Learning the Local Language Can Help Immigrants Integrate Into Their New Home

by Jeffrey Nelson

Over one million immigrants enter the United States each year. They have three key roles to play: leaders or caregivers of their families, community members, and workers. For each of these roles, learning and using the English language is critical to helping them integrate into their new home!

Typically, an immigrant's English as a Second Language (ESL) classes will be 3-6 hours/week and they will continue for at least 120 hours. This gives them an excellent start to obtaining a working knowledge of the language. They will need to learn language for specific areas such as family, healthcare, financial, and literary.

Learning English for purposes of exploring the civic requirements for the U.S. Naturalization test and employment are two other important reasons and will help immigrants make the U.S. their new home that much easier. Keeping the 'old country traditions' is also a good idea as when two cultures converge to become one mixed culture; each retaining pieces of its former self and it is good and enriches one's life.

Transitioning to a new culture, including learning the language and traditions, can be very difficult and emotionally distressing. Sometimes a psychologist is turned to for help. A psychologist will have an advanced degree with a license for the particular state and evaluate mental, emotional or behavior disorders.

Psychologists make a high salary but it is high because human interaction is hard, especially in trying times such as the immigrant faces.

There are many ways within the family to work on English while spending time with family. Reading out loud each evening, such as a chapter from a book all will enjoy, will help train the ear to English and help with pronunciation. Playing simple games where reading and speaking some easier words is also a good idea, such as Go Fish.

Celebrating with other families that are also trying to learn English is also a good idea. Keeping traditions alive while integrating English will work. Mexicans tend to celebrate more and be more open, as is obvious in their celebration of New Years Eve!

In the past 10 years, the data shows that in 'first generation' immigrant homes, 28% of the homes will have no one older than 13 that speaks English "very well". For second generation homes, where one parent was not born in the U.S., that number is much higher. By the third generation, where both parents are now both born in the U.S., 100% of the entire household will speak very well English and sadly, only 4% speak the 'minority' language at all.

There are many things a new immigrant can and should do to learn English so they are able to integrate better into the U.S. This helps them, their families and their community. They are able to sustain employment and obtain U.S. citizenship so they will feel better about their new home and their choice to immigrate here.


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