Acquiring America

Emily’s new circle of friends include a number of girls from somewhere else. Relatively recent arrivals from places like Japan, Korea, China and Iran. It’s interesting to note their different levels of acclimation based on their use of English, as well as their adoption of American attitudes and behavior. Emily is the most recent arrival, and a late-comer at age 14 (now 15) for whom the change is largely linguistic as she plunges headlong through the process of becoming a native English speaker, with little change yet to the Japanese teenager inside. The girls who arrived in middle school are a curious mix, with near fluent command of English spoken by the mind of an outsider who no longer feels like one. The one girl who came at the end of elementary school is startlingly American, with a perfect command of English driven by an American mind only faintly tempered by Japanese protocol and etiquette. Of course each girl (and a few boys) is unique, and their story of Americanization is their own, though I’m certainly noting a pattern not only related to how long, but perhaps more critically to the age of immersion, which begins a curious and perhaps irrevocable trade-off of culture and language.

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