In Search of a Better World: The Asian Immigrant Experience

By T.J. Chiang

For ethical purposes, I have not mentioned the names of parties involved. I felt compelled to write this after realizing from personal experience ( both my parents came from Taiwan to study in the United States) and from having interactions with many Asian international students. I realized that there was not only a language barrier but also a cultural divide that makes it difficult for students studying abroad to get accustomed to academia in the United States. It is my belief that language is easy to learn but the cultural barrier can impede on the language learning ability. When Asian immigrants are living in an English speaking country, they still interact heavily – and almost solely – with other Asian immigrants.

As an Asian American, I can understand why they would do so. Some are embarrassed or feel uncomfortable interacting because of their “imperfect” English. Even so, speaking can only improve one’s speaking skills further. It is an impediment to learning proper English. If one does not continue to practice verbally, he/she will continue to rely on their native tongue – leading to an unaccustomed English tongue. After all, practice makes perfect.

Generally speaking, most Asian immigrants tend to focus on the memorization of words and their meanings. There is no time spent learning how to place words and phrases into appropriate context. It is great that Asian immigrants know these words and phrases, but the key to advancing is learning how to place them into coherent context.

We must keep in mind that Immigrants could be taken aback by significant culture shocks, as with anyone moving to a new culture – especially a lively place such as a college campus. It can take them a while to adjust. Yet, the quicker they can adjust, the better.

The question begs, how can we, as Americans, help Asian immigrants better adjust to life in the United States? We can start by aiding in their overcoming of cultural and linguistic barriers. We can help by encouraging and not disheartening. Even though it is broken English, it is important to uplift the continuance of practice. We can address the culture shock by inviting them to events that we take for granted like parties and sporting events. After all, they were in search of bigger and better opportunities. Why not help them along the way?

T.J. is a senior Sociology major.

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