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Learning English

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Learning English"

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One of the weirder ideas that many people have managed to get into their heads is that today’s immigrants—or perhaps just immigrants from Mexico—are engaged in some kind of willful campaign to refuse to learn English. Less parochial Americans will be aware that if you travel to pretty much any country on the planet lots of people who have no particular intention of emigrating at all are trying to learn English, since it’s an extremely useful skill irrespective of migration issues. And Americans who’ve ever tried to learn a foreign language will be aware that learning foreign languages is hard, especially for adults. If immigrants don’t speak English, it’s almost certainly because it’s difficult to do, not because of some perverse refusal to try.

Lisa Wade has a good chart which shows that contrary to perception, today’s immigrants are somewhat more English-capable (perhaps because of the global trend toward English) than those of the previous major migration episode:

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