Far From the English Speaking World

By: Daniel Nardini

                              Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary   My father used to tell me that he grew up in the Italian ghettos where the first language of choice at home was of course Italian. He also used to hear Polish and Czech and sometimes Chinese. While Chicago and America has changed a great deal from the times he grew up in, the one constant is that America was and remains a land of immigrants. Today, according to the U.S. Census, there are 61 millions people all across the United States who speak a language other than English at home. Out of this number, 38 million speak Spanish. This should come as no shock since the majority of immigrants who have come to this country came from Mexico and other countries in the Americas. Yet the Census also shows that other languages are being spoken within the household. These languages include Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian (that one was a surprise), Farsi (the most commonly used language in Iran), Armenian, Korean and Tagalog (the most commonly used language in the Philippines).
  What is surprising is that the most commonly spoken languages at home now are from the Asian continent. With the exception of Russian immigrants, all other immigrants seem to be coming from Asia. In the case of Canada, most of the immigrants to that country are now from Asia. This has yet to be a significant factor in America, but nevertheless the Asian population in this country is greatly increasing. This mirrors the number of Asian languages being spoken at home. Geographic location is equally important where many Spanish speaking immigrants and Asian speaking immigrants are located. Many immigrants are now located in all major cities and in many suburban towns and cities all across the United States. In some cases, immigrants can now be found in a number of rural towns as well. This should come as no surprise since many immigrants are finding cheaper housing beyond the major cities and also far lower costs in rural towns.
    One small example of this is the town of Sterling, Illinois. Sterling, once one of the industrial centers of northwest Illinois, has many of its properties abandoned as its industrial base has disappeared (overseas of course). Many immigrants, especially from the Americas, have bought these vacant properties at low prices and have tried to rebuild Sterling’s crumbling infrastructure. One thing that has also been mentioned is that many of these immigrants and especially their children are learning English. Even though another language is being used at home, English is slowly making its way into the households of many of these immigrants. Like immigrants from my father’s time, many, many immigrants realize that the only way for them and especially their children is learning English. While the home may serve as a refuge where immigrant families can converse in the language of their origin, they cannot entirely escape the English speaking world.

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