Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Good news on the bilingual front

Okay, I think this good news
Children of Hispanic Immigrants Continue to Favor English, Study of Census Finds


WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 - English remains the language of choice among the children and grandchildren of Hispanic immigrants, despite continuing waves of migration from Latin America and concerns from some analysts that English may lose ground to Spanish in some parts of the United States, a new analysis of census data shows.

The study, conducted by researchers at the State University of New York at Albany, is the latest foray in a fierce debate about whether the stream of immigration from Latin America will challenge traditional assimilation patterns charted by the descendants of European migrants.

Scholars say that the descendants of most European immigrants who arrived in the late 19th and 20th centuries became exclusively English-speakers within three generations. In recent years, some people have questioned whether the descendants of Hispanic immigrants will follow suit, given the surge in Spanish-speaking arrivals and the emphasis on multiculturalism and increased globalization.

The study, which examined data from the 2000 census, found that most Hispanic-Americans were also marching steadily toward English monolingualism. The report found that 72 percent of Hispanic children who were third-generation or later spoke English exclusively.

The report suggested that the trend had generally continued among Mexican-Americans, the country's largest immigrant group, even during the immigration boom of the 1990's. In 1990, 64 percent of third- and later-generation Mexican-American children spoke only English at home, the study showed. By 2000, that figure had risen to 71 percent.

Mr. Alba said available statistics did not suggest a substantive change in historical patterns. His view was echoed by Rubén G. Rumbaut, co-director of the Center for Research on Immigration, Population and Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine.

Dr. Rumbaut, who was a co-director of the largest multiyear survey of the children of immigrants, said his findings showed that continued bilingualism among Hispanics did not occur at the expense of English.

"It's additive, not subtractive," Dr. Rumbaut said. "English is still overwhelmingly preferred, even by Mexican-born young people who came as young children and are living on the border."
I'm multilingual myself (English, Russian, a bit of Yiddish and Hebrew, snippets of Spanish, French and German) and think America would be a much better place if all Americans spoke more than one language. (I also think it would be a much better country if more native-born Americans spoke better English, too, starting with the president. But I suppose that's just Blue State snark erupting.) I think it's important for immigrants to learn English - my ancestors certainly did - but I think it's also important to realize that this is very likely going to happen anyway, without the need to coerce it into happening.
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