Friday, August 18, 2006

This is Exactly Why Immigrants Need to Speak English

New America Media: Police Shootings Spotlight Growing Language Barriers in Suburbia This is a story of a police shooting in a Korean community. 2 men were drunk and spoke no English.

The minority community is up in arms, the police shooting was deemed justified. But what is to be done. Should the cop on the beat be expected to speak every language, Korean, Spanish, Chinese, Polish, Vietnamese, et al? This is hardly going to happen. What should be expected is that you should learn to speak some English, if only for such emergencies as dealing with police, firefighters, calling 911, etc.

My grandfather came to this country after WWI had started in Europe but before the US joined the action. He spoke English - not his native language - with a heavy accent, but he learned to read and write English. He learned to speak a little English before he came to this country, and my grandparents spoke only English at home with their sons so that they would grow up to be American and speak the language.

My grandfather was your average working stiff. He dug coal in the mines when he first came to this country, he worked in a factory, he ran a bar for few years. He had the drive to build a better life for his kids, and he saw that knowing and speaking the language clearly was important. It is still important.

As long as immigrants maintain that they don't need to learn English, they will have trouble communicating with the larger culture, and in times of emergency they will pay a tragically avoidable price.

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