Tuesday, February 20, 2007

English Already First in Immigrant Families, But to the Detriment of Bilingual Skills

According to various studies, immigrant families promote English internally, believing that it will create more opportunities for future generations. However, the 1st generation does not merely drag the 2nd and 3rd generations kicking and screaming to learn English. According to a 1998 study of 8th and 9th grade students in San Diego and Miami-Fort Lauderdale (cited by Lucy Tse in Why Don't They Learn English?, p. 31), two-thirds of 2nd generation immigrants favored using English over their parents' language. The causes of that preference include the powerful cultural and popular pulls of English, limited exposure to and less opportunities to learn the language of family heritage, parental and school misconceptions based on fear, and peer pressure.

So, without any government coercion, immigrant families push themselves to learn English. But there are also casualties that may be further harmed by local government mandating English. One of those casualties is bilingualism or the ability of 2nd and 3rd generations in immigrant families to utilize two languages at once. In the study of 8th and 9th graders, while researchers found that the students knew English well, they were progressively losing their bilingual skills. Among the Spanish-speaking students, fewer than half were fluent bilinguals.

Full post here.