10 Misconceptions About U.S. Immigration

Immigrants Refuse to Learn English
Teacher Cynthia Ontiveros helps students with a speech lesson during an ESL (English as a Second Language) class at Azusa Adult School in Glendora, California in 2013. Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One complaint native-born Americans often make about today's immigrants is that they don't want to learn English. Instead, they want everyone to learn their language. Or have interpreters available everywhere they go. When people came into this country years ago, they were only too eager to learn the mother tongue of their adopted land.

There may be a wealth of foreign-language radio and TV stations, or innumerable interpretation services, but that doesn't mean immigrants are spurning English. Au contraire.

Today's immigrants do attempt to learn English, as do their children; the demand for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes is far higher than the available supply [source: Nevarez]. Only a mere 7 percent of second-generation Latinos continue to speak Spanish as their main language [source: Equal Rights Center]. With the prevalence of English across the globe today, there are actually more immigrants coming to the country already fluent in the language than in the past — 48 percent of recent legal immigrants are proficient in English before arriving in the U.S. [source: Guo].

Interestingly, many native-born Americans don't realize that their ancestors actually clung to their roots for a long time after emigrating there. In 1917, nearly 50 years after German immigration had peaked, there were still more than 700 German-language newspapers being printed in the U.S. [source: Teaching Tolerance].