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Immigrant Literacy

By Juliana de Moura Oliveira, Business Administration Student

The United States is known for its high number of immigrants. People decide to leave their country for a chance to have new opportunities. Even though some people are not literate in their own native language and don’t know English, they take the risk to move to the United States.

The word “alphabetization” from the Linguee Dictionary means: “Literacy is a crucial part of basic education.” Basically, literacy is the act of helping people know how to read, write, interpret, understand, criticize, reframe, and produce knowledge. Literacy promotes socialization, culture, and it improves your ability to learn new things. Being literate also helps people learn how they can obtain their citizenship, which is good for society as whole. 

A survey from The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential shows that many countries have challenges with the number of illiterate people, and I am not talking about politics. What I mean is that many people don’t have opportunities to obtain literacy. One of the primary reasons people aren’t literate is because they must spend the majority of their time taking care of their families.

I am from Brazil and there are high numbers of illiteracy there because people must choose between going to school or working to help their families. I have one example in my family.

My father is 46 years old and he isn’t literate. He grew up on a farm with my grandparents, uncles, and aunts. He lived in a small town where his school had many issues. At that time, the children there weren’t encouraged to study. Most of the parents didn’t ask them to attend school because they needed more help on the plantation. Unfortunately, my father had to work during his childhood and couldn’t focus on getting an education.

When my dad was older, I asked him if I could teach him how to read and write and he said no. He thought that he didn’t need to be literate since he already achieved most of his goals. This is a tough situation for me because I can’t help him if he doesn’t want my help, and I know he is losing an opportunity to acquire knowledge to improve his life. Unfortunately, this situation occurs often in my country.

Many people don’t have the opportunity to go to school and become liberate. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) shows us that worldwide, at least 773 million young people and adults still cannot read or write, and 250 million children are unable to acquire basic numeracy and literacy skills. Literacy should be the first thing people experience in their lives. Although life has many challenges, being literate at an early age can have a very positive impact on your life.

If people could live without literacy in their native countries, why should they be interested in learning English in the US?

Some immigrants come to the US just looking for job opportunities. They sometimes forget about learning English because they achieved their goals without literacy. It’s strange to imagine moving to a different country and not speaking the language, but the point is when people have opportunities without needing to learn the language, they don’t think it will be necessary to learn it.

In the US, immigrants have a lot of opportunities in their communities to speak their native language so that can prevent them from learning English. However, I believe that alphabetization should be more encouraged. The best solution should be the development of more programs where people that speak multiple languages can teach immigrants English or even their own native language.

In conclusion, everybody deserves to have good opportunities and being literate is the first step to achieving that. If you know someone that doesn’t know English or needs more literacy, encourage them to go to community college and connect them to a literacy program so they can get more skills to have successful lives. Also, I would like to emphasize the UNESCO International Literacy Day Celebration. I didn’t know about that day before, but the date of the celebration was Sep 8th. International Literacy Day 2021 was celebrated under the theme of “Literacy for a people-centered recovery: bridging the digital divide.”

If you have the chance to help someone have a better life just do it! Share your knowledge and help someone else.

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