Essay on Learning English
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Young Hispanics against Learning English in the US
The Latino population grew by 250-300% in the past 15 years (Vilalba et al.), especially in the Southern states, being “the fastest growing ethnic group of both population and proportion” (Hagedorn et al. 74).
Now Hispanic population is the largest minority group in the United States so far, and almost half of the immigrants do not consider anymore that the knowledge of English is a prerequisite of being a part of American society (Penn & Zalesne 204). In this paper, I will try to prove that namely the representatives of the younger generation are the promoters of this trend and describe my own experience of interaction with them.
Here are some statistical facts that help us to identify the role of the youth in the Hispanic environment. The Latino population at the age of 18 through 29 is referred as the youth according to Penn & Zalesne (204) and this age group is reported to be the largest within the community (Hagedorn et al. 74). This means that youth is a trendsetter and the main consumer among the Latino population. The trend, as Penn & Zalesne (204) point out, is that young Hispanics are less willing to learn the English language compared to the first generations of immigrants and consider this occupation rather useless.
Let us first take a look at premises for the given trend. Penn & Zalesne (203) explain the social reasons for the Latino community to avoid learning English. At first, this language community can stay apart from the native speakers throughout its social life – Hispanic population, which is usually composed of immigrants, can only apply for the basic low-paid jobs that do not require education or special skills. One cannot probably find a native American working in the same environment. At second, the research shows that not all people born in the United States possess English language skills, and this defines them as ‘linguistically isolated’(Penn & Zalesne 203). Hispanics born from the parents who speak their native language will not probably be enough motivated to learn another one if the family experiences no problems in living the way it does. Besides, the facilities offering language learning are too limited throughout the country. Finally, the ethnic group is so large nowadays that each year the necessity of learning English, which appears to be the foreign language for the Hispanics, persistently declines. The growing youth feels itself comfortably within its ethnic environment supposing that this is the right order of the things. For the youth, it’s an opportunity lost because with the age people lose the ability of quick grasping and easy learning.
Taking into consideration the aforementioned factors, I would also like to contribute to these findings. People who speak Spanish now feel comfortable enough to completely avoid the use of English in communication. Let’s say, a native American who does not possess Spanish language skills sometimes feels like a tourist in own country. On the local scale, it is possible to find many public places like offices, shops, and places of entertainment where Spanish is not only spoken but also encouraged to be spoken.
That’s why, when communicating, I often had to ask the company to switch to English, which feels much more comfortable for me from any perspective. The feedback is inversely different because some agree and some don’t. For those who agree, strong accent in English sometimes becomes a communication barrier. Penn & Zalesne (204) mark the same tendency taking place on the whole US territory.
Sometimes young Hispanics require other people or hint them at speaking the same language as they do. If you can’t, they may try to cheat you if you interact with them closely. As far as I see, this is a common occurrence in stores, especially if the customer is obviously not a local inhabitant. Cavalieri points out that today it’s not enough to have basic skills in Spanish to be trustworthy and persuasive in the Latino community.
One summer I spent working in the supermarket where I had another experience of interaction with a young representative of the Latino community. We were working in the same department so I could observe his impulsive behavior and speech. He was able to speak English rather clearly, although the most often used words that one could hear from him comprised of the bad Spanish language. After I expressed some basic interest in his language, which I did not know, he tried to teach me some things from his vocabulary. I would not say that it was an obvious act of patriotism but definitely an attempt to share own culture, which is alternative to mine.
In order to give some relevant authoritative support, let me observe some more statistical data in the field of education, social responsibility, and health. Education is an important aspect of life in every community and is usually referred to the young population. The US system of education has always been promoting the opportunities of studying in colleges and universities for different cultural groups (Hagedorn et al. 73). The proportion of students was also affected from the ethnical perspective.
Current situation shows that children do not need considerable knowledge of English to enter the school (Penn & Zalesne 203), and this is certainly an advantage for the immigrant families who probably do not speak English in their households.
When it concerns higher education, one can mention that there is a significantly lower percentage of Hispanic students in universities compared to colleges. One of the reasons for this, as Hagedorn et al. (74) point out, may be the feeling of isolation throughout the educational process. Those Hispanics who look forward to receiving higher education and can speak the English language considerably well still perceive the difficulties of transition from the habitual way of life in an isolated community to the American way of life. This makes them feel alienated and discourages from becoming a valid member of the new society. They will probably return to their usual way of life in the Hispanic community that does not imply the usage of English to be an obligation.
The youth is the largest age group among Hispanics. This makes the young Latino population the biggest target audience for the companies from the marketing perspective. After advertising campaigns have become available also in Spanish or sometimes exclusively in Spanish, the youth felt that they “do not need to speak English to be part of American society” (Penn & Zalesne 204).
Following the trend of adaptations in marketing and advertising, several Hispanic television channels emerged and improved the size of the Hispanic audience in the United States. Such TV channels as Telemundo, Univision and the Spanish version of CNN promote diversity and target the young viewers as well. Being the powerful influential tool, they form the opinions of the youth by the means of broadcasting in Spanish, the native language of Latino immigrants. Young citizens are usually the most confident and conscious when it concerns national identity and country affairs. However, in case no conflicts occur, the young population feels at home in America without an obligation to speak the language of the country they are in.
Another interesting fact is the way how Hispanics without the knowledge of English obtain medical care. One might have probably met the representatives of the Latino community in the hospitals when these people cannot clearly explain the reason why they came and what type of treatment they expect to obtain. When young, people are less exposed to diseases that’s why the young people will not consider the health issue to be a valuable reason to start learning the language.
As a result, 52 percent of Hispanic population in the age of 18 through 29 suggest that “English is not core to being American” (Penn & Zalesne 204). Among the older population that refers to the previous generations of immigrants this number is significantly lower and equals only 31 percent. As the population of immigrants grows, the government should think of providing the possibility for the children to integrate in the society, otherwise the number of Americans that don’t speak the national language will only increase. This would happen because the young generation of Latinos will give birth to children and teach them only Spanish.
In the conclusion, I would like to mention that the identity and the language are very sharp issues in the life of the United States. Language is a strong indicator of culture and a powerful tool that unite nations even outside the motherland.
Although Latino youth is usually proud of living in America, the unwillingness to learn the English language is most probably reflected by the rebel character of the young Hispanics and the aspiration for acknowledgement of their nations. Taking this into consideration, I may suggest that the exponential growth of the Hispanic population on the US territory will certainly affect many aspects of life in America and probably even outside it. The young representatives of the contemporary Latino community are those who will affect the history and determine the future development of the country.
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