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Second generation identity use
One of the discussions in the book about second generation, focuses on the issue of identity for the second generation children. According to Portes and Rumbaut the second generation children in America have had some struggles with their identity because they have been the children of two worlds (147).
Many of them, for example, those coming from Korea had parents who had lived in very homogeneous communities. The parents thus tried to maintain the close knit communities for themselves and for their future generations in a heterogeneous society (Portes, and Rumbaut 149).
The author presents the experiences of the Korean community to communicate the common struggles that the children faced and how they tried to solve the problem of identity. One of the ways the author presents is the use of solidarity rallies (Portes, and Rumbaut 149). These rallies cut across different generations with the common goal of perpetuating the history, custom and culture of the Korean community.
Sometimes resistance came like it did for the Cubans who after migrating to Florida found that the local initiated a referendum against their migration from Cuba to Florida (Portes, and Rumbaut 149). These isolated the Cubans who were already in Florida. This brings to mind the question as to whether those who settled in America early should have had so much power in controlling those who immigrated later.
The experiences of these immigrants is contrasted to that of the Early Europeans whose ethnicity projected outward with intermarriages and thinning out. While the early immigrants were accepted without discrimination, the later immigrants already came with ethnic ties that pitted them against the majority of those already settled into America (Portes, and Rumbaut 181).
The question of identity is therefore very relevant when considering legacies. This is because identity greatly influences the activities and orientation of groups as they try to settle in a new world.
Second generation children might not forget their culture easily since even when they are likely to distance themselves from it, the world they live in may always place them in their ethnic groups (Portes, and Rumbaut 181). It is not clear therefore if ethnic discrimination is likely to end in America. If indeed it will end, then the paradox is on what will need to happen to help achieve this goal.
Second generation language use
A discussion of importance in the book is the language as used by the new second generation. Most of the second generation began to use English as they undertook education and jobs. However their English was the bases for much discrimination and mistrust by their American counterparts (Portes, and Rumbaut 115). Many of them were discriminated due to their accent. Sometimes this came with approval from political offices.
Bilingualism was often treated as a handicap even though research reveals one language does not necessarily make a speaker any worse at another. The author refers to studies that proved children who were bilingual had strong cognitive abilities compared to those who spoke one language (Portes, and Rumbaut 116). However schools remain monolingual in America (Portes, and Rumbaut 128). Should languages be offered as part of the core studies of children as they join school?
In contemporary America especially where there is a lot of cultural diversity bilingualism has come to be appreciated even admired. Admiration has also come from first generation and ethnic communities that are closely knit (Portes, and Rumbaut 134). This is because the children can communicate within the family easily without a language barrier between the older and younger generation. The author also reveals that bilingualism has also affected family relationships especially between parents and their children.
Children who are fluent in English and their parent’s native language experience better relationship with their parents (Portes, and Rumbaut 134). The children are also more confident and more proud of their culture when they can speak their parent’s language fluently. However the school system has been poor in propagating the acquisition of a second language (Portes, and Rumbaut 138).
Languages are not offered in many schools and even those who are bilingual find they can only use English. This has created a break where given the languages in America the country does not benefit from the positive effects of bilingualism (Portes, and Rumbaut 135- 140). The statistics in the book reveal difficulties in retention of parent’s language.
The author has presented the issues of the new second generation in a clear manner and challenged the reader to think critically about the effects of immigration especially upon future generation who have to undergo challenging circumstances before they can live the American dream. The question for a society like America could be how the society can best benefit from the linguistic intellectuals of a diverse society with many languages.
Portes, Alejandro, and Ruben Rumbaut. The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation. 1st ed. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2001. Print.