Essay Native Speaker By Chang Rae Lee

1074 Words Oct 18th, 2016 5 Pages
In his novel Native Speaker, Chang-rae Lee argues that the learning English in and of itself is a method of cultural assimilation forced on immigrants and their families in the United States. This argument can be seen through the words and thoughts of Lee’s narrator. “‘The polls say people are against bilingualism,’ I said. ‘They’re against giving anything more to immigrants’” (37). Henry Park, the first-person narrator, says this in the present day to his coworker at the spy agency while performing research on his target: a Korean-American immigrant named John Kwang. Park likely means that the majority of people in New York City are against forcing school students to learn more than one language. Given that United States education requirements have schools teaching English, this means the people are against learning languages other than English. The second half of what Henry says, connecting it to “giving” to immigrants, implies the people view language as power and a sort of necessity that they want to hold on to. They do not want to give immigrants a place in education, in power, even in seemingly small yet obviously large ways such as language. Eleven years after the novel was published, the sentiment is still found in certain areas of the country. People do not wish to learn another language, and expect immigrants and their children to learn how to read and write in English. The unwillingness to move away from English and English-only education by the American people…

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