S/o of call-out - Please add more stories of those learning English
Post ReplyPost New TopicPosted 12/3/2012 by leftturnonly in NSBR Board
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leftturnonly
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:21:46 PM
I don't know if it's a glitch, or if 2Peas has locked it, but the board isn't allowing me to post on Kerry's call-out thread so I'm addressing this in a separate thread.




I know Suzanne to be an extremely capable woman juggling a lot of responsibilities which include admirable consistent service to her community. Kerry's simple - and endearing - story of her grandmother's neighbors are much more likely to get anyone into a discussion than a call-out thread, IMO.



I also wanted to add that my grandmother has congestive heart failure and lives in an apartment. her neighbors (several of whom barely speak english-and I have no idea if they are here legally or illegally)all work together to make sure my grandmother can continue to live alone. they check on her, help her carry things, cook meals for her, keep her company, give her little gifts and share the gift of their time and their families with her. all with no financial expectations.

when someone says derogatory things about people who can't speak english or can't speak it well-I see my grandmother's neighbors faces and it makes me very sad to think someone has dismissed them as criminals simply because they have a thick accent or can't speak much english.


Kerry, this was a polite and informative way of stating your feelings.







On more than three occasions I've asked an employee behind the counter (not the register person) for something and they had no idea what I was even asking. They didn't speak english and didn't understand english.

I know I'm just assuming here, but if you were born and raised in the US, and went to public school, you've learned english. *shrugs*


This is a real life example Suzanne was sharing, and her assumption that American children going to an American public school actually learn English is hardly earth shattering.




Millions of people are in this country illegally. Many of them have lower-skilled jobs and don't speak English. And while many work hard trying to learn English and wish to become American citizens, not all do.

Those are simple facts. I've made no assumptions. I live in a border state and I live near a coastal port. I meet people every day legally here who do not speak English or do not speak it very well.








It can be a very interesting discussion. The stories that were shared already were quite moving.


I'd love to hear the stories here, without all the name-calling on those other threads.











If PC is the way to get to Heaven, I'm going straight to Hell.



Mrs Smarty Pants
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:28:53 PM
You know, I would love to share the story about my father who came here and worked various low end jobs - until someone told him of an opening at a refinery in the area.

My father, who to this day speaks with a very thick accent, applied. He was tested based on his mathmatical and scientific knowledge and was hired.

Throughout his employment, he continued to take these tests which led him to promotions and advancement throught his 38+ year career at this one place.

BUT?

The people who feel he's stupid and should be hidden away because he can't pronounce certain words would never give credit for his struggles or accomplishments - they would use the fact that they can't understand HIM as an affront to his intelligence and worth.

I say? Fuck anyone who thinks that people with accents should be hidden away and not allowed to interact with the public.

leftturnonly
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:34:31 PM
Thanks, Mrs. Smarty Pants.

Thought I'd add this from another thread for you.


I speak 3 languages. 2 fluently (read/write/speak) and 1 conversationally.

For the record? My parents came here. Legally. The first time. On airplanes.






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angievp
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:44:26 PM
Well, let's see, we came to this country in 1979. Why? Well, my grandfather at the time was in his late 60's and my grandmother in her early 60's. We came because my grandfather had at some point in his life been the prosecutor who prosecuted the 9 sandinistas who came to power in 1979. He was a very influential man, and my grandmother was also in her own right. We came because when the Sandinistas took power, they were settling old scores, and a lot of my grandfather's friends were drawn and quartered. Literally. Not with horses but with Jeeps.

We came as political refugees in to this country and we happened to go to Kentucky, where one of my aunts lived. I learned English within 6 months (I was 7) and so did my sisters. We came in July, my grandfather dropped dead (literally) when he heard all of his businesses, properties and my grandmother's businesses and properties had been confiscated. I often think he got off easy.

My grandmother, not so much. She's been in this country since 1980. (we left for Nicaragua for 1 year but came back). She was never able to learn English. Whereas she had maids and chauffeurs and everyone tons of servants to do her bidding, she had to go on Welfare and maneuver in a system where she was basically lost. She cooked and sewed and watched other people's children for a living. Whenever she had to go to the MD, she had to take me or one of my sisters out of school to translate for her. I still remember having to translate medical terms dealing with uterine cancer when we lived in San Francisco. I still remember people treating us like we were "less than" because we were poor, or treating her like she was stupid or going to steal something because she didn't understand what they were saying. People spoke to me in the same manner even though I was taking Honors English classes in school. Luckily, we lived in San Francisco where a lot of people spoke Spanish, and later moved to Miami, (where even more people speak Spanish). But you still got those "spic" and "wetback" comments.

She did try to learn English, but she just couldn't wrap her head around it. She can say some phrases or words, but she understands everything. However, she *was* determined to become a U.S. citizen, and she memorized those questions in English and was able to pass the exam in English. I remember practicing with her hours and hours and hours for it.

MergeLeft
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:49:02 PM
I teach in a school with a significant percentage of English language learners, and while the majority of them speak Spanish at home, we also have a fair number who come to us speaking only Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Mandarin, Vietnamese or Urdu. The resilience of these kids, and the determination their parents have to make sure their kids do well in school so as to have a better life than the parents have had, is truly inspirational.

Can you imagine being dropped into a first grade class where they were speaking a language you didn't understand and where the culture is so different from what you're used to? Where no one at the school speaks the language you speak at home? The Spanish speakers at least have the benefit of the numerous Spanish-speaking staff members. The first grader who started with us last year speaking only Mandarin Chinese, or the third grade twins who arrived last spring from Israel speaking only Hebrew, have no such benefit. They're on their own.

I'll say, also, that they and their parents seem to have a much greater appreciation and respect for their free public education than the majority of the native-born American citizens whose children also attend our school. We used to be a nation of immigrants and proud of it; I rather think that the loss of that identity has been detrimental. After a few generations we feel we are entitled to everything this country has to offer instead of being appreciative of the opportunity to work for it. The non-English-speaking parents, who often don't have time to be fluent in a new language in between the three jobs they're working, and who as adults have lost the young child's ability to easily acquire new language, are very grateful indeed.

I don't know if these families are here legally or not and it's not my business to know. I do know that I see more of what originally made our country great in them, and their attitude toward education and hard work, than I see in the majority of the families whose people have been here for generations.

ETA: What I wanted to convey is that speaking English doesn't automatically make you a better or more valuable resident of this country than a non-English speaker.



leftturnonly
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:50:23 PM
WOW, Angie! So glad I asked!


She was never able to learn English.


Growing up, my best friend's grandmother lived with my friend's family. She had emigrated from Italy, lived here - at that time over 40 years - and never did learn English.

I loved watching my friend and her mother speak with her in Italian.





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Mrs Smarty Pants
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:12:47 PM
Thank you, LTO for c/p'ing me


My maternal grandfather owned a huge farm/trucking company. My grandmother had maids, servants, etc - when Castro took over, my grandfather's farm was confiscated, burned and he was arrested.

My grandmother had to find a way to leave with 3 kids in tow. Luckily, she had family (her brother in law) in Brooklyn, NY. who "sponsored" them. They lived in Mexico for a year before being able to come to the USA.

My mother, the oldest, had to leave school in the 3rd grade because if you were against the regime, you had no right to be educated.

My grandmother never learned English or worked outside the home. My grandfather & teenaged mom both worked to support the household.

No welfare. Medicaid. Food stamps.

My paternal grandfather was a doctor with the merchant marines in Havana. He commited suicide when Castro took over. He felt so strongly against communism that he took his own life rather than work for Fidel. My grandmother decided to stay in Cuba, but my father left.

He and 3 of his friends were imprissoned for approx 18 months and then set free to fly to Puerto Rico.

They all left EVERYTHING behind. I have a few baby pictures of my parents and a bracelet that my mom snuck out. My dad (who is still alive) has a medalion and a ring from his father that he snuck out.


My parents met & married here.


ETA: I went to kindergarten in 1976/1977 not knowing a word of English - I don't remember any of the kids in my class or my teachers speaking Spanish. I don't even remember how I learned English, just that I did.

enjoytotheend
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:18:50 PM
I have a friend who is originally from Peru. Her English now is AMAZING and there is no way my Spanish could ever be near her English. Her dad was an Engineer in Peru. They had a large house and a maid and a cook. One of his daughters married someone over here so they moved over here. So what job did this intelligent engineer get? A job making pizzas at Papa Johns. I have never heard him complain. And his wife works as a maid at a hotel. They are the kindest people. It doesn't matter to me that their English is limited. And you haven't lived until you have had Peruvian food. My friend and her family immigrated her legally. In fact she just passed her citizenship test which I would guess most American born citizens can't pass. I am proud of her and her family. I think that just because someone doesn't speak English does not indicate their level of intelligence. I mean if someone judged me on my level of Spanish I would be screwed.

myboysnme
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:22:01 PM
Gees, I could tell so many. I went to high school where many families attached to embassies sent their kids. The teenagers; high schoolers really, did not speak English. I got involved with a program called AFS, American Field Service. It was a program to try to pair the non English speaking students with American students to help them fit in. The boys played soccer so well, having grown up with it. Our school went to a state soccer championship for the first time with those boys on the team.
I used to love to hear them talking so animatedly with each other in their own languages, instead of in limited, halting English. Every one of them had a parent or both who were ambassadors from places like Hungary, Chile, Brazil, Pakistan, etc.

A family moved into our neighborhood and the boys spoke only Russian. They had been adopted from Russia. They went to the same school my son did and didn't understand a word for a long time. But they would all play in the street and no one seemed to mind because they understood the language of play.

When I used to visit my relatives in Maine, I met many people from Quebec. I used to love to go to the Mass when it was said in French. The menus in all the local restaurants were in English and French. Signs in the windows of the beach shops said "We speak French here" in French of course.

My former mother in law was born and raised in the Philippines, the daughter of an American Serviceman. When she was an adult he had her come to the states. She did not speak English. She always spoke a mixture of English and Tagalog. It was really hard for her.

My grandfather grew up in Pennsylvania. His mom never spoke English until she learned in school. His grandmother never learned English at all. She only spoke German. My grandfather said he never was able to speak with her even thought she lived next door because she did not speak English and he did not speak German. His mom would interpret.


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Sunshine36616
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:37:29 PM
My father in law wanted to come to America from Argentina. He didn't know English. He was young and naive, he paid some people a good sum of money and was told he'd have a green card, job and place to live waiting for him in the US. You can see where this is going...he got here and found out they just ripped him off.

He worked hard and eventually got his green card and later became a citizen.



Jili
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:58:26 PM
In graduate school, I obtained clinical hours by seeing clients in the University English Language Proficiency Center. The clients were fellow graduate students from any/all departments. The University required a certain level of English-language proficiency for graduate assistants were were not English speakers. In truth, the center had a greater focus on accent reduction, because in truth the students were (with a few exceptions) fairly proficient in the language but struggled with intelligibility.

I was a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology with no real interest in doing this kind of work, and honestly I never did get to the point where I felt like I knew what I was doing. What I did like, however, was meeting and interacting with the students. Most of them seemed to be from Asian countries, but I remember an Arabic speaker and there were a few other languages as well.

One man was a gifted young cellist. His English was actually very easy to understand, but he was one of the few whose grasp of vocabulary was lacking. His ability to complete his graduate program was contingent upon his language skills improving. I still wonder how that worked out for him. We all wanted to see him succeed.

Another was a woman from Vietnam who actually had 'passed' the program a few semesters before. She enjoyed coming because she enjoyed meeting new people (including us SLP graduate students) and she wanted to improve her skills as much as possible.

One man was very new to the USA. I don't know who met him at the airport when he got here, but he was very quickly dumped off in a strange city, strange country. His English was decent, but heavily accented. What I remember most about him was how much he missed his wife and baby son. You could just see it in his face.

I remember one day the group of us SLPs that had students at the same time decided to drop our lesson plans for the day. We brought in Nerf ping pong paddles and balls and asked one of our Chinese students to teach us. I still remember how much fun that was, and how it was a good experience for the students to practice their skills in a more natural setting.

I had this assignment during the LA Riots. I remember all of us sitting in the waiting room talking on that day. No one felt like working. We were all in shock. I remember that afternoon so vividly.

My memory of my time there is of some very smart people who were working so very hard to improve their English speaking skills in order to have more opportunities available to them. The experience drove the point home to me that it is incredibly difficult and takes years upon years in many cases to master the language.


Jill

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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:01:43 PM
My husband was raised in another country - english was his second language. However, both he and his parents and sister (who have only lived here for a few years before returning to their home country) all speak "american" very well. It's a matter of pride to them to learn it and to be part of "the american way".

I think whether here legally or illegally, those who DO NOT speak english (and live here) should be ashamed - not only are there MANY free resources for learning english, but it costs us SO MUCH by way of bilingual programs in schools, translators in hospitals, ect. They come here for a better way of life (which I understand) but often end up being not only a burden on OUR society, but a group that doesn't even want to mix with our society (by way of not ever learning the language).

I knew a professional that I saw every week or two for years. She was from another country and here with her parents, husband, and children. Her mom had lived here for 20 years and NEVER learned the language. Her mom babysat her kids for her while she worked. What if something happened to her kids while she was at work? How would she call 911??? How can you live here 20 years and not bother to learn the language? That's just offensive!

shescrafty2
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:04:50 PM
My mom was born and raised in Mexico and when she was 20 she came to the US as a translator for international cotton. She met my dad and they fell in love and got married.

My mom has excellent grammar and a fantastic vocabulary (we always joed about the fact that my mom does her corssowrd puzzles in pen, LOL). But she has a thick accent and as she has aged her accent has gotten more proounced. She has been treated quite rudely by people because of her accent ad the assumption that Mexican = illegal that many hold.

As an adult my mom has worked closely with the staff of one restaurant that she likes. In exchange for yummy food she goes in early before the restaurant is open and teaches the staff english so they can get better jobs. She has helped many people go from working in the back as dishwashers or food prep into waiting tables and moving on. She does it because she knows it is hard for the staff to save the money to take on english classes.

On the flip side I have moved to another country (Germany)where I did not speak the language. I was able to take my driver's exam in ENGLISH and many restaurants had english menus. I did sign up for German lessons so I could get around while my DH was deployed, but I will say that was the exception and I do not know of any of my peers that took lessons. They expected German nationals to speak english to them and got frustrated when nearby restaurants would not take dollars and wanted to use the correct currency.
I will also say it is quite scary walking own a street and realizing you do not underdstand what you are reading or what people say to you.


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geauxDeb
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:05:46 PM
So many people here claim the first thing they would do if they moved to a foreign country is learn the language. I am sure some would, but I am also sure some wouldn't. I thought I would. Then I moved to a foreign country. I have lived here 10 years and cannot speak a lick of Cantonese. Well I can say the name of my street and thank you. That's it.

My kids are learning Mandarin. Sure they would have to learn it better and faster if they went to a different school, but thankfully they go to a school that uses all-English instruction.

So I am an example of someone who has lived in another country legally for almost a decade and cannot speak the native language.


Debbie
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jalapenette
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:07:15 PM
My grandmother legally immigrated to the US when she was 18 to go to high school here. She was always adamant to learn English, and insisted on only speaking English in the home, ect. She felt it was so important to assimilate into the American culture, and I'm not sure why she felt that her kids shouldn't speak spanish. She may have believed that if they spoke two languages, they might not know english as well as they knew spanish, which of course now we know that that isn't the case with bilingual people.

Anyway, as a result my dad did not grow up a native spanish speaker, although he did serve a two-year mission in Mexico so he learned to speak it as an adult. Apparently the only time Grandma spoke spanish in the home was to vent her frustrations, and when my dad asked some of his native speaker friends what some of the words he heard her say growing up meant, they said "Oh! Those are really bad."

Although she has been speaking english longer than spanish, she still has the most adorable accent. I was named after her- her middle name is "Esperanza", and my parents made my middle name "Hope" in her honor, because as I said before assimilation was an important value for her, and Esperanza means Hope. When I have a daughter, I plan to make her middle name "Esperanza". I think it is a beautiful name.

I was always taught by my parents to be proud of my heritage, and I always have had a soft spot for my Grandmother in particular. Although I was not raised bilingual, I decided to learn spanish in high school and continuing to learn in college partially to celebrate my heritage and partially because it is a darn useful language to know in the US. I am by no means fluent, but I enjoy speaking to my father in spanish and practicing whenever I can. I hope to teach my kids some spanish growing up- I believe it will give them a bit of a head start.


-Rachelle


*Mommy to Adam, born October 2010, and Tommy, July 2012*



Georgiapea
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:09:37 PM
I lived in NM for nearly 5 years and encountered people every day who did not speak English. Often the husbands would know English, but the wives would not. When shopping without her husband a woman often relied on her children to translate what I would say to their mom.

Legal, illegal, it made no difference to me. They were good people, kind and polite and they raised polite children.

Mrs Smarty Pants
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:12:36 PM



I think this is exactly what Squillen was saying. If you grow up here, you learn the language.


Nooo.. No. What Squillen said was:


I'm not even sure half the people that work at our local fast food places are legal citizens.

It's not a nasty thing to say if it's true. And I think it is. On more than three occasions I've asked an employee behind the counter (not the register person) for something and they had no idea what I was even asking. They didn't speak english and didn't understand english.

I know I'm just assuming here, but if you were born and raised in the US, and went to public school, you've learned english. *shrugs*



The people who she was referring to were obviously NOT born/raised in the US or they WOULD speak English. I went to private schools, but I'm going to assume that you can not go through the US public school system and not be able to speak English - if you DO? It's the teachers/school/administration that failed the student by socially promoting them.

I'm sure that all changed with No Child Left Behind and all that jazz.

She was referring to people like my parents. Who came here as children/young adults and 60 years later still speak with heavy accents. Who work menial jobs and deserve to be treated like crap because the person on the other end can't understand them (or chooses not to) -

Squillen wasn't the only one with this chip. Cindosha's ignorant ass came out to play, too.

But thank you, Mrs Tyler

asr70
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:13:06 PM
I worked in an office with a lot of volunteer staff. One woman was from Iran. There she was a lawyer or something. Here it meant nothing and her language was an added barrier to decent employment. Her husband had moved the family here and then a couple years later divorced her. She didn't have the money to move back and still see her children, that he got custody of. She told me too that she had a friend who was a neurosurgeon in his home country and now waits tables in BC and that it wasn't uncommon for this to happen.




Mrs Smarty Pants
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:17:47 PM

So many people here claim the first thing they would do if they moved to a foreign country is learn the language. I am sure some would, but I am also sure some wouldn't. I thought I would. Then I moved to a foreign country. I have lived here 10 years and cannot speak a lick of Cantonese. Well I can say the name of my street and thank you. That's it.

My kids are learning Mandarin. Sure they would have to learn it better and faster if they went to a different school, but thankfully they go to a school that uses all-English instruction.

So I am an example of someone who has lived in another country legally for almost a decade and cannot speak the native language.




I admire you for posting this. Many folks yell and scream that people need to learn the language, and that's fine - but the reality is that it is DIFFICULT to do so (especially as an adult).


papersilly
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:34:50 PM
i posted on the other thread about my parents. they immigrated to the US when they were already in their late 20's. they knew english but their accents were/are still thick to this day. but in those years, my dad has gone back to study and take the Bar Exam to become a lawyer in the US. his accent may have been a hindrance but he was sharp enough to pass one of the toughest bar exams in the country. he also held a real estate license for the years before that. but one of his most impressive accomplishments, to me, was not the fact that he learned English, but the fact that he learned SPANISH! he had enough insight to know, back in the 1970's, that spanish was going to be an integral part of the california culture and job market. so he went to night school and learned that language. today, he can still speak spanish to our clients. he can also speak two native dialects and of course, English. if you saw him on the street, you would never know it. most people would probably have a preconceived notion that he is just another immigrant, fresh off the boat and not an attorney who speaks 4 languages.



angievp
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:38:53 PM

I think this is exactly what Squillen was saying. If you grow up here, you learn the language.



No, that's not exactly what Squillen was saying.

redboots
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:40:29 PM
My father learned English very quickly after he came here. He still speaks with a thick accent, however.

English was always the primary language spoken in our home, though I and most of my siblings are fluent in Spanish. I don't remember learning English or Spanish; I think I probably learned them concurrently. I am also fluent in Italian and French. My fluency in Spanish made it much easier for me to learn other Latin based languages.

Anyway, here is a good story that is kind of about language:

My youngest brother was a good student until his sophomore year in high school. He started slacking off and my mom made an appointment with the counselor.

Before really looking at my brother's academic records, the counselor saw our surname and asked my parents if English was the primary language spoken in our home. (Nevermind that my mother and brother both speak unaccented English.)

My mother asked if the counselor was trying to imply that the reason my brother's grades had gone down was related to his ethnicity and hispanic surname.

"Well, there are often issues with performance when English is the secondary language..."

My mother interrupted him and said, "Please get out your pen and add what I am about to say, verbatim, to my son's file: (Brother's name) is NOT flunking out of school because he is hispanic or because his father is from Mexico. (Brother's name) is flunking out of school because he is a lazy little Mexican, not because he's got Mexican blood in his veins."

The counselor laughed and told my mom that was the first time he'd heard a parent force her child to be accountable for his own actions in a long time, and said her honesty was refreshing.

Like I said in the other thread: not all immigrants or children of immigrants (legal or illegal) use their skin color as an excuse for lack of success. I was raised in a home with very high standards - we had to own our mistakes and failures, but we also earned our own success. I am very grateful for my parents.

pennyring
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:48:10 PM
I think there are language people and "not" language people.

I'm a language person. I love languages. I pick them up quickly.

DH isn't and doesn't.

When we travel, I'm always the one trying to learn the language and talk to the locals in that language.

DH hovers on the outskirts of the conversation uncomfortably.

It is always respectful to speak the native language, but it comes easier to some people than it does to others.

DH is really good at math and science. I'm good at languages. Our differences make the world go 'round. I don't think it's something to get judgemental about.



Epeanymous
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:52:59 PM
I posted on that thread that my great-grandfather lived here for 40+ years, started a business, employed a lot of people, and never learned to speak English. The American dream doesn't always lead to English-language fluency,

Me GOP
Movin On Pea

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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:57:07 PM
So much more constructive and dialogue opening. Thank you LTO.


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angievp
Ideay pues?

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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:13:10 PM

I guess I took Squillens post to mean people who grow up here would at least be able to understand her placing an order. I never read more into her original post than that.


Dude. Can't you just let it go? Maybe you can start another thread regarding what YOU thought Squillen meant. I'm sure lots of people will give it another go. This is not the place for it.

IleneTell
StuckOnPeas

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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:14:04 PM

"the american way"


diversity IS the "american way", and this is a country of immigrants


I think whether here legally or illegally, those who DO NOT speak English (and live here) should be ashamed


So because these people do not meet your standards, they should be ashamed? It's their job to now make sure they please you (you and others who hold this belief).


They come here for a better way of life (which I understand) but often end up being not only a burden on OUR society, but a group that doesn't even want to mix with our society (by way of not ever learning the language).


In fact, you CAN contribute and not know English. There are many immirgant communities where people can hold down various jobs that cater to others who speak that language, and work and make money and contribute in many ways without speaking English.


How can you live here 20 years and not bother to learn the language? That's just offensive!


BTW, although the majority of people do speak English in the USA, it's not the official language, so I'm not sure why this is so offensive to you. It's always easy to judge when you haven't had to walk in someone else's shoes. And yes, I know you have the example of your husband and his family, but that's just one example.

leftturnonly
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:15:07 PM
My SIL was born in Chile, moved to Spain, and is now a US citizen. My niece and nephew were born on different continents and opposite hemispheres!

I've never known anyone else who's lived in 3 different quarters of the globe.

ETA - forgot the obvious. English is her second language. She has an accent - a beautiful woman with a beautiful accent.




If PC is the way to get to Heaven, I'm going straight to Hell.



angievp
Ideay pues?

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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:15:32 PM

I think there are language people and "not" language people.

I'm a language person. I love languages. I pick them up quickly.


ITA. I have a very easy time with languages. I studied Italian and French all the way through college and took advanced Spanish courses in college as well. I stopped when I realized my dream of becoming an interpreter for the UN and having a fabulous time traveling was not going to happen---and instead I was going to probably become a boring professor or attorney. LOLOLOL

I-95
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:31:48 PM

So many people here claim the first thing they would do if they moved to a foreign country is learn the language. I am sure some would, but I am also sure some wouldn't. I thought I would. Then I moved to a foreign country.


I would feel fairly comfortable saying that most, if not all, the people who claim the first thing they'd do would be learn the language in a new country, have never tried to learn another language.

As I kid we lived all over the world, and our parents made sure we got immersed in whatever the culture, and language of the country we landed in. As a kid languages are not that hard to manage and I speak several....some more fluently than others. I am better at the romance languages (Spanish, Italian, French)

These days I divide my time between Israel and the US...and I suck at Hebrew. My DH has spoken the language, daily, for 30 years, and even I can hear his strong American accent when he speaks. I am very well educated but I would never be able to compete for a high paying job in Israel, my Hebrew simply isn't good enough, and at this stage of my life, probably never will be. The older I get the harder it is to hear, and process the nuances of a difficult language. My MIL lived in Israel for 50 years and never managed to master the language.

I am grateful, every single day, that English was one of my cradle languages because I sure as hell wouldn't want to learn it as an adult.

Americans are so freaking arrogant when it comes to sitting on their high horses saying 'well, you should learn the language', when the vast majority don't know more than 2 words in another language themselves, and have no clue just how difficult it is to learn one....then they want to get picky about someone's accent? I'd also bet the very same people go on their once in a lifetime European vacation, and expect everyone to be to speak English to them....


theshyone
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:32:49 PM
My father in law was a little boy when his family immigrated from Sweden around the 1900's.
His uncle was to meet the family at the train station. He was not there. The family got a hotel room; and paid for one night. They had no money left to pay for any more.
The next day there was knocking on their door numerous times with spoken words they couldn't understand. They were so scared since they had no money; no food; no language.
Finally a voice came to the door they could understand. It spoke Swedish and they were told the uncle had had a team accident; horses knocked over something and he was detained.
The family eventually was reunited; lived in a Swedish community; and learned English. But always spoke with a heavy accent.
I always feel so sad knowing how scared they were not being able to communicate. Show some compassion to fellow humans.


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AmeliaBloomer
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Posted: 12/3/2012 10:17:52 PM
I teach deaf and hard of hearing kids, so I teach English as a FIRST language, odd as that seems.

English is an absolute bear to learn. Our phonetic and spelling "rules" are more irregular than regular. Our verb conjugation isn't much better. We regularly speak in super-contractions, like "D'j'wanna" for "Do you want to...".

But WORST is our dizzying array of figurative language, especially multiple meanings.

I spend a good portion of my professional day teaching "lazy multiple meanings."

Even though there are more words in the English language now than ever before, the typical American uses a much smaller vocabulary than was used 100 years ago...and it's only becoming worse (smaller). Instead of using perfectly good, specific English words (they're in parentheses in the sentences below), we increasingly rely on these lazy multiple meanings.

An example: "Get." (I wanted to use "run," which now has over THIRTY meanings, but that would make this post even longer than it is.)

-"I hope I don't GET (become) sick.."

-"I don't GET (understand) this math problem."

-"How did you GET (travel) to work?"

-"What time did you GET (arrive) home?"

-"GET out (leave)!"

-"What am I going to GET out of this deal (how will I benefit)?

None of these examples uses the meaning of "get" that is commonly thought to be the primary meaning: to procure, e.g. "Busboy, can you GET me some more coffee, please?"

This trend among native speakers of "American" is a constant source of frustration and confusion to both Deaf people who are learning English as a first language and foreign-born people who are learning it as a second language.

I have nothing but admiration for people who are struggling to learn English, especially American English. In their shoes, as an adult learner, I suspect I would be a dismal failure.






scrapcreator
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Posted: 12/3/2012 10:47:45 PM
I work as an administrator for our adult school one night a week. Most of the adults who take our English as a Second Language (ESL), citizenship, GED, and high school diploma classes work all day and attend classes at night. Some of them work the night shift and come in from work for the morning classes. They work harder than our credit recovery (concurrent) high school students. They know how important it is to learn the language and they appreciate the opportunity to learn. Their English may not be perfect but each one of them has a story to tell.

Jeanne


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freecharlie
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Posted: 12/3/2012 11:03:00 PM
You have to go quite a way back in my family tree to find someone who did not speak English, so I have no cool stories to share.

I do work in an old school building and currently half of the building is rented out by a church. When they have ESL or GED classes, that place is pack with both our Spanish speaking immigrants and our recent Somalian and one other African country immigrants. They are taking classes to learn and to function in a day to day society in an English speaking area.

That said, the older generation, the ones not looking to work but rather stay home are not coming to the classes. Why? Because they don't need to live all that much in the English speaking world. Their world, their home is in their native language and they are doing just fine.

I would love to be bi-lingual even with a heavy accent. Being able to speak, read, and understand two languages is not an easy task.


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Posted: 12/3/2012 11:11:14 PM


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redboots
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Posted: 12/3/2012 11:13:52 PM
Great picture, bgpa!!

IleneTell
StuckOnPeas

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Posted: 12/3/2012 11:15:31 PM
TFS the picture, bgpa!



asr70
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Posted: 12/3/2012 11:18:20 PM

I think whether here legally or illegally, those who DO NOT speak english (and live here) should be ashamed - not only are there MANY free resources for learning english, but it costs us SO MUCH by way of bilingual programs in schools, translators in hospitals, ect. They come here for a better way of life (which I understand) but often end up being not only a burden on ...
My grandmother, who was born here, as were her ancestors (the French side dating back to the 1600s, the Cree's even further back)spoke French until she was 12 years old. Up until that point she had lived in a predominantly french community on the prairies. Her parents then moved the family to BC in the early 40's, where she was then so mercilessly teased and poked at for her poor English and her general french / Meti-ness by her peers that she took care to learn English and to her dying day was so ashamed of her French / Meti heritage that she never spoke it again or rarely spoke of it at all.




tifftiff2
StuckOnPeas

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Posted: 12/3/2012 11:49:59 PM
My great-grandmother came to the US as a child in 1910 from Czechoslovakia. She had a very difficult time learning the English language, although she did eventually become proficient enough for most means. She would always write me letters as a kid and I would need to ask what some of the words meant because they weren't in English. She didn't have too thick of an accent, however, since she spent most of her life in the United States.

My step-mother is from Mexico, born and raised. She learned English in college and worked in Mexico teaching others to speak English so they could get better jobs in the United States. The company she worked for was a US-based company with a factory in Mexico. The employees could then work towards promotions and come to the US for better jobs and better opportunities. She worked extremely hard to become a US citizen. It is a long, arduous process. Plus, it is EXPENSIVE. No wonder we have so many illegal immigrants here. Anyway, she is a highly-intelligent, college-educated woman. When she married my dad (who got transferred as a manager at the factory in Mexico), she struggled with becoming a US citizen because she was proud of her heritage. She didn't want to lose that part of her. However, when my dad was transferred back to Alabama, she didn't have an option. It took over 2 years for her to finally be able to get her citizenship here. And thousands and thousands of dollars. She then spent all of her time helping to organize a Hispanic Association in North Alabama to help other people who needed support with learning English, finding jobs, and becoming a US citizen. She is an AMAZING woman. However, even after all of this, she still has a thick accent. She still struggles to find the right words in English from time to time. And she still has people that treat her like garbage, call her names, harass my baby sisters, and there are people who will drive by screaming "Go back to Mexico" when they are out enjoying time in the front lawn.

She was very fortunate that she was able to study English in college. However, not as many people have that opportunity. I truly struggle with how some people tend to treat anyone who has an accent in our country.


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azredhead34
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Posted: 12/4/2012 12:11:40 AM
My Dhs grandparents came from Stockholm' Sweden. They came legally and were sponsored by a family here.
One of the funnest things about far mor (his grandma)
Was she would speak both swedish and english. She taught her kids (my Fil) English very well. But when she would talk her words often got mixed up. I loved to hear her talk! Far mors sister tried to learn english too, when she visited she knew the basics.
Dh and try to learn Swedish its natural for him me not so much.



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jodster70
To the right, To the right

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Posted: 12/4/2012 12:54:31 AM
I wrote this on the other thread:

Many years ago, I met a young man named Alejandro from Mexico & we got to talking. (I speak Spanish, though not fluently, but well enough to communicate.) He was trying desperately to get into an ESL class, & I tried to help him get into one. I couldn't, because they were all full!! I tried everywhere in the area I could think of to no avail.

Sometimes even if you want to learn a language, you just don't have the means to do so, even if you try. It's not as cut & dried as one would think as far as learning the language goes. It takes time, transportation, and the availability of classes.

I've heard some people make absolutely idiotic statements about immigrants learning English, when they don't know a word of any other language themselves. I agree that people are so arrogant about others knowing English in the US, and many don't see any value in knowing another language.



**Jody**

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sueg
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Posted: 12/4/2012 3:30:36 AM
I have stories on both sides of this issue.
My paternal grandparents came to Australia during WWII. They had no choice in this - they were interned in Palestine due to their Italian citizenship, though neither had ever lived in Italy.
After the war, they chose to stay in Australia. At this point, my grandparents were in their early 40s, my dad was 9, my 2 uncles 12 and 7 and the 3 sons had never been in school. All of the boys learned English at school through immersion; now - over 60 years later - my older uncle still has an accent. Both my grandparents learned English - for Nanna it was her 7th language! - but neither were really fluent. At home, they still conversed with their siblings and other relatives in whichever language was most useful. My nanna and her 2 sisters would often converse in a language they knew, but their husbands/children didn't if they needed to.

On the other side - and to add to the 'if I moved somewhere that spoke a different language, I'd learn it' argument.
4 years ago my husband accepted a transfer with his company to Munich, Germany. I arrived here 3 years ago. I enrolled in a language course within months, and spent 4 hours a day, 5 days a week for 6 months learning German.
And you know what - I get by, but I am by no means fluent. You just don't learn the vast amounts of vocabulary that you build in a lifetime of your native language in just a few months (or even a few years). I don't have a lot of German friends, and many of the ones I have like to speak English with me, as they want to keep up the language they learned in school.
I also consider myself at rather an advantage in trying to learn a new language compared to many. I am reasonably well educated and have a good grasp of English. I read and speak on a variety of subjects and at a high level. In my German class, there were a few who stood out: the man about my age (late 40s-early 50s) from Togo in Africa, who had reasonable spoken German, but couldn't read or write it - he was a refugee and had very low literacy in his own language. Then there were the Arabic boys (early 20s) who had to learn an entirely new script and direction for reading and writing. If I found it hard, I can only imagine what it must have been like for them.
Also, when DH and I are together - either at home or when we're out together - we speak English. It's what we've been speaking together for over 30 years and it comes naturally. Add to that that we're (obviously) more fluent in English. We don't speak English on the train, or in the grocery store to be rude to the locals - we do it to communicate efficiently. I would imagine that the immigrants to America and Australia and the like who speak their native language to each other probably do so for the same reasons.

JMHO


Sue


myboysnme
one of those "entitled" peas

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Posted: 12/4/2012 7:37:24 AM
This story is kind of related to the topic. My husband is a middle school social studies teacher, and they partner with a school in Uruguay. The students, children of Americans living in Uruguay, at the school are all English speaking students. They live in Uruguay but go to an American run school with English speaking teachers.

I'd love to hear the outcry if there were schools here only for Spanish speaking or Chinese speaking or any other language. All the assimilation fanatics would go apoplectic and have a coronary.

It seems to me that some people have such a fear of people who are different that deep inside they think something awful will happen if they don't understand what someone else is saying. Languages are beautiful! Seems like however communication is fostered is a good thing - if it happens in another language that helps that person understand, that's a good thing!

I am leaving for Germany in 2 days and I don't speak more than 5 words in German. I am counting on the fact that many of them speak English and have signs posted in both languages.


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OSUBuckeyeFan
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Posted: 12/4/2012 8:02:12 AM

I would feel fairly comfortable saying that most, if not all, the people who claim the first thing they'd do would be learn the language in a new country, have never tried to learn another language.


I've tried to learn other languages, both in high school(French) and again in college(Spanish). Not knowing anyone who speaks those languages and never having traveled outside the continental USA, I can speak a few select phrases and probably mangle enough words together to be able get around those countries.

MY point was that *I'M* not the one who left her native country to start a new and better life in the USA. I do NOT expect immigrants to the USA to have a full grasp on the language once they arrive here but I also don't think they shouldn't make an attempt to learn basic English and I don't give a FIG about their accent. I work with and take care of people on a regular basis who were not born here but learned English and speak with a thick accent and I don't usually have any problem understanding them.

One of the Dr's at work was born in what is now Bosnia. He came to the USA with his parents as a young child. Although he speaks English perfectly fine, he still has that Bosnian accent and is fluent in both Bosnian and English.

Another RN coworker was born and raised in Hungary but didn't immigrate to the USA till she was 16 or 17 with her parents. She too also learned to speak English and while she maintains her accent, no one has any problems understanding her either. Growing up,she was poor. She and her siblings used to scrounge around trash cans and dumpsters in search of food. To this day, she is very waste-conscious..doesn't throw much away..not even paper. For report in the mornings, she won't even get a new piece of paper, she'll write on the same one she used the day before but write in a different color of ink. She too can speak Hungarian as well as English.




gmcwife1
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Posted: 12/4/2012 11:12:38 AM
My ex of 8 yrs was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and moved to San Diego when he was 5. He didn't know any English when he moved here and started kindergarten. He learned to speak English and can speak both English and Spanish with and without an accent.

His older sister speaks English, Spanish and took French in high school. Her English is also without an accent. His younger sister that was born in the US speaks English and Spanish and has a fairly heavy accent on her English. His mom has very limited English and speaks mainly in Spanish. None of his relatives that live in Mexico speak English.

My dh is full Puerto Rican and he does not speak Spanish. His mom was born in the US and speaks Spanish and English. Her English has a heavy New York accent. His dad was born in Puerto Rico and speaks both English and Spanish. His English has a Spanish accent.


~ Dori ~

peasful1
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Posted: 12/4/2012 11:23:52 AM

So I am an example of someone who has lived in another country legally for almost a decade and cannot speak the native language.


But in all fairness, Hong Kong was a British Colony for 100 years. It's a cosmopolitan trading port. All the signs are in Chinese and English. Most places have rather British names. Most people speak at minimum a small amount of English so it's easy for you to get by without learning Mandarin or Cantonese. During our last visit, DH was so proud that he learned how to say, "Excuse me, where is the bathroom?" in Cantonese and so he asked the girl at the hostess counter. She responded, "Down the hall and to the left, sir."

Same with Macau.

But if you were dumped in the middle of China, where no one speaks English at all, I'm sure you would learn. Otherwise you could not communicate at all. When we were in Guangzhou, which is a hop and a skip from HK, no one spoke English. We were very glad to have our family with us who could help bridge the language barrier.

We're heading to HK in a few weeks. Can't wait!


------------------------------------
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Darcy_Collins
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Posted: 12/4/2012 12:21:18 PM
You could say America came to my relatives, as opposed to them coming to America (at least one branch). I have baptism and marriage records dating back to the early 1700s for my grandmother's family. They lived in the same little town in New Mexico for hundreds of years before it became part of the United States. The census records show they all spoke Spanish in that town well into the 1900s. I've wondered about the history of the public schools there. When the entire village has been part of Mexico and Spanish speaking, when do they start teaching English as the primary language? In 1848, when it became a territory? In 1912 when it became a state? I need to research that.

The family left New Mexico during the Great Depression, and she certainly grew up learning English in school, and her mother spoke both English and Spanish. As an interesting note, my grandmother was one who never spoke Spanish in the home (with the exception of swearing). She married an Irishman, and none of her children know Spanish, or Gaelic for that matter.


jodster70
To the right, To the right

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Posted: 12/4/2012 4:55:03 PM
I loved reading these stories about people's different immigration journeys.

Thanks so much for sharing them everyone!


**Jody**

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government -- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."
Patrick Henry

transprntbutterfly
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Posted: 12/4/2012 6:17:17 PM
So many fascinating stories!

Thank you all for sharing!

Ms. GreenGenes
AncestralPea

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Posted: 12/4/2012 6:40:17 PM
An old boss of mine was Lebanese, arriving in the US as a small boy, one of 4 kids.

One sib was a doctor, one married a very prominent local doctor who was also Lebanese.

They were very well integrated into the community, had built a comfortable, if not somewhat wealthy life here, but they were not fans of the US in general. They only spoke English if they had to; they kept strictly to the Lebanese customs, and were pretty well heartbroken when one son chose to marry a white American. They pressured him long after he was married, suggesting how much better life would be with a Lebanese girl, how much easier, and when his American wife suggested he pitch in once a week to help clean the house, it pissed him and his family all off.

When he divorced her, his family encouraged him again to marry a good Lebanese girl, and NOT one from an immigrant family like his. He had to go back home and get a good Lebanese girl 10 or 15 years his junior who was drop dead gorgeous and thoroughly schooled in their subservient ways, and he married her. She got a middle aged, balding paunchy guy that she didnt know, and popped out a couple of kids right away.

They liked doing business in the US, but outside of that, they wanted nothing to do with anything about the US. That always irked me.

That's really the only immigrant story I know of personally, so I'm really enjoying the rest of these stories. Makes me more appreciative of my country, and what it can represent for some.

And it makes me want to teach an ESL class so I can hear some more.


~ Tracey
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