Vietnamese community lacks English fluency

Why is there such a English fluency disparity between Vietnamese Americans and other Asian American communities?

The LA Times posted an article about contrasts among the asian american community.

One of the statistics from the article states that “more than three-fourths of Indians and Filipinos spoke fluent English, twice the rate for Vietnamese.”

A similar statistic was released by the Demographic Research Unit at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center regarding Vietnamese in Orange County (Nov 2004 voter survey). According to their survey, 59% of Vietnamese Americans (compared to only 25% of non Vietnamese Asians) had limited english proficiency. Additionally, Vietnamese Americans required more bilingual voter assistance than other Asians.

Although both these statistics are alarming – the numbers are slightly skewed.

Orange County is home to Little Saigon – the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. Little Saigon is virtually self sufficient. The streets are filled with markets, restaurants, cafes, shops…and you don’t need to know a single word of english to interact with any of the citizens.

Surveying the population of Little Saigon leads to some startling numbers with regards to English fluency. A good number of people living in Little Saigon cannot speak english, some can’t speak very little english, and small minority speak fluently. But in a community like Little Saigon, there is very little value in being able to speak English.

Nonetheless, statistics regarding English fluency is still a good measure of a community’s exposure to the mainstream. The numbers show that many Vietnamese Americans are isolated from the general American public and may feel the need to remain distanced.