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Immigration and Cultural Identity

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1257 words Published: 19th May 2017

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This research paper focus on the many concerns about adult immigrants perceptions of their own pronunciation problems and the many challenges faces at times speaking with a accent. People are pushed and sometime forced to learn English as a common language in the United States. However, what should adult immigrants’ attitude towards English as Second Language (ESL) be? And in what ways should we as immigrants learn it?

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Immigrants from different nation converge upon the United States in searching for a better life for family or simple to fulfill a long life dream. Jamaican group is no exception with a combination of dialect, such as Patios/Creole languages. Many if not all adult immigrants learner perceive that pronunciation of Standard American English played a role in their communication breakdown that lead to consequences of speaking with a foreign accent.

As I will show shortly, the combination of Patios/Creole language is so thick and distinctive, it separate from the dominant English language or we should say, the universal language (English).

A couple of months ago, my uncle who is only a few months old here in the United States, was unfortunately suffer a stroke that affected his left arm and left foot and was placed in a nursing home for rehabilitation. When visited him at lunch or dinner time, the nurses always appear transparently and confused when they serve my uncle his food, because he would always reply “me noh like this yah food, it nuh have noh tase.” I can also relate to recently arrive Jamaican immigrants having a communication breakdown with their American associate.

In the case of Jamaican Patios/Creole, specific language difficulties were identified as accents and the social effects along with interaction help played a role in how immigrants assimilate in the United States. Immigrant learner like myself also tends to produce a target-like variant (e.g., me noh nuh nutten) in one context and a non-target like variant (e.g., I don’t know nothing).

According to University of Toronto Press Incorporated (Tracey M. Derwing), “This study concerns adult immigrants’ perceptions of their own pronunciation problems and the consequences of speaking with a foreign accent. Interviews were conducted with 100 intermediate proficiency ESL students (58 of whom belonged to a visible minority). Over half the respondents felt that pronunciation played a role in their communication problems.”

Jamaican immigrants leave behind a country where they are the majority to one where they are the minority. Their language and settlement in the United States are compounded by discrimination based on cultural differences and are often stereotyped as having poor language and communication skills if a dialect being defined by its pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.

Tracey M. Derwing (Journal article by University of Toronto Press Incorporated) further states that “When asked whether they had been discriminated against because of accent, two thirds said no, but when asked if people would respect them more if they pronounced English well, the majority agreed.”

English continue proven to be very challenging, it is not easy learned, especially for adults. It is proven to be most difficult languages because it is so irregular. For example, base infinitive [broadcast], past simple [broadcast] and past participle [broadcast]. Immigrants find it difficult to learn Standard American English especially when pushed and sometime forced to learn English as a Second language (ESL). Example, our immigration system, Bloomberg-Businessweek listed, “PRO: LANGUAGE SKILLS EQUAL SUCCESS (by Havovi Cooper). One of the few immigration laws that makes any sense to me is the one requiring immigrants to learn and speak English before they can attain citizenship.”

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Concerning adult immigrants’ attitude towards English as Second Language (ESL), the U.S. is a country that has been built on immigration and immigrants bring their own culture and belief systems into a new society. I must say, people are most comfortable with what they already know and believe in. People instinctively defend and embrace what is theirs, whether it is a tangible piece of dress code or an intangible cultural belief, people are not ready or willing to open-up to invasion of their culture by another.

Laurie Olsen, (jstor.org) wrote, ” learning English is not just a matter of coding an alphabet, learning vocabulary, and hearing subtleties of accent. For immigrants students, the seemingly straightforward task – students in a classroom with a teacher helping them understand and learn to use English – is imbued with the weight of social and political complexity that goes far beyond simple the matter of acquiring a second language. Learning English is at the center of a national debate over what it means to be a diverse society and to incorporate immigrants from around the world (Crawford, 1992). The intensity of this polarized political debate reverberates throughout the classrooms of this nation where immigrants try to discover and understand their place in their new land.”

Most immigrants would like to mastery of the Standard English language in hope of finding employment and will also serve as a stepping-stone that will enhance their life. The question is; in what ways should we as immigrants learn it? Speaking for myself, as immigrant it takes determination and courage, but there are many avenues to learn English language besides a teacher-led program in a classroom. You have to learn as you go (self-teach), meaning you can learn from friends, families, conversation heard on the street, community centers, playground or in your community church. According to website, literacy.uconn.edu, “within these pages, you’ll find easy access to a wide assortment of literacy ideas customized for classroom teachers of students who are learning English as a second language (ESL) or English as a foreign language (EFL).”

(Roger Reed) states that, “The National Institute for Literacy (n.d.) stated that English as a Second Language (ESL) programs are the fastest growing area of state-administered adult education programs. Demands for ESL instruction continue to increase while federal expenditures for ESL and bilingual education have decreased (Board on Children and Families, 1995). This contradictory response has created years-long waiting lists for ESL programs across the country. There are other programs that allow individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) skills an opportunity to acquire the English language.”

Immigrants may ask, what the one social consequence? When reflect on what my uncle says to the nurses each time they serve him food, they did not correct him, they may not understand his language, some may find humor or they find it embarrassing, If the situation is clear, the meaning and use of the vocabulary pronunciation and grammar item also becomes clear.

In conclusion, whether English is turning into a global language, immigrants accent and pronunciation of words will continue to be undesirable things for both learning and teaching. It may continue to be the focus of many debates and controversies among immigrants and educators if a dialect continue being defined by its pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar, as well as its accent.


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