Immigrants Identify Learning English as Key to Succeeding in U.S.

RL12-16-201588% Say it’s extremely or somewhat important; Level of fluency almost triples after living here.

Immigrants overwhelmingly acknowledge that learning English is crucial to success in America, a new Harris/Nielsen Poll commissioned by Express Employment Professionals reveals.

The online survey was conducted in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, and Chinese, on behalf of Express in October 2015.

When asked, “In order to be successful in the United States, how important is it to learn English?” 65% of immigrants said “extremely important” and 22% said “very important.” Only 2% said it was “not at all important.”

The poll also showed that while 36% of immigrants said they were fluent when they first arrived in the United States, a segment almost as large at 28% did not speak any English.

“The survey dispels the notion immigrants do not want to learn nor value the English language and confirms that even in this challenging economic period, people who immigrate here recognize the importance of becoming fluent in English as the foundation for success in the U.S.,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

In the poll, 88% of immigrants believe that “In order to be successful in the United States, it’s important to learn English.”

Seventy-seven percent of immigrants have become fluent in English since their arrival in the U.S. In comparison, 28% of immigrants spoke no English when they arrived in the U.S.

Seventy-two percent of immigrants arrived only speaking at least some English. Now, 99%speak at least some.

The following is a breakdown of survey participants by native country:

  • 10 percent from Mexico.
  • 8 percent, Germany.
  • 8 percent, Puerto Rico.
  • 6 percent, Canada.
  • 5 percent, Cuba.
  • 4 percent, England.
  • 3 percent, Columbia.
  • 3 percent, Dominican Republic.
  • 3 percent, Peru.
  • 2 percent, Japan.
  • 2 percent, India.
  • 2 percent, Spain.


Survey Methodology

Study by Harris Poll

The survey was conducted online by Harris/Nielsen Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals Oct. 5 – 21, 2015, and included 2,043 U.S. adults aged 18 or older from the general population and an oversample of 781 foreign born US residents age 18 or older. Data is weighted to be representative of the general U.S. population and U.S. residents who are foreign-born.

Results were weighted as needed for age by gender, education, race/ethnicity, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Totals may not equal the sum of their individual components due to rounding. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

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