Originally Posted by Zissou'sMom
And a sad many of those immigrants who do become fluent in English are branded as not speaking it anyway simply because of their accent or syntax.
I can't tell you how many times I've seen a coworker or someone turn around and whine "why can't they just learn English?!" after speaking to somebody who was pretty fluent. Not only are many of us unwilling to learn a new language, we're unwilling to make any kind of effort to understand people who are trying. It isn't always easy, but if you're willing to try you can always figure out what someone is asking/telling you.
When I attempt my languages on speakers of those languages, they don't laugh, get mad, or refuse to understand me, and yet they get that from us. Why?
I can sing a song..... My background: My maternal
grandmother's older siblings were born in Germany, to an Irish mother and a German father, and for the most part married fellow Europeans; Grandmom and her younger brother were born in the U.S., and English was spoken at home. They lived in a German/Jewish neighborhood, and my Gram's first employer was Jewish, and Yiddish was spoken at his factory, so she learned it. My father, Anglo/Irish/Chinese, was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and his first language was Spanish. My first language, growing up, was English, but I was exposed to German, Yiddish, and Spanish. I had German, French, and Spanish, respectively, in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. In high school, I had 4 years of German, and 3 of Spanish. In college, I majored in German (4 years), and minored in Spanish (4 years). I added two years of German in graduate school. I married a German in 1980, and we have been living in Germany since 1982. We speak German at home, except with our pets. Is my German perfect? By no means - I make grammar mistakes, and have never lost my American accent. My command of Spanish is passive, meaning I understand most of what I read or hear, but reply in English or German. My Spanish-speaking colleagues, from Spain and Latin American, call me the "eavesdropper".
My point? I've had all the benefits of a good education and exposure to foreign languages and cultures, but still don't consider myself particularly proficient in those languages. I would never presume to expect somebody who didn't have those advantages to be utterly fluent in English.
What's that saying about casting stones?