Monday, July 2, 2007

Basta!! Patrick McIlheran

Basta!! Patrick McIlheran!

In his latest "Quick Hit"Patrick McIlheran implies that the very foundations of American civilization are threatened by Spanish speaking residents refusing to learn English.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth!

Spanish speaking immigrants and their progeny are learning English. They must to survive in the United States.

It is true that adult immigrants often struggle with learning a new language, just as earlier generations of non-English speaking immigrants did. Adult brains simply aren’t as adaptive as those of younger people.

The children and grandchildren of today’s Spanish speaking immigrants, like the children of previous generations of immigrants from Europe and elsewhere, adopt the language of their new country. Travel anywhere in the world and you will see people of African decent speaking French, German, and Italian, Iranians speaking Swedish, Norwegian and Spanish and Latinos speaking English!

Second generation Latinos speak English, most as their first language. They may also continue to speak their native language, just as German, Polish, Italian and Jewish immigrants before them. This enables them to communicate with and assist their parents and grandparents who often lack English proficiency. It also allows them to serve as a bridge between the United States and our southern neighbors who are almost all Spanish speaking.

My Minsk born grandmother spoke very little English. But she successfully raised eight children all of whom spoke English as their first language, even those not born in the US. One, a Harvard educated physicist wrote IBM’s first programs. Three others took the truck their father used to transport eggs and turned it into a regional trucking business. Another became a photographer who took the earliest photographs of Rosa Parks before she refused to move to the back of the bus. Three were WWII veterans including the youngest son who was wounded at Normandy. One was my mother. All retained Yiddish so they could communicate with their parents and other older relatives, assisting their transition to this new and very different world. All I know of Yiddish are the few words that all Americans have adopted! The transition took all of three generations!

Earlier generations of immigrants didn’t have television shows in their first language. They didn’t even have television for that matter! But they did have newspapers, radio shows and even public schools in their native language. Milwaukee had Polish and German language public schools and papers. The UP had a Finish radio program until a few years ago! None of these institutions prevented these immigrants or their children from learning English and becoming productive members of society. Nor did they undermine the foundations of western civilization! They actually helped smooth the transition by teaching immigrants about the institutions and practices of their new homeland just as Spanish language TV does today!

Senor McIlheran swung and missed with his "Quick Hit." What will he propose next? Banning guacamole and margaritas?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


What a great article!!!!! I've printed it out to bring to the beauty parlor
where half the people are up in arms because a fundraising cookbook for a
middle school in Framingham has recipes printed in Spanish and English - and
lots of ethnic recipes too!!!!