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Mon Apr 15, 2019, 10:20 PM

Obama says it's OK to ask immigrants to learn English

Former President Barack Obama recently suggested “it’s not racist” to say immigrants in the U.S. should learn English.

“Should we want to encourage newcomers to learn the language of the country that are moving to? Of course. Does that mean that they can never use their own language? No. Of course that doesn’t mean that,” Obama stated at a recent town hall held in Berlin, Germany.

“It’s not racist to say if you’re going to be here, then you should learn the language of the country that you just arrived at, because we need to have some sort of common language in which all of us can work and learn and understand each other,” Obama continued.

Some used that comment to criticize what they see as Democrats’ transformation into a party opposed to immigration enforcement.


https://www.aol.com/article/news/2019/04/12/obama-says-its-ok-to-ask-immigrants-to-learn-english/23711095/

President Obama - always with the right nuance on a difficult subject.

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Reply Obama says it's OK to ask immigrants to learn English (Original post)
riverine Apr 15 OP
Hoyt Apr 15 #1
The Velveteen Ocelot Apr 15 #2
Hoyt Apr 15 #3
Igel Tuesday #15
loyalsister Apr 15 #7
uponit7771 Tuesday #14
Doreen Apr 15 #4
uriel1972 Tuesday #10
Doreen Tuesday #12
NewJeffCT Tuesday #18
Amishman Tuesday #19
BigmanPigman Apr 15 #5
hunter Apr 15 #6
Hekate Tuesday #13
PoindexterOglethorpe Tuesday #8
JI7 Tuesday #9
meadowlander Tuesday #11
Vinca Tuesday #16
DFW Tuesday #17
aikoaiko Tuesday #20

Response to riverine (Original post)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 10:27 PM

1. Love Obama, but too many who say that, mean it as hatred and a way to

discriminate. Encouraging immigrants to learn English is one thing.

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Response to Hoyt (Reply #1)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 10:33 PM

2. Many want to learn, and attend ESL classes. It just makes life easier in most situations

if you can speak the most commonly-used language of the country you live in. But the haters would tell you that all immigrants should be required to learn English, even though the US doesn't have any official language - and older people, in particular, find it a lot more difficult to learn a new language. ESL classes should be available to those who want them, but it would be an unfair burden on already-burdened people to require it.

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #2)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 10:34 PM

3. Exactly.

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #2)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 07:37 AM

15. And those who don't learn enough?

We translate things into languages for groups politically powerful enough or those who have enough political power behind them.

I tutored a group of ESL learners long ago. No services were provided for them. The city wasn't huge and had Ethiopians, Somalis, Kenyans, Russians, and dozens of other languages. It would require a staff of a couple hundred translators to provide services for them. We helped people here who could get green cards get greencards and then pass the citizenship test; they often still couldn't function, but they learned enough and memorized enough to answer the questions. I watched one stare, helplessly, when he went to vote and didn't understand the poll worker enough to be able to sign the poll book correctly and answer a few basic questions to help him navigate the voting process. It was truly sad; but the pollworkers weren't able to be fluent in a dozen languages, and what was there in languages other than English neither could cover every necessity nor every language needed.

Where I teach now there's a newcomer program. The teacher helps the kids who come in and know Spanish. They're the target. The Mayan-speaking kids, the kid who speaks Arabic, the Russian speakers don't get the help. It's based both on numbers--the more minority you are, the less help you get, but the less support you get outside of school. One high-school test required for graduation the call went out to locate a bilingual dictionary for a kid who was floundering on the test. She failed because the school handled 10 languages and hers was #11. She'd transferred to the school a week before. She couldn't not take it; and she'd have to retake it next time it was offered.

Learn English, no problem. It was the same argument I heard in Europe in the '90s and it's a reasonable one. The majority isn't held captive by whoever happens to show up. It means I have little sympathy for people who arrive and really can't speak enough to survive. I saw Americans whining about the same thing in some places in Europe, where the indigenous population was expected to have obligations to those who arrived but the arriving population had no obligation to its hosts. It flipped the script in uncomfortable and biased ways.

It's a burden to nurse them along and say, "You don't need the majority language to function," then have them land in a situation where everybody has to be their keeper because they're helpless after being in-country for a long time. I've been there and knew not to impose on everybody else for my decisions.

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Response to Hoyt (Reply #1)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 11:55 PM

7. Exactly

Wanting immigrants to be able to communicate easily devloves into the more narcissitic "how dare anyone speak in a language I don't know"

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Response to Hoyt (Reply #1)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 03:07 AM

14. That's the thing, those who want to hate are like water; they'll always find the bottom

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Response to riverine (Original post)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 10:40 PM

4. I agree with him.

Aren't we are the only country who caters to having text printed out for other language's and hire people to talk to others from different countries?

I have always been under the impression that other countries expect us to learn their language.

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Response to Doreen (Reply #4)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 01:21 AM

10. Uh no...

Australia... at present has a pretty good system of translators and printed matter in "Foreign" languages, I say foreign as Indigenous languages are also represented.

I think it's hard enough to be a refugee without there being some accommodation regarding languages. I know I would have incredible difficulty learning another language, I've tried believe me.

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Response to uriel1972 (Reply #10)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 01:49 AM

12. OK, thanks for letting me know.

I would never be able to learn a new language either. I could further improve my German but that is because I already have somewhat of a small grasp with it.

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Response to Doreen (Reply #4)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 08:37 AM

18. If you go to China

you'll see a huge number of stores with English translations on many items. The first time we went to China in 2004, we went looking for baby powder because the humidity was bothering my then 18 month old daughter, so we went into a local Wal-Mart there and it was the ONLY store that did not have items listed in both Chinese and English. You'll also see many street signs in major cities in traditional Chinese characters, but also in English lettering (of course, sometimes reading them as driving is difficult to process if you don't know what you're looking for...)

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Response to Doreen (Reply #4)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 09:03 AM

19. I do too, since he said 'ask' not 'require'

Learning a new language is extremely difficult, especially as an adult. People should be strongly encouraged to learn it, but some will not be successful. If someone has't learned yet or just can't seem to manage it, we should take reasonable steps to accommodate. By reasonable steps I'd expect a large business to have Spanish language versions of documents. I wouldn't expect a small business to be able to the same

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Response to riverine (Original post)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 10:46 PM

5. Teachers in CA were required to have ESL training to get a job

as a teacher in the regular classroom. I learned a lot about language acquisition and how languages transfer in the brain, etc. We were taught in the 1990s that we should encourage students to use their home language. Learning a new language is easier when you already have a "home language". I taught elementary school and my first graders often would be able to translate for their parents during conferences. Other students who also speak their home language are thrilled to help out new language learners. I think adults fear language acquisition more than younger people.

One thing I learned was why it is so hard for adults to learn a new language is the human brain. I have taken years of German and have had classes in Italian and Spanish and can hardly read a menu. The part of the brain that learns language is large when you are an infant but when a person gets older it shrinks. Once you hit adulthood it's really difficult since this part of the brain has shrunk dramatically. Most adults really must be immersed in a language with no English at all and for a long period of time to learn it well.

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Response to riverine (Original post)

Mon Apr 15, 2019, 10:55 PM

6. If the children don't speak English, the grandchildren will.

That's the way it's always been.

My wife's dad was born in a tent near a small farm my parents used to own. His parents were Spanish speaking farmworkers. They encouraged their children to learn English. My wife's dad is a fully fluent English speaker even though his parents were never quite.

My wife's first language is English.

My mom had a grandma who spoke Danish. My mom and all her cousins by this grandma spoke English.

In spite of high school and college courses in Spanish and German, my own facility with languages other than English is pathetic.

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Response to hunter (Reply #6)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 02:00 AM

13. That's how I look at it. Newly arrived adults want to live with others of their culture if they can

...and I cannot blame them. But public school always used to be the great tool of assimilation -- and it still should be. By the third generation most of the old neighborhoods empty out, and the children and grandchildren of immigrants -- well, they are us.

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Response to riverine (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 01:13 AM

8. I should think that immigrants would be very motivated to learn the language of their new country.

I know it takes time. I know if they've come to the new country as an adult they will probably never be fully fluent. But they should learn the language of their new country.

When I hear of someone who has been here for ten years or more and does not seem to speak word one of English, I find it hard to be fully sympathetic. Especially if their native language is another Indo-European one.

I also honestly don't think that ballots should be printed in other languages, because to become a citizen you have to pass some sort of basic English test. And again, you should be highly motivated to learn the language.

That said, I have zero patience for those who pitch fits when they hear someone speaking another language. I live in Santa Fe, NM, and I hear Spanish all the time. No big deal. I can speak some Spanish, and I try to communicate with Spanish speakers as needed.

I have a good friend who speaks several languages (Italian, French, German, Bahasa Malay, Spanish, maybe a couple of others) and whenever I'm with him, the next thing I know he's speaking to someone in one of his other languages. I think that is totally cool.

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Response to riverine (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 01:19 AM

9. How about Republican Presidents ? W Bush and Trump ????

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Response to riverine (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 01:24 AM

11. No, but it's racist to "be offended" by someone speaking another language in your presence

which is what most of the people who complain about this are actually complaining about.

It can take more than four years for a youngish person with average intelligence to get to moderate fluency in a foreign language even when they are immersed in it. So the expectation that people will step off the boat speaking flawless, unaccented English is unrealistic. And older people who aren't good at language may never be able to become completely fluent through no fault of their own.

People need to get over themselves and have a bit more patience with people who are still learning. You notice people bending over backwards to understand Russian or German or Scandinavian immigrants but immediately walk away and not even try to understand a brown person. That's where the racism comes in.

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Response to riverine (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 08:01 AM

16. If I moved to a country with a language I didn't understand I would be eager to learn it.

It puzzles me some immigrants don't seem interested in doing that. I occasionally sell Asian antiques and have struck up an acquaintance with a couple of Chinese guys. One speaks broken English and the other one can say "Hi." I end up talking in sign language to the second fellow when the first one isn't around. It makes it very difficult when trying to transact a deal.

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Response to riverine (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 08:18 AM

17. He is exactly right. We have the same issue in Germany.

Several Americans come over to Europe wanting to live, thinking "well, everybody knows English there." First of all, no, not everyone does. Sure, many do, especially if they interact with tourists for any reason. But many don't, and it is considered extremely arrogant when American (or any other, for that matter) tourists show up somewhere and automatically start speaking English without even asking if the person understands them.

By the same token, I have seen Russians applying for residence permits in Germany speaking nothing but Russian, bringing a relative to translate for them. Whatever these people are thinking, they are wrong. You can no more integrate into Düsseldorf society speaking only English or Russian than you can integrate into Dallas society speaking only German or Russian. If you are going to move to another country and expect to stay there, you MUST learn the local language. Period.

It doesn't mean you have to suppress your own language or culture. I always banter with shop owners in my town with my minimal Turkish or Kurdish, but most of our conversation is in German. We're in Germany, and it is our common language.

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Response to riverine (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 06:42 PM

20. "language of the country" WTF is that?


I wish he chose his words a little more carefully.

Or maybe he meant it exactly the way he said it.

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