Defining Acculturation and Assimilation

Acculturation and Assimilation

A March 2016 report from the Child Trends Hispanic Institute has found that students of Hispanic descent scored higher on national reading proficiency tests than their non-Hispanic peers in Miami-Dade county in Florida. Across the country, reading scores of fourth and eighth graders were consistently higher by half a grade all the way up to four grade levels over a ten year span from 2005-2015 in children of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Mexican descent. Although the Institute could not provide definitive data pointing to the reasons why these test scores were higher among certain districts in areas as disparate as Montana and Florida, one of the factors considered was the successful acculturation of these students.

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The word acculturation is often confused with assimilation, but the two have marked distinctions. The first requires an individual to learn about and adapt to the practices of a culture very different from their own. Assimilation, however, is often a symptom of living within a foreign culture. They may not sound all that dissimilar, but it’s very easy for someone to assimilate without acculturation. The fear of losing one’s cultural identity is certainly valid even as assimilating and acculturating can be two positive sides of the same coin. While an individual is encouraged to assimilate with a new culture, acculturating leaves the choice up to that individual whether to truly devote him or herself to it or not.

In the case of the 2016 report outlining how Hispanic children outperformed their white counterparts in reading proficiency, acculturation may have played a large role because it allowed for them to approach the language in the same manner as those of us who were born here. These children, perhaps through their parents or the influence of their peers, have learned to adapt to our culture and thus found easier entry into their reading, not by looking at the written word through the prism of a foreign born citizen, but as a child born within these borders. Studies have shown a connection between second language proficiency and successful acculturation, fostered by a positive view of the new culture and confident interaction with other individuals within that culture group.

For fourth and eighth grade students, we may be able to conclude that assimilation without some form of acculturation is certainly possible, though it might prove an obstacle to the successful evolution of their reading skills. This is not to suggest that they should lose their own identity, but embracing the one in which they live as readily as their own might have positive effects on their education.

Lectura Books has exceptional bilingual children’s books that will encourage Spanish and English speaking parents to read to their children. The bold illustrations will foster many multicultural experiences that the whole family can enjoy.

Acculturation and Assimilation

Katherine Del MonteDefining Acculturation and Assimilation