Monday, July 31, 2023

How do ESL classes help immigrants and refugees adjust to life in America?

Theme: The United States takes a hands-off approach when it comes to integrating immigrants by teaching them English as a Second Language. Immigrants who speak English tend to have higher earnings and are more readily embraced by Americans. However, the United States falls short in providing an adequate number of free English classes for incoming immigrants. 

Summary: Immigrants' proficiency in English, whether justified or not, significantly affects Americans' perceptions of immigration. The majority of Americans hold the belief that to be considered truly American, an individual must be able to speak English. 

In the United States, there is a strong correlation between English proficiency and earnings. Immigrants constitute about one-sixth of the American workforce, and those who acquire fluency in English tend to have higher earnings primarily because they become eligible for better-paying positions. According to Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, a senior fellow at the National Skills Coalition, which promotes vocational-skills training, even learning basic English has a positive impact on job opportunities as the majority of entry-level jobs in the U.S. demand some level of English proficiency. 

According to Khazan (2021), Other developed nations actively engage in efforts to assimilate immigrants and refugees into their societies. For instance, in Sweden, foreigners receive unlimited Swedish lessons without any charge, and sometimes these lessons are incorporated into job-training programs. France, on the other hand, requires a brief indoctrination session on "French values" but then offers 400 hours of language instruction along with free child care. Similarly, Canada provides extensive free language classes to newcomers, some of which include free child care and transportation services. Canada adopts a proactive stance, aiming to leverage immigrants' skills in their labor market by ensuring they have the necessary English or French language proficiency. Regrettably, the U.S. lacks a national policy dedicated to aiding immigrants in becoming fully integrated American citizens. 

Application: I usually take a hands off position to government involvement in people's lives, but English language studies for new immigrants is one area where some government direction might be helpful. Even with minimal local government help to facilitate ESL, most of the teaching could be done by volunteers. What happened to the program where LDS Relief Societies were involved in teaching English? 

 Reference: Khazan, O. 2021,, June 4). Americans Say Immigrants Should Learn English. But U.S. Policy Makes That Hard. The Atlantic.

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