Are Latinos Learning English Quickly?

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 03, 2007 1 min read
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Whether Latinos in the United States are learning English quickly or not seems to be somewhat in the eye of the beholder.

The Pew Hispanic Center reported last week that 88 percent of second-generation Latinos surveyed report they speak English very well. In their executive summary of the report, “English Usage Among Hispanics in the United States,” the authors translated the 88 percent statistic into the following statement: “Nearly all Hispanic adults born in the United States of immigrant parents report they are fluent in English.”

But Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which aims to reduce immigration, didn’t have a “nearly all” angle to his remarks about the finding when he was quoted in a Nov. 30 article in the Washington Post.

“The fact that 88 percent of American-born children speak English very well is not something to brag about,” Mr. Krikorian said. “What that really means,” he continues in the article, “is that 1 out of 8 American-born children of Hispanic immigrants does not speak English very well.”

The report also stated that a “small minority” of first-generation immigrants who are Latinos describe themselves as skilled English speakers. One in four Latino immigrants says he or she is able to speak English very well.

I think educators agree that something is really wrong if the child of an immigrant, who is U.S.- born and attends U.S. schools his or her whole life, isn’t fluent in English upon graduation from high school. But they differ in their thinking about what is a reasonable amount of time for it to take for a child to learn English.

Educators often say, too, that how fast someone learns English varies greatly from person to person. The Pew study notes that research shows that the age of arrival and education level of immigrants are some of the predictors of how quickly they acquire good English skills.

For other articles about this study, click here and here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.