Thursday, August 3, 2017


POTUS’ mistake:
English a barrier
To immigration?


This scrivener lives in south Florida where Spanish seems to be the primary language. There are merchants in Dade County (Miami) who only do business in Spanish.

In retail and in all customer-facing positions, including civil service jobs, a command of Spanish is a basic requirement, even if English Is not.

This scrivener has a second language. I went overseas to learn it, working half-a-day to pay for the half-day lessons. I later worked in the country and learned a lot more. (My adult daughter did the same thing. We both returned with spouses and children.)

This scrivener’s mother-in-law, whom I love dearly, speaks very little of the local language; she’s lived in a “language ghetto” since she arrived in country. We barely can communicate (but we manage).

Finally, a quick check of the Internet for ”Free ESL classes in south Florida” turns up dozens of FREE English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. (Substitute “south Florida” for your area.)

Bottom line: Unless a person comes to America at age 90 and has a learning disability, there is no reason a potential immigrant cannot learn basic, “survival skills” English.

But does a potential immigrant absolutely need English to immigrate?

I don’t think so.

Knowing a few words in English beyond “please,” “thank you” and “where’s the bathroom” should be enough to get started.

It takes about five years to go from immigrant to citizen in the U.S. and that certainly is sufficient time to the citizen-to-be to learn rudimentary English; survival level English, enough to shop at a supermarket, to read road signs (that are in many cases international pictographs), to ask — and comprehend — directions, be they for driving from place to place or to perform a job.

For once I agree with the liberals. I don’t think a potential immigrant should be turned away simply because he or she does not speak English. LEARNING English should be a requisite for all immigrants (with very limited exceptions).

Learning English, as thousands of immigrants learned over the years, is the key to becoming “an American.” They worked a job — usually with others who spoke their native language — and learned English when not working.

English IS a difficult language. It’s structure is “strange” when compared to other languages. Most languages I know about put the subject first and the modifiers after, e.g., House. White, Big, while English would be Big White House. Rearranging a sentence’s structure sometimes still gives me pause.

There is a trade-off of sorts. English does away with gender. “You” is neutral, as are most nouns. (I still like “hostess” and “actress”; “host” and “actor” for the distaff side seems strange. I gave up “mailman” for “letter carrier” and “policeman” for “cop” (except for the one I call “son”).

My personal bottom line is that I think POTUS made a mistake with his “immigrants must know English” requirement. From what I have seen, read, and heard from Mr. Trump, the gentleman hardly has a command of the language on a par with Hubert Horatio Humphrey Jr. or Wm. F. Buckley Jr. — providing two opposing — but civil — political points of view.

What about, I have to ask, the person who lacks any opportunity to learn any English before coming to America’s shores? There are countries that learning English can be a severe handicap — sorry, that’s not “PC,” acceptable terminology is presented by the National Disability Authority, a private organization. Seeking out an English teacher in North Korea may not be a wise thing to do. Listening to Voice of America or BBC on shortwave radio and listening to pop music — the way many people learned their first English words — may not be an option.

In my opinion, survival level English should be a requisite for citizenship and it should be a requisite for a driver’s license (despite internationalization of road signs some still require English comprehension), but the lack of English should NOT be a barrier to immigration.

Mr. President, you blew this call.

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