Saturday, April 29, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

Like the pending May 1 march/boycott/day off work, I think that the Spanglish (it really isn’t a true Spanish-language edition, as Fausta correctly notes–lyrics and such here) version of the National Anthem to be bad politics. Given the visceral reaction to the Mexican flags at the various marches, if the goal here is greater immigrant rights, I am unconvinced that in-your-face-politics is the smart way to go, despite my opposition to the proposed House immigration bill.

I do think that it is much ado about not much, as it is basically a silly a protest song by a handful of singers. Not much “there” there if you ask me. I find the alteration of the lyrics to make it into a protest song to be more annoying than the idea that it was translated into Spanish language.

Of course, perhaps because I speak Spanish, I am simply not flummoxed by the ideas of others speaking it. I will say that immigrants need to learn English if they wish to economically integrate. That strikes me an indisputable and school programs that hinder that (i.e., bilingual education–especially that which focuses on the child’s native tongue instead of focusing on immersion in English) are highly problematic.

One fear that is fueled by things like the National Anthem flap is that many immigration critics clearly fear that immigrants will not assimilate into US culture, and that the specifically will not learn the language.

The evidence, as I understand, support the notion that the children of immigrants from Mexico/Latin America do, indeed, assimilate and learn the language–in ways not unlike previous waves of immigrants.

I plan to do more research on this topic, but would note the following by Daniel Drezner from a New Republic Online piece from a few years back (Hash of Civilizations):

Start with language. Huntington worries that large homogenous enclaves of Hispanics will weaken the incentive to learn English. The key test for this assertion is not whether first-generation Mexican immigrants speak English, but whether second-generation Mexican-Americans speak it. On this question, Huntington concedes that “English language use and fluency for first- and second-generation Mexicans thus seem to follow the pattern common to past immigrants.” He then voices concern that this trend may not continue to third-generation children. But according to Richard Alba and Victor Nee’s Remaking the American Mainstream, 60 percent of third-generation Mexican-American children speak only English at home. A 1990 Census study showed that only 5 percent of first-generation Mexican immigrants spoke English at home; another study showed that 30 percent of second-generation Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles spoke English at home. Taken along with Alba and Nee’s evidence, this suggests that Mexican-Americans, like other immigrant groups, are becoming more likely with each generation to adopt English as their primary language.

Something to thing about, to be sure. I need to find fluency stats, rather than simply what’s spoken at home, assuming such studies exist.

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One Response to “The Language Thing”

  1. Alan Kellogg Says:

    Another field of inquiry to explore is nativist reactions to immigrations around the turn of the last century. Lots of fuss and bother back then as I recall.

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