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Please Melt
Not only do we not do the single most effective thing to combat illegal immigration -- enforcing the law and deporting illegal aliens, we're far too accepting of legal immigrants who are lazy about joining, or simply refuse to join, the American "melting pot," by learning the language (just for starters). "Press one for Spanish?" Press "How about you learn English as part of your privilege of being here?" If you can't speak the language, you can't blend, and you're more likely to stay ghettoized with "your own." So...are we going to wait until we're a nation of people who can't speak to each other to do something about this?

France has a solution of sorts to the cultural standoffishness -- a too little/too late solution for them -- but it sounds like a great idea in concept. Jon Frosch writes in the IHT that migrants, or longterm visitors in France, must, among other things, take a day-long class in what it means to be French:

She was one of about 20 foreign-born residents of France - as diverse a group as one could imagine - who gathered in a classroom on a summer morning in Paris. What brought them there was an agreement each had signed with the government of France: They would try to integrate into society, accept French values and learn the language, and France would help them along the way.

The contract "of welcome and integration" has been mandatory since January for all people from outside the European Union applying for long-stay visas, except for students and seasonal workers. It is part of a package of immigration rules known as the "Sarkozy law," passed in July 2006, when Nicolas Sarkozy, now the president, was interior minister.

The routine procedures for a prospective long-stay visa holder include a medical examination, an interview and a language assessment. But the contract adds a new requirement: a day of civic training, regardless of the applicant's language fluency and the length of time spent in France.

...France is certainly not alone in adopting increasingly rigorous integration policies. Other European countries, like the Netherlands, Germany and Britain, have established similar measures, including tests for potential citizens on the host country's language, culture and principles.

But Sarkozy's emphasis on national identity and "Frenchness" is unsettling to some migrants and political critics, who feel he is fundamentally hostile to immigration. After all, his detractors say, this is the man who stepped up the deportation of illegal immigrants and courted far-right voters by evoking (with slightly more tactful language) a slogan used by Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigrant National Front party: "France, love it or leave it."

Sarko is probably looking to keep his country from going down le tubes -- both by getting rid of the socialism that's killing France economically and by keeping out people who'd kill France culturally and economically (Muslim immigrants who move to France, extrude 12 children, and spend their lives on the dole). I'm all for his plan, and think we should ask more of people who wish to be legal citizens of this country -- and ask those who aren't legal citizens to step into the buses and paddywagons that will take them back to where they belong by law.

Posted by aalkon at August 15, 2007 10:55 AM

Comments

Vat learn inglish language that's not fear to us immigrants.

Sarcasm aside yes this is defiantly a good idea. Actually I think you should have to pass at least a verbal English exam. I wouldn't support a written exam for the simple fact that not only I but most Americans would probably fail it. The fact that spell checks are now included with everything should tell one this.

I remember voicing the same sentiment when in school and not getting expelled for the fact that I'm a dual national and fluent in both my native tong and the English language. I don't understand and never will why it's cruel to force others to learn the language of this country. That's what I was told when I voiced this point.

Posted by: vlad at August 15, 2007 6:29 AM

"Muslim immigrants who move to France, extrude 12 children, and spend their lives on the dole."

Aw, Amy,
Don't make this a fly-paper site for haters!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 6:33 AM

It's actually cruel to not make legal immigrants learn the language, as it's what will keep them from having more than "careers" as busboys, gardeners, and maids.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 6:34 AM

Aw, Amy, Don't make this a fly-paper site for haters!

I tell the truth and let the flies land where they may.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 6:53 AM

Although learning English is to the immigrants' advantage, isn't it becoming less so? There are some communities (e.g., LA's southeastern burbs, the various -towns or little-s) where speaking the language of the native area fluently matters more for both socialization and business. This encourages people to not assimilate, and there's no way to force them to do so. Though learning the English language can be encouraged by requiring its use as the language of government.

Posted by: justin case at August 15, 2007 6:54 AM

Amy,
Totally with you on cultural integration and language classes - especially tailored for older folk as well.

But when they interviewed the young Muslim malcontents during the last round of riots in France, they all spoke perfect French!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 6:55 AM

Justin, it's because we coddle immigrants that they don't speak the language. If there were an English language requirement for citizenship, they'd be a lot less lazy.

But when they interviewed the young Muslim malcontents during the last round of riots in France, they all spoke perfect French!

Hmmm...is that because some come from countries where French is the language, because they're learning French to become French, or simply because interviewing Muslim immigrants who don't speak French is complicated and requires the services of a translator?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 7:07 AM

"Hmmm...is that because some come from countries where French is the language, because they're learning French to become French, or simply because interviewing Muslim immigrants who don't speak French is complicated and requires the services of a translator?"

I couldn't say!

But the interviewers just seemed to thrust their mikes forward - and the young Muslims let rip, loudly, angrily - and in non-stumbly French.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 7:13 AM

let rip, loudly, angrily - and in non-stumbly French

Sigh...I have to change French conversation groups!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 7:18 AM

The big difference between France and the US though is that the French are the original chauvinists. They unashamedly think "who they are" -- there's even a ministry in charge of the purity of the French language.

Here in the US, with our politically correct emphasis on multiculturalism, such a program would never work. The people most likely to be teaching this one-day course, namely, government bureaucrats with degrees in sociology, would be the ones least able to promote any sort of melting pot.

The course would turn out to be some sort of cultural "I'm okay, you're okay."

Posted by: Maro at August 15, 2007 8:54 AM

Hmmm, I made a typo with my own name. For the record, it's: Mario.

Posted by: Mario at August 15, 2007 8:56 AM

The politically correct are very vocal, but I wonder how much of a majority they are.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 9:13 AM

People should be allowed to speak any language they chose. Spanish, French, English, Klingon, whatever gets them through the day. And I wouldn't force them to learn anything.

However, I don't see any particular need to cater to those who refuse to learn the local language, and the extent that deprives them of opportunity, lay it on their doorstep.

Posted by: Steve Daniels at August 15, 2007 9:42 AM

People should be allowed to speak any language they chose. L

Would you hire paramedics who speak no English? If there's no requirement to speak English, perhaps they have a case if they aren't hired.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 9:54 AM

Being a citizen of this country, or allowed to be here for an extended stay, is a privilege. Responsibilities should come with it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 10:07 AM

Would you hire paramedics who didn't speak Spanish or Arabic or whatever if they were going to be serving an area where those languages were primary for some resident's? You'd be negligent to do so. We don't let people die because they "forgot" to attend language classes any more than we let people die who "forgot" to pay their heat bill (in Minnesota anyway.)

The point is that by not having a coherent immigration policy, the FedGov is passing a real hardship onto communities and citizens.

But if I, a 40 y.o. white guy from flyover country say I think immigrants should make some minimal effort at assimilation, I am Hitler with a pointy white hood.

Amy, you ask "...I wonder how much of a majority they are."

My irony detector is in the shop so I will come right out and ask: Are you serious?

How much of a majority they are is besides the point, the question is the amount of influence they have. Surely you must know how an idea like compulsory orientation for immigrants would go over in the “salons” of la la land and in the faculty lounges of liberal academia and across the news directors’ desks of the MSM etc.

Posted by: martin at August 15, 2007 10:16 AM

Immigrants aren't the only ones who need an education in what it means to be an American. Plenty of Americans can't tell you who the vice-president is.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 10:22 AM

TO: Amy Alkon
RE: Total Agreement

""Press one for Spanish?" Press "How about you learn English as part of your privilege of being here?" If you can't speak the language, you can't blend, and you're more likely to stay ghettoized with "your own." So...are we going to wait until we're a nation of people who can't speak to each other to do something about this?" -- Amy Alkon

I saw this coming back in the early 80s when we had a newly assigned second lieutenant who could speak Spanish as if it were his native language—which it was—but couldn't get his men to understand what he wanted them to do.

Later, I was catching reports from people in the civilian sector about their going to hospital emergency rooms with a sick child and having to talk to the doctor through an interpreter.

It's not a good situation. Not good at all. Indeed. It's a harbinger of trouble to come.

Without a common language there is too much room for serious misunderstandings which can lead to violence.

We need to get this business sorted out and, based on my experience working with USWEST, one of the former Bellcos, it's not going to come from the commercial sector. They're too interested in the bucks; Spanish Yellow Pages. And that lends to the problem.

It will HAVE to come from the government. Which puts the Dhimmicrats in a particularly sensitive position.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[What good is it if I talk in flowers if you're only listening in pastry?]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at August 15, 2007 10:31 AM

TO: Amy Alkon, et al.
RE: Indeed

"Immigrants aren't the only ones who need an education in what it means to be an American. Plenty of Americans can't tell you who the vice-president is." -- Amy Alkon

There is a topical matter that we could spend a LOT of time on.

I go to government oversight commission meetings and listen to how the vaunted American public education system is doing so well; in the K-12 range.

Immediately afterwards, I see the rep from the local college questioned as to why so many of his students are failing.

And no one seems to 'get the connection'. One of these days I think I may just drop my restraint....it could be sooner than later....

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[First God made idiots (for practice) then he made school boards. -- Mark Twain]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at August 15, 2007 10:35 AM

Jody,

Many European nations have large populations of immigrants from areas that were their former colonies. In which you are already aware of this notion, but others may not.

Technically, I cannot speak French, but understand it. Why? I know the Lebanese, Algerian and Morrocan dialects of Arabic that have a heavy infusion of French. It is the same with Spanish, but understand the Castellano dialect, because of my Italian background and a past relationship with a native Argentine.

The rioters in France may have spoken fluent French, but the M.E. culture inhibits them to fully integrate within the secular society. Any attempts of secularism would be seen as an action of impurity on their culture, but the French see it as basic human rights and civil liberties.

When I lived in Egypt or visited India and Pakistan, anyone could detect a strong "British" presence in certain aspects of those particular societies. India had it the most in their military and government. Egypt and Pakistan have strong British quality towards their military forces, but lacking in their government. The differences are based on the religiously inspired cultures of those 3 nations and how they individually intergrate within a modern world.

Posted by: Joe at August 15, 2007 10:51 AM

"The rioters in France may have spoken fluent French, but the M.E. culture inhibits them to fully integrate within the secular society."

Oh I agree, Joe.

Part of the chronic problem around French cities seems to be the young speak the language fluently even when the parents don't, yet the former are the ones who often regard further integration as a cultural surrender.

There is no easy correlation between language and loyalty - even tho' is seems the perfect place to start.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 11:30 AM

Consider the diffference in recent immigration waves and prior ones. For example, German Jews who emigrated to Detroit in the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century looked down on those who didn't learn the language and assimilate.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 11:40 AM

> There is no easy correlation
> between language and loyalty

File that! File that! Use it against her later!

Seriously, all sorts of things go with language. Examples abound: Pro-choice, homeland security, the meaning of is....

Posted by: Crid at August 15, 2007 11:44 AM

"Seriously, all sorts of things go with language. Examples abound: Pro-choice, homeland security, the meaning of is...."

Maybe I'm the only one here but, Huh?

Posted by: vlad at August 15, 2007 12:02 PM

"File that! File that! Use it against her later!"

Easy, Tiger.

I said "easy correlation".

Otherwise we wouldn't be able to laugh at liberals who burble about understandably envious, fed up with US hegemony, cruelly deprived goat herders flying planes into buildings.

As the more thoughtful among us have been able to point out, these angry folk are educated and language-assimilated - with all the apparent advantages.

So it's not as easy as just learning the lingo.

Is it??

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 12:03 PM

Being kind of an idiot isn't the same as being unassimilated.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 12:10 PM

The thing I find most contradictory are the people who don't think immigrants should learn English but then get angry when data shows that immigrants aren't graduating from college at the same rates as native citizens. Last I checked, you still need to know English to get into any college in America. And a college degree definitely increases your lifetime income. Choosing not to learn English means condemning yourself, and possibly your children to a life of unnecessary poverty and hardship. And those who enable these non-English speakers are essentially locking them into a life of poverty and throwing away the key while they smugly think that they are helping.

Posted by: Zach at August 15, 2007 12:29 PM

> there's even a ministry in charge of the purity of the French language.


Well, not exactly. It's an Academy, having no legislative power whatever, more a sort of mass William Safire in fancy dress. But as long as they police dreadful inaccuracies like "le smoking" (meaning a dinner-jacket) -- allez-y, mes amis academiciens!!

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at August 15, 2007 12:31 PM

> not as easy as just
> learning the lingo

There is zero, zero doubt in my mind that if today's immigrants were as deeply immersed in their destination cultures as immigrants to NYC were, say, a century ago, the results would be better for everyone. Nobody argues that (wait a minute, let me go back and check... uh-huh... OK) Nobody's saying that learning the language is sufficient, we're saying it's necessary. Justin makes this point backhandedly; Hispanics in SoCal can nowadays do OK (if not actually thrive) without learning fluent English, but who benefits from this? Immigrants, like religious people, often want to order their blessings a la carte. My feeling is it's ain't Catholicism without transubstantiation, and you can't call it United States citizenship until you read (and argue) the Constitution in English.

Posted by: Crid at August 15, 2007 12:38 PM

Amy,

Your comments remind me of a scene in Raging Bull during the fight at the Church Dance. The fight was between the fully assimilated Italian-Americans fighting the newly arrived Italians who were crashing the Church Social from the more deprived neighborhoods in the Bronx. The Italian-Americans were calling the Italians wops, dagos and guineas while throwing them out of the place.

Posted by: Joe at August 15, 2007 12:48 PM

"Nobody's saying that learning the language is sufficient, we're saying it's necessary."

Which is probably why, Crid, I said in my 2nd comment to Amy: "Totally with you on cultural integration and language classes - especially tailored for older folk as well."

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 1:00 PM

Consider the diffference in recent immigration waves and prior ones. For example, German Jews who emigrated to Detroit in the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century looked down on those who didn't learn the language and assimilate.

U.S. Steel used to post employee communiqués in Czech, Polish, German, Slovak, Russian, etc. In Chicago, there are plenty of old people that still prefer to speak the native tongue. This is not anything new nor is it uniquely Mexican.

Posted by: mishu at August 15, 2007 1:03 PM

You don't have to be backhanded about how language "seems the perfect place to start." English (like French, for that matter) is the perfect language in which to explain to a new citizen that his daughter will not be circumcised in her new country.

Posted by: Crid at August 15, 2007 1:05 PM

"People should be allowed to speak any language they chose. L

Would you hire paramedics who speak no English? If there's no requirement to speak English, perhaps they have a case if they aren't hired."

Why, no, I wouldn't. That would be one of the missed opportunities to which I alluded.

Posted by: Steve Daniels at August 15, 2007 1:09 PM

"You don't have to be backhanded about how language "seems the perfect place to start."

There was nothing "backhanded" about that at all, Crid.

It followed directly from my previous sentence in the same comment. When you are already fluent in a language, but not loyal to the country of that language, then becoming fluent in that language is obviously not the perfect place to start loyalty-training since that part is already accomplished.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 1:21 PM

In Chicago, there are plenty of old people that still prefer to speak the native tongue.

Plenty? Or a few.

And I'm guessing these people aren't running banks, but cleaning them after hours.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 1:28 PM

> since that part is
> already accomplished.

Then what's the deal, Jody? Where's the hangup? I just don't buy it.

> when they interviewed
> the young Muslim
> malcontents

First of all, whose they? European press is just like American press only moreso, right? And what do you mean by the malcontents?

This is not meant to argue that a person who speaks perfect French couldn't be an asshole, I just can't believe a capitalist (well, essentially capitalist) country could be as racist as you seem to be implying

Posted by: Crid at August 15, 2007 2:14 PM

The Italian-Americans were calling the Italians wops, dagos and guineas while throwing them out of the place.

Personally, I'm for embracing the negative -- I do it with the word "bitch." When somebody says "You're a bitch!" I generally say, "And?" Likewise, a friend of mine, married to a French woman, calls himself "A wop from the Bronx."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 2:20 PM

"Then what's the deal, Jody? Where's the hangup? I just don't buy it."

No deal, as such Crid.

You appear to be under the impression I am lukewarm ["backhanded" etc] about the benefits of immigrants speaking the majority language.

I am trying to clarify the exasperating truth that even with fluency in the above, national loyalty cannot be assumed.

"First of all, whose they? European press is just like American press only moreso, right? And what do you mean by the malcontents?"

I didn't mean this to be obscure.

Yes - as you guessed - "they" were the European press. French TV journalists, in this case. "They" were shown on the European world news, interviewing angry [I used "malcontent" as a pleasantly bilingual word in context] young youths who were standing in a street, with burning car carcasses. The French TV journalists were doing on-the-spot vox pop interviews about the causes of the late summer riots in the outer suburbs of Paris - and the south - and these discontented young men - some wearing scarves - were venting eloquently that they had no jobs, no prospects and were called "Muslim scum" by French politicians.

The interviews (questions and responses) were conducted in rapid, flawless French.

"This is not meant to argue that a person who speaks perfect French couldn't be an asshole, I just can't believe a capitalist (well, essentially capitalist) country could be as racist as you seem to be implying."

I also don't believe speaking perfect French and assholery are mutually exclusive.

I'm not clear where I implied France was as racist, or not, as anywhere else?

There are pockets of racism to be sure (LePen captures their vote) both in the big city suburbs near the ghetto developments and - unusually - also in otherwise unspoilt areas - which may be otherwise split between more traditional conservatives and, sometimes, lively communist enclaves.

France is a complicated country, like many others.

Is there anything else in particular I have left out?

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 2:46 PM

yes! I need supporting documents in a three-ring binder!

Why isn't France putting these people to work if they know the language so fluently?

Posted by: Crid at August 15, 2007 5:33 PM

"Why isn't France putting these people to work if they know the language so fluently?"

Ach, Crid.

I just scrolled thru a ton of links for you - trying to find a middle-of-the-road digest.

It's the usual sour nexus.

(Though I was quietly pleased to note no one is saying "it's because the bastards aren't fluent in our beautiful language"!).

If you google "muslim unemployment in France" you'll get the gist fast enough but I think I'd better let you rate the plausibility of the given causes of the problem from one to ten according to your own politics.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 6:52 PM

Why isn't France putting these people to work if they know the language so fluently?

Commie welfare system's a little too good.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 15, 2007 7:47 PM

> according to your own politics.

Blame the frogs! It's because they're so snotty! It's the cheese! They're effete and they never wash!

Posted by: Crid at August 15, 2007 7:56 PM

Actually, Amy's comment:

"Commie welfare system's a little too good..."

is, of course, up there in the top five.

The BBC often sneak in "Blame the frogs" too, Crid.

So you could pick that one, if you like.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at August 15, 2007 8:03 PM

> Commie welfare

Then why aren't they doing their own businesses? There's an old joke about the irony of entrepreneur being a French word.

Posted by: Crid at August 15, 2007 9:26 PM

Sarko's working on changing stuff like this.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 16, 2007 3:26 AM

Where this issue really begins to smart is when you have highly qualified Americans being let go from, or not being hired for jobs (like that of Fire Chief or Firefighter, or the like) because they aren't fluent in Spanish, for example. (This is actually the case in Oregon, where it caused much grief when veteran chiefs were fired because they weren't fluent in Spanish. I wasn't aware that fires respond better to commands to extinguish in Spanish than ones in English - are we missing something here?) The whole issue is getting way out of hand, regardless.

Posted by: Katje at August 16, 2007 7:32 AM

Apprendiando una lengua extranja no es facil. Yo practico mucho por dos anos y no hablo espanol bueno.

Posted by: winston at August 20, 2007 7:23 PM

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