Latinos Learn English Faster than Other Immigrants, Says Study

Written by Kirsten Gibson

A new study demonstrates that Latinos are learning English faster than past immigrants in a country without an official language.

The study, conducted by Joseph Salmons of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Miranda E. Wilkerson of Columbia College, looked at German immigrants to the U.S. from the 19th century and their rate of English use.

The researchers found that high numbers of second- and third-generation German immigrants spoke only German. These areas with German-rich populations had limited interactions in English; in schools and churches, German was the preferred language.

According to a 2012 Pew study, 92 percent of second-generation Latino immigrants speak English “very well” with 82 percent being bilingual. By the third-generation, 96 percent of Latino immigrants are speaking English. In contrast, 35 percent of second-generation German-Americans spoke only German in some of the counties studied.

As one researcher said to ABC News, when Latinos immigrate and settle in the U.S., they, along with their children, are assimilating into the country by learning English at a more rapid pace than some of the founding immigrants. “I challenge anybody to show me a third generation person in this country who speaks Spanish and no English, whereas we can find in the Census records, we can find those people in German speaking communities,” said Joseph Salmons, who studies language acquisition in immigrant communities.

This disproves a conservative argument that immigrants are slow to assimilate, and that there should be more requirements for English proficiency. As the study shows, the current education system has proved itself as effective in providing English education, making English-only requirements — like that proposed as an amendment to the Senate’s immigration bill by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — unnecessary.

This post was originally published at ThinkProgress.


Photo from Thinkstock

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


GGma Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D.2 years ago

Just out of curiosity - if Latinos learn English faster than those speaking other languages, why is everything English/Spanish, not English/German, English/Somali, English/Hmong, etc???

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener2 years ago

That's cool.

Thomas P.
Thomas P.2 years ago

Thanks. Brian F states, "Hispanics will soon outnumber whites and blacks and become the majority in this country. Canada, your (sic) next, Hispanics will soon take over your country as well." Really - hispanics will "take over?" What are they taking over? I welcome foreigners to our country, particularly Latino's. And this heads up to Canada of yours...should Canadians feel threatened for some reason, as you obviously are? Should they be afraid of Latino's? It must be so frightening to be that insecure in your personhood that you feel an ethnic group is "taking over," and that somehow leads to dire consequences for you. And to some of those commenting who are schooling others on "learning English," perhaps many of you should consider signing up for those English classes you are advocating based on the content of your responses, rife with spelling, grammatical and usage errors. Many here know that earning a foreign language is one of the few and most effective ways to increase a person's IQ. Judging from some of the responses, others here could benefit. Perhaps it might help to diminish some people's bigotry. Billie C..."...illegals need to pay their own way or go home." I'm not certain what an "illegal" is. I, for one, didn't realize it was illegal to be a person.

Michael H.
Mike H.2 years ago

Did the creators of this study consult their astrological charts to get these conclusons?

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago


Jane R.
Jane R.2 years ago

I find it disturbing that when shopping, many of the other customers are speaking to each other in another language. They should reserve that for when they are at home. Out in public they should speak English. I also don't care to see that food packaging now has English and Spanish on them. If they are learning to English so fast, there shouldn't be a need to provide English/Spanish labels on food packages. They can get a family member to translate for them which would be helping them learn the language. Learn the language of this country or go home where you won't need a translator.

Nick Andrews
Nico Smart2 years ago

Yeah, comparing Germans from 100 years ago to Mexicans coming in today is not even remotely scientific. Even when they do learn to speak English, it is usually not to a level which can be called fluent. As long as they try to learn and speak English I do not have a problem with it if it takes them awhile, because they are trying. It is those who do not try, but continue to speak Mexican, or Spanish, or Portuguese, etc. who are the problem.

But even when they do learn to speak English, they often cannot read or write it. The ESL programs in the schools are a complete failure, producing children who are illiterate in two languages.

There should be no 'press 1 for English' on any phone menu. Do they have that in Europe? No, there people just learn multiple languages as a matter of course. One area where Europe is actually ahead of us. And here, 40 miles form Mexico, we have forms printed in two languages, wasting millions of dollars in labor and paper. In the courts, they have special translators for those going in for jury duty! A huge and ridiculous waste and discriminatory, because I guarantee you if you tell them you need a German translator they will just excuse you from jury duty instead of getting one. But they pay for Mexican translation every day.

Want to hear another one? My old German teacher form high school applied for a state position in bilingual education. Well, even though he was best qualified, they would not grant him a place in the fin

Anna Undebeck
Anna Undebeck2 years ago

Thanks for the article!

Ana Marija R.
Ana R2 years ago

Thank you for the article.:)

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

Thank you for the informative article.