a child, and if these immigrants have no access to computers or classes, they can only learn from the environment.

That's true. And usually they stick together and do not venture out of their own little world from what I have saw. In the US, there are Mexican stores, restaurants,ect. And since more and more Americans are learning Spanish, there is almost no need for them to learn English.

updated OCT 18, 2009
posted by NikkiLR
5
votes

Well, I cannot speak for them,but maybe they are afraid. My boyfriend had a friend when we were in the US that spoke no English at all. He did know some, but was afraid to mess up. He said that he would not speak until he was better (which we know you get better by speaking...). Could be one reason.

updated OCT 18, 2009
posted by NikkiLR
I know a little Mexican girl who is six years old who knows very good English for her age, but she will not speak to anyone at all at school for she is afraid of messing up and very shy in general. But at home, she shows off to her family. haha - SavviVague, SEP 20, 2009
Aww... that's kind of cute... and sad at the same time. - NikkiLR, SEP 20, 2009
5
votes

I think it is a social and economical thing. A. they tend to associate, in my community, with other Spanish speakers so they don't need English. B. there aren't many programs set up in enough places to teach English to Spanish speakers. In most schools, there are English as a Second Language help classes etc. But for adults, they don't have time to support their family and pick up the langauge, let alone have the programs offered affordably to the public.

updated SEP 21, 2009
posted by Preguntón
5
votes

I really don't think it's so much of a matter that they don't WANT to learn English, rather they can't. It's much harder for adults to learn a second language than a child, and if these immigrants have no access to computers or classes, they can only learn from the environment.

updated SEP 21, 2009
posted by SavviVague
4
votes

We have grandparents in our family who came here from Italy when they were young adults. Like most of the other examples, they settled in South Philly, which is the little Italy of Philadelphia. The Italian Market, which is still famous, was one block away. Everyone was from Italy or had family members who were.

Like all of the other examples, they were busy raising families, with very little money. The kids were sent to the stores to ask for what was needed. Everyone around them spoke Italian. It was enough of a struggle to get by in their new world. They moved here so their children could have a better future. They were not so concerned with learning English for themselves, as long as the kids learned it and prospered. Also, if they had any difficulties, the mafia was always ready to assist (jeje).

updated OCT 18, 2009
posted by Nicole-B
4
votes

Where I live (or used to live anyway), I could go weeks without speaking english. I had a second job as a bartender, and never spoke english. I only got back into the habit of speaking english after I met my wife and we bought a house. In the 'hood, as it were, it's all Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Mexican. It's a very comfortable place to be, and you could get a job there and live there and shop there and never even realize you are in America. I think that's what happens to alot of people from Latin America that come here. Some are illegals and stay hidden. Some are on run. Some just want that money. Some just don't see the need. But don't be fooled, the half that say they don't speak english are generally lying and the other half that don't speak it understand it perfectly. wink

updated SEP 22, 2009
posted by ChamacoMalo
so true.... - 00494d19, SEP 21, 2009
3
votes

I must be from a different area than you guys, as Every Mexican in my area tries to learn english, at least the ones I have come across. They especially love it when you try to speak to them in spanish, so that its a two way street, you're learning spanish from them while they are learning english from you. This can be especially fun at the bar, as the more drinks you have, the wierder the conversation gets....

updated SEP 22, 2009
posted by cheeseisyummy
3
votes

I work in a public library in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. At any given time, a good two-thirds of the people in the library are speaking spanish, not english... to their kids, each other and the employees.

To me, it's a matter of numbers. They have a very strong community here and can easily get by in their own language.

When I lived in Illinois, there were very few hispanics in our community and they all had to speak English.

Just my two cents smile

updated SEP 21, 2009
posted by jonnyt1963
3
votes

I agree that it is not a Spanish/Mexican-only phenomenon. It is an adult human phenomenon.

I had a Vietnamese friend in highschool, and I noticed that many of the original immigrants (like his parents) could speak only a little English and tended to form little communities so that they rarely needed to speak English, and when they did need to speak it, they would bring their children with them.

My friend came from Vietnam when he was in first grade, so he had a difficult time learning English and failed elementary school grades often, but he eventually learned it quite well. He was truly bilingual by the time I met him. If I remember correctly, at the beginning he had to translate his thoughts from Vietnamese into English at first and vice-versa. But, as time went by, he could think independently in either language.

His siblings that were born in the states could all speak English (and Vietnamese) quite well.

As a side note, apparently, some concepts were easier for the teenagers and children to express in English -- probably due to a lack of exposure to similar things in the Vietnamese culture. I would watch as groups of the teenagers would communicate mostly in Vietnamese but would pepper the conversations with little phrases in English: ...blah blah blah blah...uh...uh...went to the mall by the interstate and blah blah blah...

updated SEP 21, 2009
edited by webdunce
posted by webdunce
3
votes

I'm gonna have to say, this is not spanish/mexican exclusive phenomenon. I think any ethnic group that immigrates and then (almost) exclusively hanging out with your same race is bound to not really have the incentive to learn english.

I've known Colombians, Peruvians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, you name it that have been here in this country for 10+ years and their english is still pretty bad at best.

When you have cultural establishments like a China Town, little Italy, uh..I don't know what Spanish people have, but you get the idea - and everything you need to survive is in your own language, why learn it right?

Well, that's the mind set anyway and that's what happens.

-Charlius-

updated SEP 21, 2009
posted by Charlius
I think they have a Little Havannah in Miami. - webdunce, SEP 20, 2009
Spanish Harlem near me - Nicole-B, SEP 21, 2009
2
votes

Another reason why because depending where Mexicans lives in the United States, for an example, Mexicans live in "DFW" Metroplex (counties of Dallas and Fort Worth) still spoke Spanish, except for Farmers Branch (Tarrant County) and Irving (Dallas County, former home of the Dallas Cowboys). Spanish Channels in Dallas/Fort Worth Area replaces the English-Speaking Channels because about fifty percent of population spoke Spanish. Channels in Spanish are Univision (23, the most popular Spanish-Speaking Channel), Telemundo (39), Telefutura (49), Canal 29 (29), Galavision (available only by cable), Azteca (I think is channel 42). We also have stores and restaurants that mainly spoke Spanish, like, Fiesta, El Rancho, El Rio Grande (part of El Rancho, only in Garland, TX), Market Latina (El Salvadorian Restaurant), Wal-Mart (both in Mexico and the United States) and so much more. Since Mexicans are not the only Spanish-Speaking people in Texas, we also have Colombians (I know just two of them), Salvadorians (only knows seven), and Peruvians just the Peruvian restaurant called "Machu Picchu" in Garland as well).

updated OCT 20, 2009
posted by PapasMTZ
2
votes

I didn't even mention my personal point of view. I live in a large city where there are lots of opportunities for folks to learn ESL. There is a large hispanic population here.
My daughter is involved in a bilingual playgroup for children and I love what it teaches her about other cultures.
I see lots of wonderful things happening but as I said, some professionals do have difficulties completing their job due to miscommunication and for those in the medical professions, there is a risk of substandard treatment when they don't know exactly what their dealing with. I was personally asked to start a bilingual reading group for children and really wanted to understand what I would be getting into with the parents.
Children clearly have the advantage when it comes to learning a new language. I do think that if a person, of any language or culture, wishes to become a citizen of the U.S. they should make an attempt to learn the language.
What I did not take into account is that many folks who enter the country do not necessarily have the educational background to make learning a new language easy or pleasurable.
Thanks for the input. smile

updated OCT 18, 2009
posted by quépasa
2
votes

I was a bi-lingual counselor in the Brentwood School District on Long Island during the early seventies. My job was to visit the four junior high schools (at that time), and coordinate with one of the two high schools insofar as working with the Spanish speaking community. I learned Spanish as a child in Mexico City (a Gringo child1)

My expereience was that there was a bias building up at that time against any programns which would help a new and legal family work its way into the American society. I didn't feel that when I went to Mexico. Given, I went to a private school; but the laws promulgated by la Secrearia de Educacion (no accents on this machine) made it clear that a student like me must have at least half a day in the Mexican curriculum and the rest of the day in an English-speaking curriculum. There were NO shortcuts. The Mexican teacher would talk to the newest students in English OUTSIDE of the classroom. We learned by total immersion. There were no shortcuts. And even if we spoke only English at home, there was only one radio station broadcasting in English for HALF A DAY and NO stations available on television in ENGLISH (wayyyyyy before cable and satellite). I learned Spanish quickly. I learned it well. I went on to teach and then counsel as a bi-lingual. I am glad for the experience.

We need such programs in this country. We seem to think that the Latin-American or Mexican is a guest, a visitor shall we say, in this country. He or she will be here only a short time and then go home. That is what the white community wants. They want all foreigners to go home. The problem is that the Hispanic community is now a very large, vibrant, active,and contributing part of our economy. They believe STRONGLY in all the things we believe in. THEY need to take some of the responsiblilty for the foot-dragging that is going on. We can help.

There is a need to change and correct our outlook for these new students in our English-speaking schools. Unlike President Nixon, who closed off funding for the program under which I was working, we need desperately to inculcate in these children that we will NOT hold their hands...BUT...that we are here to help them understand us and our language.

One man's opinion. Tony Genco

updated SEP 22, 2009
posted by Tonygee
Very interesting tony, welcome to the forum :) - 00494d19, SEP 22, 2009
Perhaps there are not many programs where you are located but here there are many. It is not a general opinion that all foreigners go home as the foundation of this country is based on immigration to have freedom from persecution. I´m sorry you feel tha - quépasa, SEP 22, 2009
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