Language Barriers

The United States is a culturally diverse nation state that has no national language. Whilst the majority of citizens are English speaking this gives non-English speakers the opportunity to speak their first language whether it’s Spanish, Italian or Chinese. The US has many ethnic enclaves where immigrants can live in familiar socio-economic areas and feel comfortable in being a non-English speaker. One economic theory relating to ethnic enclaves is that they allow non-English speaking immigrants the opportunity to enter into the economy quicker as an enclave economy enables holds opportunities for employment that otherwise would not be possible because of the language barrier. Within the enclaves there is often no need or desire to learn English however unemployment outside of enclaves is an issue as is affordable housing, health care and social issues and in order to gain higher paid employment English is a necessity.

In schools children who do not speak English face the challenge of a bilingual education. An English Language Learners (ELL) is a student whose first language is not English and requires support in school in order to gain an education and succeed. However more often than not there is an achievement gap between those students with English as a first language and non-English speaking children. A report conducted from 41 states showed that only 18.7% of ELL students met the requirements for reading English. This also creates a divide in schools and means that children find it more difficult to juxtapose their ethnic culture.

It seems that within an enclave there are many socio-economic opportunities for those citizens who do not speak English but difficulties and challenges arise when mainstream society and activities are a necessity as with education and health care, for instance there are many more barriers when seeking health care for a non-English speaking patient including lack of health education, funds and knowing where to seek advice and then understanding the information that is presented to them.