View Full Version : Illiteracy, um problems with immigrant assimilation - funny story though

06-30-2002, 12:05 PM
I had breakfast at Jack In The Box today (west / southwest fast food chain originating from San Diego).

All of the employees there were Latin American immigrants. That doesn't mean Mexican-descent specifically. Though that is probable.

They are working at jobs that likely pay very minimum wage because that's possibly all they can do, have tried to do, have yet had the opportunity to do (maybe they're in school), or that's all they think they can do (why outreach to these employees and the discussion of their future opportunities falls to the government because I don't see the private sector doing it here anyway - that could vary from area to area though).

But anyway, at some point while I'm dining in, (and start to feel nature's call) the last occupant in the men's room must have done something. But not what you think.

The next thing I know, this sort of plump, rotund, large, young woman is locking the door to the men's room.

She posts a sign on the door that she hand wrote.

It says:


What do you suppose that means?

(Warning: keep this thread clean. Discussion of immigration problems and cultural assimilation issues is fine. No racial jokes or intentional intolerance will be allowed.)

06-30-2002, 12:17 PM
Note, to work at Jack In The Box, all the employees HAD to be LEGAL immigrants / green card holders for absolute certain.

If she was a US born citizen, versus an immigrant, why wasn't that one employee's English better?

Does that indicate a failure with our public education system? Or at least our naturalization program?

Realize that she could be working here because at least someone in her family, or she herself, could not find work better than a fast-food restaurant in our country, back wherever she emigrated from. And while our social security and Medicare programs are suffering, other Latin American nations' programs are either non-existant or close to 100% unreliable.

What are the issues here? And what are the solutions?

Are we all "Of the Service?"

Jedi Juice
06-30-2002, 07:54 PM
Well, I'm not sure what "Of The Service" refers to, but I alsoanother restroom sign incident.

Last night I went to see the "Wizard of Oz" at the Saenger Theatre in N.O. (it's the Saenger's 75th Anniversary so they were showing movies at $.75). The men's restroom had an interesting sign in it, one you would see in a women's restroom. The sign read something like this:

"Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause unwanted health risks."

I'm not sure why that sign was in the men's restroom, my only guess is that the theatre could convert that restroom into a women's restroom if needed.

Anyway, that's it.

06-30-2002, 08:41 PM
Maybe because they are not interest"ING"!! in having you use the restroom when it is broken.

figrin bran
06-30-2002, 09:19 PM
i would venture to guess that the sign intended to read "out of service"? that would figure in with the locking of the restroom door.

06-30-2002, 09:19 PM
I once saw a paper attached to a chalkboard covered with writing. The paper read, "Do not ese."

07-01-2002, 01:18 AM
:) I realize the sign was supposed to say "Out of Service" and why.

But that wasn't my point. It was funny and tragic at the same time.

Mandalorian Candidat
07-01-2002, 09:38 AM
Originally posted by Tycho
Does that indicate a failure with our public education system? Or at least our naturalization program?

I'm hoping we won't be touching off another potential powderkeg, a la the Pledge thread, with this topic. I believe that immigrants do help in the development of our country. Look at all the good things that we have that other nations don't have by virtue of all the people that stream into this country. My ancestors came from England, Western Europe, etc., including my Grandma who left Nazi Germany before the invasion of Poland.

When they came over, they learned English and assimilated into American society. My Oma (grandma in German) moved to Palm Springs, worked as a maid in Elvis' mansion there, and soon got married to an American who wasn't German.

I'm from the LA area and have had much exposure to people who are of closer foreign decent than myself, i.e., first or second-generation Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Phillipino, Samoans, Mexicans, Central Americans. I've noticed that when they assimilate more closely with the general American 'culture' (I supposed there is one :) ) they tend to learn English quicker and interact with those of different backgrounds to a greater degree.

The flipside, again from my perception, is that when they fail to learn and practice English, they tend to be more clannish and do not interact as much with people outside their own culture, language, or background. Perhaps this is the case with your Jack In The Box friends, Tycho.

This being the case I think it would behoove us to institute a strong English language program for immigrants to help them integrate better. It could only lead to better jobs, higher confidence, and better integration. Sure we want diversity but it's not a good thing when society is fractured into groups that can't or won't intermingle with others outside their immediate sphere of familiarity.

07-01-2002, 11:22 AM
Again, I share the same opinion as Madalorian Candidate - and the same ancestry.

I'm of German-Austrian descent, 1 part Russian. Most of my family came to America very early dating way back to colonial times. I've heard that some of our ancestry left Europe to escape prejudice against Jews way back when. Before England ruled the 13 Colonies that revolted and formed the United States (wasn't it a first Confederation of States - referring to the Articles of Confederation that governed us between the time of the Declaration of Independence and when the Constitution was written?)....well anyway, back then, Germans, Slaviks, and the Dutch colonized Pennsylvania. Later I think either England won it in war, occupied it economically (kind of like the Japanese own Los Angeles (J/K) or they just bought it from the Germans).

Anyway, then it was the English Pennsylvania before joining the other states in the Revolution. Notice the Slavik name Pennsylvania like Transylvania? The more English named colonies were for King George (Georgia), New York (for Yorkshire), etc. Now I wonder if there was a famous Lord Jersey, or if England had a holy cow: Jersey Maid? (bad joke)

Anyway, I think that perhaps racial prejudice and / or the fear of it, causes many peoples of darker skin to assimilate into English speaking America more slowly. In our City Council, we have one Mexican-American who follows in the footsteps of his former boss, another widely popular Mexican-American Assemblyman (Juan Vargas - he makes his name known quite well in California, so you may have heard of him). Anyway, just by speaking Spanish (because the other Councilmembers don't) this politician is held in awe by people of Latin American ancestry (who recently immigrated). That doesn't mean he could be a terrible leader and use his image like a demogogue (he doesn't and I personally supported him and his re-election), but such cultural outreach shown going both to and from this elected official describes a bit of the situation with cultural assimilation.

It also illustrates the problem with people not assimilating. 8 councilmembers decide policy in San Diego. The white-anglo councilmembers have just as much responsibility to their Hispanic constituents as does the Latino politician. The only way immigrants can make their representatives really hear them though, is to testify in council in English. Because if a corrupted Latino official was in power, who would really be representing his people if he used his popularity for his own benefit.

In an English speaking country, they must assimilate if only to defend themselves. They are often poor and have to work their way up from having nothing. They can just as easily be taken advantage of by one of their own with an elected position or a law degree (medical one too).

Knowledge is power, and language and education are the tools to acquire it.

Just the same, I should know Spanish (and do not) though I'm taking classes when I can. (I learned German as my 2nd language mostly because the teacher in high school was a Lakers Cheerleader :rolleyes: )

07-01-2002, 11:26 AM
If only we had protocol droids...

07-01-2002, 11:48 AM
Ah, but we do! We have people who make their living being translators.

In classrooms, at City Councils, and other public forums, in attorney's offices, at hospitals, this would be another great way to help people assimilate. Hire more translators.

Eventually, we probably will have droids. SW is so ingrained in our culture, or at least in the dreams of the scientists that dare to figure out how to make these things, that I bet it will look like C-3PO. Hope Anthony Daniels is still around. I bet he'd get a kick out of doing that. I don't know how his Spanish, Russian, and Swahili are though...

I think the first droid would most likely speak in different voices when speaking different languages. That'd make you pay attention!

07-01-2002, 12:00 PM
As far as learning English, my experience has been that immigrants (both legal and not) tend to learn English and speak it better than those that were actually born here. Why, I don't know, but I can only guess that our schools, environment, and governments are not providing enough incentive for children to actually want to learn English. However, the adults that immigrate to this country mostly want to start a new successful life, and see that speaking English well is almost a necessity.

On a related topic, the demonizing of the illegal immigrant is rampant, and a major problem with society today. I have known and still know many people that came to this country illegally, and they are just about the hardest working people anywhere. They appreciate everything they have, and, though they sometimes find the work they are offered as demeaning, they suck up their pride to provide sustenance for their families, and try to carve a little life of success here. These people are also an extremely important part of the economy, and if not for them, our agriculture and service industries would be shot. It's not the immigrant causing a drain on our economy, it's the lazy American.
end editorial...:D

07-01-2002, 12:27 PM
There is truth to what Stormie says. I agree.

However, there is a scenerio that I can imagine, where years of toil in demeaning jobs, or being expected to serve and not being seen or spoken to brings these people of color to a position of a majority in numbers and a boiling point in temperament.

If not those that are working so hard, often at two jobs to provide for their families, but their "parentless" children who are just that: children who do not understand why they live in America and do not have what they see white America having on television. It's called relative depravation: perceived injustices in inequality. Human temperament being what it is, and guns and other weapons being the primary demanded product of gangs, or replacement families for the children of the 2-job working immigrant parents, we have a problem still burning under us.

How many of you say hello or ask "how are you?" of a Mexican gardner, maintainance man, or other service industry worker?

What do they think about you, a person that walks on past them never noticing how they're doing, or caring, and continues on to buy Star Wars action figures (on credit, with your stock option earnings, or at least from the wages you earn with a job you have because you graduated high school - a free education you were born entitled to - and speak English)?

What do you think they do to your food in a fast-food drive through? I'm not talking about the immigrants. I'm talking about their poor children who are now young adults and see themselves as deprived Americans.

If they don't do something intentionally to cause harm, how about have they been taught sanitation such as washing their hands very, very well after leaving the bathroom and returning to food preparation? Who taught them that? A low-level manager who is taught to wash his hands by some college-grad mid-level manager who thinks about anything besides his college life parties? The employees' parents were never home, and their public education (supported only as much as very local tax dollars go in a poorer community)?

And why should they bother? The Pope taught them they should have children of their own (versus practicing birth control). That puts more economic disadvantages upon them.

I can tell you that I'm still starting out in life. If I had even one child or a stay-at-home wife to care for, I could not afford the money it costs to collect SW or to even be online talking to you guys.

And with no money for entertainment, no birth control, and a wife or husband handy, what do you think is going to happen?

More parentless children.

Because while yes, you do have to work to provide for your family and with no language skills, or no values instilled for getting education, you have to hold 2 minimum wage jobs per day just to make ends meet, but you are a financer then. You are not a parent. Parents spend time teaching their children to be better individuals than even they themselves are. That is impossible if you must work or your children will starve and be "more dead than you are."

But this thread is about a healthy dose of reality.

Some have PrivateMessaged me that they don't like it. There are probably a million other threads concerned with how you can get your favorite piece of plastic for $4.77 all over this site. Don't participate in this thread if that is what you came to the forums today to think about.

I'm enjoying my discussion with all of you that have posted so far, and encourage new people to join us if you can contribute or have felt this way - or differently. But I had to vent. Thank you.

I'm "of the service."

07-01-2002, 12:44 PM
Tycho, I experienced the same frustrations as you when I was in San Diego and all of So. Cal. I even flat-out stopped going to the BK drive through next to my office after countless time when the order-taker was insufficiently literate to understand my clearly spoken order, or to reply in a manner I could understand.

When you're in a hurry and don't take the time to check the contents of your drive thru food bag until you get back to work, then don't have time to go back and get it corrected, you can get real peeved!

Since I was single at that time and had some free time on weekends and evenings, I decided to do something about it.

I took a class through the San Diego Public Library, and became a certified English reading tutor for Literacy Volunteers of America.

If you want to do something to help, I hope you'll consider trying this out for yourself. It is a one-on-one thing, not teaching a classroom full of people. It is one or two hours of your time a week, usually on a weeknight evening. Whenever you and your student agree to setup the time.

Big Warning: as hard as it is, DO NOT get personally involved in any personal things in the lives of your students. This includes helping them to write letters to avoid eviction, school notes to communicate about their kids absenses, or anything like that. Just teach them how to read / speak correctly. As soon as you cross the line into personal stuff, your head spins from all the unforseen side-effects of what you've done.

07-01-2002, 12:53 PM
Good work Swaffy! :happy:

I think people are a little to quick to point out how their ancestors set about to integrate quickly. I bet the Irish would have liked to, but given the general contempt for them, they also had to deal with the introduction of a whole new class, the freshly named Scots-Irish. Still, I acknowledge that they had an advantage in already knowing "the common language."

But for how long did my German ancestors fight to preserve the German language in schools here in Wisconsin? Yes, its a battle they eventually lost, but it wasn't a matter of just looking to assimilate . . .

07-01-2002, 01:03 PM
Wow. As noted, I'm of German descent but I never knew that people made that big of deal to keep instruction in German a part of the public schools.

I guess it's parents frightened of their children becoming "a different nationality" than they are. But that is what being an American is all about. Surely, their kids will remain bi-lingual. But they came here for a better life for their families. Perhaps their grandkids won't speak a word of German, or Spanish for that matter, but look at the trade-off. And that's just it. There's a trade-off.

That leads directly into what Swafman said. Great job, guy!

I will look into that program in the coming weeks. Everyone can hold me to that. I think it's a great idea and truly commendable that Swafman does this. Your warning is well taken, too. By doing this you become responsible for too much. By not doing it, you teach them to apply what they've learned and start using it to defend themselves.

Great post Swafman! My mother actually taught (paid though) in a program such as that. She is a cancer patient now, which is why I'm so busy (because she's in the hospital by my grandparents, but I still need to help my family and it's out of town). But I'm sure my mom hopes to go back to teaching when she gets better. At least I hope she'll recover. But thank you for shedding some light on this thread and my mood, Swafman.:)

figrin bran
07-01-2002, 05:05 PM
i don't really have anything to add to the discussion but today i ate at a jack in the box and lo and behold in the restroom was a sign and so i thought of this thread :)

07-01-2002, 05:15 PM
re:[it's] truly commendable that Swafman does this

Swafman did this. As I said in the post, I was single and had lots of free time then, and an hour spent helping others was also an hour I'd be keeping myself out of naughty shenanigans. Now I'm a parent, and have otehr things going on in my life, so my volunteer work is down to wrapping toys for tots gifts a few nights every december, and the odd day here and there doing united way "day of caring" stuff, and the like.

Really, the schools are pretty good here, and the almost total lack of ethnic diversity may have some drawbacks, but unfamiliarity with the English language is not one of them. So there's just no demand for LVA tutors here. But I'd find time to do it if the local library ever expressed a need.

07-02-2002, 12:58 AM
But Swaffy, the good that you've done in helping others to learn English more proficiently is probably still expanding. Just think of how many immigrants might have been helped by the people you helped with the language. :happy:

"So what Tycho told you was true, from a certain point of view." :D