Obama: Peace Corps Going to Vietnam to 'Focus on Teaching English'

Susan Jones | May 25, 2016 | 7:34am EDT
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A sign in English and Spanish points voters in the right direction in Austin, Texas. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Stressing the new cooperation between the United States and Vietnam, President Obama announced on Monday that the Peace Corps is going to Vietnam.

"Our Peace Corps volunteers will focus on teaching English, and the friendship that our people forge will bring us closer together for decades to come," Obama said in a speech on Monday.

He repeated the announcement in another speech on Tuesday: "As I announced yesterday, the Peace Corps will come to Vietnam for the first time, with a focus on teaching English. A generation after young Americans came here to fight, a new generation of Americans are going to come here to teach and build and deepen the friendship between us."

As immigration, both illegal and legal, surges in the United States, millions of the newly arrived -- and some who have been here for years -- do not speak English. A majority speak Spanish.

Two years ago, the U.S. Census Bureau found that English is not the native language of most immigrants in the United States.

Based on 2012 data, a 2014 report from the Census Bureau stated that "half of the foreign-born population spoke English less than 'very well' in 2012 (50 percent), about the
same proportion as in the 2010 American Community Survey (52 percent) and the 2000 Census (51 percent).

Moreover, the proportion of the foreign-born population who spoke English less than “very well” in 2012 was significantly higher than the national average in seven states -- California, Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The Census Bureau says one of the main reasons it collects information on languages spoken at home and English-speaking ability is to determine bilingual election requirements under the Voting Rights Act.

In Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is leading the effort to make English the official language of the United States.

King's H.R. 997, the English Language Unity Act, would require naturalization ceremonies and most official functions of the U.S. government to be conducted in English. It also declares that all citizens should be able to read and generally understand the English language text of U.S. laws.

"There is no more unifying force in the world than a common form of communications currency," King said in February 2015 when he reintroduced the bill. "It is essential that we make assimilation of our legal immigrants a top priority and learning English is an important first step in that process."

The bill is languishing in the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

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