July 22, 2007


Immigrant parents struggle to keep their children bilingual (Maria Sacchetti, July 22, 2007, Boston Globe)

After a lunch of hot dogs and rice, Jordy Berges blasted a ball off the wall of the lunchroom at his mother's office, his stomping grounds for the summer.

"No juegues aquí," Yovanna Berges scolded her 7-year-old son, telling him in Spanish to stop.

"Sorry," he answered her, in English.

Berges, an immigrant from Peru, is growing accustomed to such conversations with her son. She is struggling to raise him to speak English and Spanish fluently, which might not seem like a big challenge in the city with the highest proportion of Latinos in Massachusetts. But researchers say Berges and immigrant parents nationwide are confronting a difficult truth: Their children are losing their languages.

According to research presented to Congress in May, even the children of immigrants prefer to speak English by the time they are adults.

Rubén G. Rumbaut, a sociologist at the University of California at Irvine, and his team of researchers looked at 5,700 adults in their 20s and 30s in Southern California from different generations to see how long their language survived. A key finding centered on 1,900 American-born children of immigrants. The shift toward English among them was swift: While 87 percent grew up speaking another language at home, only 34 percent said they spoke it well by adulthood. And nearly 70 percent said they preferred to speak English.

"English wins, and it does so in short order," said Rumbaut, who presented his findings to the US House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration in May. "What we're talking about is a real phenomenon."

It is difficult for children to sustain their parents' languages amid the tidal wave of American pop culture, including movies and television, coupled with societal pressure to speak only English.

It was much harder to assimilate all the Eurowogs, in the pre-mass media age.

By a twist of fate, he found his passion early: A young Temecula man hopes to win the world championship of Rubik's Cube solving. Where from there? He'll see what he can line up. (David Kelly, July 22, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

They met at a mall and Ryan Patricio sensed the chemistry immediately. He was drawn to it, called by it and he knew — perhaps they both did — that he would ultimately possess it.

"You know when you meet someone and really click with them?" he asked. "Well, that's what happened."

And click he did. And click some more.

The possibilities — all 43 quintillion of them — seemed endless.

Then, after months of manipulation, he broke down its defenses, and the rest is Rubik's Cube history.

Patricio didn't just crack the maddening puzzle, he became a star "cuber" in the process. He could do it fast, do two at a time, do it one-handed, even do it blindfolded.

He performed at high school pep rallies and at 16 broke the world record by outwitting the cube in 31 seconds.

Last month, the 18-year-old Temecula resident did it in a mere 14.17 seconds to win the U.S. Open Rubik's Cube Championship in Chicago, making him national champion. His trophy, a Rubik's Cube enclosed in a bigger, transparent cube, now sits in his living room beside other cube-within-cube awards. His next stop is Budapest, Hungary, for the world championship in October.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 22, 2007 9:37 AM

Exactly. This is what all those American nativists, even those who don't realize they're nativists, don't understand.

Regardless of where they have come from, Chinese-Americans are traveling the same road to full linguistic and cultural assimilation. Hong Kong Chinese who live in thriving Chinatowns and don't have to speak a world of English if they don't want to, Taiwanese-Americans who insist they're not Chinese and who dream about an independent Taiwanese nation, Chinese mainlanders who are proud of China's economic growth and who still can't rid themselves of the Communist Party's brainwashing: all their children are learning English, and all their children will speak and think in English. Even when young Chinese-Americans are sent by their parents to Chinese schools on weekends in a vain attempt to teach them the mother tongue, they still prefer to speak English with each other.

The threat to America is not immigrants. It is the fear of immigrants that is the real threat.

Posted by: X at July 22, 2007 11:45 AM

What the article descrbes, and X confirms,is entirely predictable. Add to this the linguistic affinity of European languages to one another. Spanish is very close to English, linguistically, and shifting from one tongue to the other is quite easy.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 23, 2007 5:45 AM