Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's as American as not bothering to learn English

You know how you can get stuck with huffy people in elevators who are always yelling at people about how "You're in AMERICA! Speak ENGLISH or LEAVE!"? I used to deal with people like them all the time. Hearing people speak in a foreign language really got them worked up, for reasons I never understood.

So, in Wisconsin, they've found out that people like that would have been just as pissed off in the 1800s as they are today. The idea that immigrants coming to America immediately learned the language and started blending in? Yeah, that's a myth.

In fact, the UW-Madison looked at German settlers in Wisconsin from as far back as 1839, and found that some of them never bothered to learn English. In some cases, they lived in the U.S. for over 50 years and remained "monolingual" (German-speaking only). Even after a law was passed in 1889 requiring schools to be taught in English, school districts would still write to the office of the state school superintendent entirely in German.

It looks like we've been able to carry on since then without witnessing the complete collapse of society. I guess it's not as bad as some people make it out to be.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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