Calling NYT`s Freedman! How About The Rest Of The Dominican Story?


Two weeks ago, I

wrote skeptically
about Samuel Freedman`s New York
Times
column

"Dominicans Take Their Place as an American Success
Story,"
which boomed the successes of a small
group of

Hostos Community College
English as a Second Language
students.

According to Freedman, after graduating the students
parlayed their classroom accomplishments into solid jobs.

Freedman`s article drew heavily from a study,
Against All Odds,
by Dr.

Ramona Hernandez
of the City University of New
York`s

Dominican Studies Institute.

But an earlier report by Dr. Hernandez,

Dominicans in the US: A Socioeconomic Profile, 2000
,
left me dubious about the overall level of English
fluency among Dominicans, as well as

other illegal immigrants.
 

Now it turns out that my doubts were well-founded.

I am always fascinated when I read reports of peers
who have succeeded in teaching English to non-English
speakers.

I`ve been

at this task­ for
18 years at the

Lodi Adult School
—with mixed results.

I have found that only one variable matters:
motivation.

When a student comes to class every day and

applies himself
to the hard job of learning, and when
that student takes advantage of the multiple daily
opportunities that present themselves to

practice English,
then by the end of the semester
progress is measurable.

But not much of that is going on.

Two other recent stories by New York Times
reporter Nina Bernstein about

statistics collected
by Joseph Salvo, director of the
population division of the City Planning Department, Proficiency
in English Decreases Over a Decade
,
January 19th, and

"Record Immigration is Changing the Face of New York`s
Neighborhoods,"
January 24th, reveal
that the tiny handful of Hostos students do deserve a tip
of the hat.

Because, based on Salvo`s analysis, they are among the
very few foreign-born New York residents who have

learned English
in the last decade.

Among Salvo`s shocking findings (even for hard-boiled
immigration experts like VDARE.COM readers) are:

  • Non-English speaking adults increased 30% from 1990
    to 2000 to more than 1.5 million.

  • One in four adults do not speak English. There is,
    according to the report, "no sign of a decline"
    in the foreseeable future.

  • Half of the 1.5 million residents who do not speak
    English live in homes where no one speaks English.

  • One quarter of the 1.5 million non-English speakers
    live in households where only a child speaks English.

  • Nearly 750,000 non-English speakers do not have a
    high-school education. Many are illiterate in their own
    language.

  • Immigrant groups with the highest number of births—Dominicans,

    Mexicans
    and

    Chinese
    —have the highest percentage of non-English
    speakers.

(Salvo`s report will be released
in a 265-page book entitled

The Newest New Yorkers 2000: Immigrant New York in the
New Millennium.)

One of the conclusions Bernstein
draws—somewhat surprisingly for a

New York Times
reporter— is that:

"In the

migrations before 1965,
most newcomers spoke European
languages. But what is striking about the current
generation of immigrants is the vast range of tongues
they use on the city`s streets, adding difficulties in
education, business and the minutiae of daily life and
making the need for English as a common language all the
more urgent."

More predictably, Salvo`s report
calls for an increase in the numbers of classes and
programs to teach English.

But it would be impossible to

build schools fast enough
to

keep up
with the endless arrival of non-English
speakers.  And why should American taxpayers put up with
it?

Even New York Mayor Michael
Bloomberg, an immigration enthusiast with few equals,
looked at the demographics in multicultural, multiethnic
Far Rockaway and said,

"What`s going on down there?"

Programs and classes might be a
fine starting point. But, as I noted above, my

own experience
leads me to a different conclusion.
The desire to learn must come from within.

So it is counter-productive when
individuals with influence, like CUNY`s Dr. Hernandez,
say, "The fashionable thing is to talk about
assimilation but I don`t speak about that stuff."
[Writing
a Field Guide to Dominican New York
" NYT,
"December 28,2004]

Assimilation begins with

learning English
. And is exactly what Hernandez
should preach.

Contrast Hernandez` attitude with
the pre-1965 immigrants, who came to America with a

passion to assimilate.

One remarkable example:

Billy Wilder
who arrived in Los Angeles from Austria
penniless and without knowing a word of English.

Wilder`s story was retold in
Aljean Harmetz`s 1992 book

"Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of
Casablanca—Bogart, Bergman and World War II
."

Wrote Harmetz:

"When he reached Los
Angeles, Wilder avoided the restaurants and living rooms
where refugees met to drink coffee, eat pastry and speak
German. Instead, he lay on his bed and listened to the
radio. Each day, he learned twenty new English words. It
was years before he was willing to speak German again."

Every day I remind

my students
that they can choose whether they want to
spend their years in America advancing, or mired in

low-paying jobs
.

The difference is English.

Only a few will match Academy
Award winner Wilder`s success.

But more opportunities
await all who master English – even if their
self-appointed leaders don`t like it.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.