“Why Don’t They Learn English?” – A LinkedIn Story


Have you seen any fishing shows on LinkedIn?



One person posts an idea or comment as bait. Someone else takes offense and responds harshly. The bait has been taken. The authors become aggressive as they battle. Inevitably one side makes fun of the other’s set of obtuse initials next to their name (Tom Jones, TSIHIRT) and then it’s over. Each side goes home that evening and tells their spouse an annoying story.


Everyone loses.

Especially the spouses.



For a “professional” forum, it’s all very unprofessional.

But amusing too.



Well, I got baited recently. It came in the form of the common question:  “Why Don’t They Learn English?”



This question comes up frequently at Red Angle. So much so that I’ve given it an acronym WDTLE – pronounced (WAHT-lee) like dentist Dr. Tim Whatley from Seinfeld, now better known as that crazy bald guy on Breaking Bad.



Upon learning the basics of what Red Angle does, this LinkedInner asked publicly, “Why would I ever want to do this (this = learn Construction Spanish)?



I love this question. I gave a short reply referencing the millions of Hispanics on our jobsites, their disproportionate propensity for injuries, and the opportunity to improve Productivity, limit Rework, and make his construction life easier.



His reply insinuated if Hispanics don’t learn English, they must not be appreciative. They lack gratitude.


Then wouldn’t the best training be to teach them English?”

I believe the construction industry that built New York City throughout the first part of the 20th Century had a huge Polish, Italian, and German population. 

English was the only language used in our country because those immigrants respected the opportunity America offered.



This reply reminded me of the Dillingham Commission. The Dillingham Commission was a special congressional committee (but really… aren’t they all special?) formed to study the consequences of the massive waves of immigration entering the country.


The commission determined immigration posed a serious threat to American society. They recommended the human spigot of immigration be turned off. They proposed a reading and writing test to reduce the “undesirable immigration.”


Can’t read?

Can’t write?

Can’t enter.



Isn’t that written on the Statue of Liberty? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… and fill out this Iowa Basics test. You have 60 minutes. Your time begins… now.




The Dillingham Commission data dumped 41 volumes on the American public. Few people read it. Here is an excerpt:


The new immigration as a class is far less intelligent as the old.… Generally speaking they are actuated in coming by different ideals, for the old immigration came to be part of a country, while the new, in a large measure, comes with the intention of profiting, in a pecuniary way, by the superior advantages of the new world….



The Dillingham Commission faulted the new immigrants for their failure to assimilate and their inability to speak English.


This seemed to match the opinion of my LinkedIn friend. The immigrants that marched off the boat and began speaking English fluently (and immediately as they respected the opportunity…) en route to building New York City, in the early 1900’s.



When did the Dillingham Commission release its findings?


Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry. Hartmann did not refer to the Dillingham Commission in his reply to the LinkedIn Fisherman. He thanked him for his thoughts. And did not tell his wife about the experience later….

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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2 replies

  1. Spoken like a true liberal academic! Bravo, sir! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have watched the construction industry spiral into the abyss as more and more of the workforce has become Hispanic. Yes, language is a symptom of that spiral, but it is really just a minor inconvenience. I have worked in construction management for 20 years, mostly in Southern California, most of that in San Diego. Our workforce has become massively Hispanic, mostly Mexican. To the point that a great deal of our Union labor lives across the border in TJ and commutes across the bridge every day. The most serious problem with this group of labor is that they have no motivation, no drive, no initiative to make a step forward. They are totally satisfied to go to the jobsite, get as much work done as necessary to keep their job, and go home and take their money back to Mexico. There is no pride in workmanship, only a ‘put some bondo on the newspaper to fill up the hole and make it look better’ mentality. Work needs to be redone over and over because either they don’t have the technical ability to do it right the first time or they don’t have enough pride in what they do to be sure it does get done correctly. Production has fallen through the floor as well. Crews now get 30 – 40% less production than just 10 years ago. Tell me that is a language problem.

    Our company prided ourselves in offering any training to anyone and pay for any cost so that a worker could better himself (or herself for the liberals). Any study, didn’t even need to be construction related. Guess what, it was a rare day indeed when anyone took us up on the offer. We offered English classes, even mandated our foremen take English class if they were not fluent on our time and pay. Still, they skipped out on classes, shined on the lessons, and had no appreciation of the opportunity. It was more a punishment in their eyes. Maybe we need a little more fishing to bring out reality and stop the ridiculous political correctness and glossing over the real issues. So, if you want the bait, it is fresh.


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