The Melting Pot: Immigration in America
In 1927, Time magazine pointed out, older Jews were complaining that the younger generation didn't understand Yiddish. At about the same time H.L. Mencken was noting: 'In cities such as Cleveland and Chicago it is a rare second-generation American of Polish, Hungarian or Croatian stock who even pretends to know his parents' native language'.
Children not only refused to learn their parents' language, but 'would reprove their parents for speaking it in front of strangers'. As the historian Maldwyn Allen Jones has put it: 'Culturally estranged from their parents by their American education, and wanting nothing so much as to become and to be accepted as Americans, many second-generation immigrants made deliberate efforts to rid themselves of their heritage. The adoption of American clothes, speech, and interests, often accompanied by the shedding of an exotic surname, were all parts of a proces whereby antecedents were repudiated as a mean of improving status.
'Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country,' barked Theodore Roosevelt in 1918. In fact, almost all did. (...)
Uit: Made in America - Bill Bryson
Hfst. 9: The Melting Pot - Immigration in America