Saturday, July 07, 2007

Perception, meet reality

A recent survey in Utah seems to explain why so many Americans think that immigrants aren't trying to learn English reports The Salt Lake City Tribune.
"One of the biggest surprises from the survey, community leaders said, is the time employers think it takes to learn English. Almost half of employers said it should take six to 12 months to learn English, the survey said."

The US Department of State classifies various languages by difficulty; it all depends on your first language. But let's look at category III, which for English speakers would include Russian and Persian. According to the National Foreign Language Center, the DoS estimates that

"44 weeks of intensive language training in U.S. government language schools (five days per week, six hours per day) are required to achieve minimum working proficiency... Similar results are achieved after five years of typical college language courses, especially if students spend at least one semester abroad learning the language, in addition to their language courses in the US...

"What is 'minimal working proficiency?' Someone able to function on their own, able to talk about familiar topics and daily life."

And how many of these immigrants have the wherewithal to attend high-quality full-time English-language courses?

By the way, the survey also found that more than 80% of immigrants and refugees say they have formally tried to learn English.


The Ridger, FCD said...

Been there - done that, with Russian. 68 weeks full-time to get to L3. It's tough.

PS - Sorry, but (blame John at Thoughts in a Haystack) you're tagged!.

Michael Stout said...

Funny how it goes eh!
Many Japanese on the other hand have no expectation that European and North American residents will learn Japanese at all. This doesn't apply to Asian residents as you know.

The irony in this post is that the people who take no trouble at all to learn another language think that it's easy, and they haven't any compassion for people trying to learn their language.

I really appreciate this Brett. The example you gave was from America but I know that many people at home have similar attitudes.

I'll think of this post the next time I hear something that makes me wish I was entirely ignorant of Japanese.

Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose