Asian Immigrants and Hurdles in America

As women's representation in U.S. politics has increased, a significant majority of Americans, 53%, express the view that there are still insufficient women in high political offices in the United States. Moreover, many Americans perceive significant obstacles for women candidates aspiring to such positions, according to the latest data from PEW Research Centre.

Asian immigrants in the United States with little to no proficiency in English finds language and cultural obstacles as the biggest hurdle they face in the country. But for the English-speaking immigrants, they adjust to life in a new country with its own unique linguistic and cultural quirks, a new report from PEW Research Centresaid.

In the new report, the Pew Centre said among Asian Americans ages 5 and older, 58% of immigrants speak English proficiently, compared with nearly all of the U.S. born who say the same (94%).


Among Asian immigrants living in the U.S, 86 per cent Asian immigrants five and older say they speak a language other than English at home, while 14 per cent say they speak only English in their homes. The most spoken non-English language among Asian immigrants is Chinese, including Mandarin and Cantonese (20%). Hindi (18%) is the second most commonly spoken non-English language among Asian immigrants (this figure includes Urdu, Bengali and other Indo-Iranian and Indo-European languages), followed by Tagalog and other Filipino languages (13%) and Vietnamese (9%), the authors said.


The report said that several participants described the difficulties they faced for not speaking English like carrying out daily tasks like shopping, going to doctor or visiting a government office. Some participants mentioned that when they struggled to speak in English, they noticed frustration from people they were interacting with.

Visiting medical offices was highlighted as another place where newly arrived immigrants faced challenges, including not being able to accurately describe ailments. Some participants had difficulties with English during their visits to government offices, including while filling out paperwork.


The difficulty in school and college happened for some when they were school-age children or teenagers, newly arrived in the U.S. For others it happened when they arrived in the country to begin their university studies. Though some of the participants said that learned English in their places of origin prior to arriving in the US, they found themselves facing challenges as they transitioned into predominantly English-speaking environments. Some attribute these challenges to their lack of fluency and comfort in English despite understanding what others were saying to them. Some participants also indicated that their accents led to confusion when communicating with English speakers.

There were participants who recalled feelings of fear at school, not only because they did not know the language but because they did not understand how American society and schools functioned.

Several top schools in the United States require the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, to determine the language abilities of non-native English-speaking applicants. Some participants reported that despite passing this test and obtaining a top score, they experienced challenges keeping up in college-level courses in the U.S. Even in non-academic social settings, some recalled not fully understanding what native English speakers were saying due to their use of slang and frequent pop culture references.


Many participants pointed to their difficulties speaking in English as a major reason they struggled to find employment.  Some participants shared that once employed, language barriers slowed their professional success and advancement. Some participants noted their accents affected how they were treated at work.


Many participants shared that during their childhood they were enrolled in English as a second language (ESL) courses as part of their school program. Others who arrived in the country as adults mentioned that they were able to join English courses offered by organizations in their communities or cities. Some others said that they learned English simply by trying to talk to native speakers as much as possible, from new friends to co-workers to other people in everyday life. While many made this a casual everyday practice, some mentioned attending meet-ups and language exchanges in their new home cities.

The PEW Research authors say that some participants purposely lived in a place without other immigrants from their own ethnic group. This allowed them to immerse themselves in American culture, including English language, and offered an opportunity to practice speaking with native speakers.


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