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English professor, Dr.Phillip M. Carter, recently wrote an article for The Conversation that discusses the unspoken concern beneath recent debates over immigration in the United States: language. Specifically, whether immigration from Spanish-speaking countries threatens the English language’s dominance.

In his article, Dr. Carter addresses that although roughly half of all immigration has come from Latin American countries, research shows that while new immigrants bring Spanish with them that their children tend to become bilinguals who prefer English. As a result, the same immigrants’ grandchildren likely speak English only. This phenomenon is called “the three-generation pattern”.

Throughout the article Dr. Carter also mentions restrictive language laws that prohibited the use of Spanish in educational or government settings as well as the social pressures to speak English in a Latino immigrant household.

Dr. Carter goes on to explain that Spanish is not the only immigrant language that has struggled to keep a foothold in the United States. Germans, Italians, Poles and Swedes went through similar language shifts in the 19th and 20th centuries. These languages, too, were sometimes seen as a threat to American identity in their time. Then as now, American anxiety about the role of English in U.S. society was totally unfounded. In the roughly 150,000-year history of human language, there has never been a more secure tongue than English.

Read the full article for more on Dr. Carters findings on the English-Spanish language debate.