Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reflections on a Trip to L.A.

It would seem to imply that to live in a country over a long period of time would encompass all aspects of that country, including speaking the language.  That would seem especially true for an immigrant country like the United States, where the only factor in common among people could be speaking English.
In fact, what struck me on my trip was the lack of “English immersion” in the United States.  I knew that many people lived in Spanish or other language ghettos, but to see it in practice was a bit shocking.  Large numbers of people who have lived in the United States for 20+ years are unable to understand a simple conversation in English.  In many cases, these English non-functional people came in the 20’s or 30’s or even were born there!  As an immigrant to Israel, I made it my highest priority to function in Hebrew.  It seems to me to be a basic part of participating in society.
By contrast, I saw some Turks at the airport in Istanbul who spoke German like a German because they were German in the sense of fully living in Germany.  I have seen Africans speak much better French than most French people themselves.  In Israel, there are older immigrants, such as Ethiopians and Russians, who because of their surroundings and age, find it difficult to speak Hebrew.  However, most younger immigrants quickly and willingly learn to function in Hebrew. 
I would be curious to hear other people’s reaction and exposure to this phenomenon.

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