More than 40 years after arriving in New York from Mexico uneducated and broke, Felix Sanchez de la Vega Guzman still can barely speak English. Ask him a question, and he will respond with a few halting phrases and an apologetic smile before shifting back to the comfort of Spanish.
四十多年前,没有受过什么教育、身无分文的Felix Sanchez de la Vega Guzman从墨西哥来到了纽约;四十年后,他仍然几乎不能说英语。问他一个问题时,他总是用几个不连贯的英语短语来我回答我,面露抱歉的微笑,然后又换回让他觉得舒适自如的西班牙语。

Yet Mr. Sanchez has lived the great American success story. He turned a business selling tortillas on the street into a $19 million food manufacturing empire that threaded together theMexican diaspora from coast to coast and reached back into Mexico itself.

Mr. Sanchez is part of a small class of immigrants who arrived in the United States with nothing and, despite speaking little or no English, became remarkably prosperous. And while generations of immigrants have thrived despite language barriers, technology, these days, has made it easier for such entrepreneurs to attain considerable affluence.

Many have rooted their businesses in big cities with immigrant populations large enough to insulate them from everyday situations that demand English. After gaining traction in their own communities, they have used the tools of modern communication, transportation and commerce to tap far-flung resources and exploit markets in similar enclaves around the country and the world.

“The entire market is Hispanic,” Mr. Sanchez said of his business. “You don’t need English.” A deal, he said, is only a cheap long-distance phone call or a few key strokes on the computer away. “All in Spanish,” he added.

Mr. Sanchez, 66, said he always wanted to learn English but had not had time for lessons.

“I couldn’t concentrate,” he said in a recent interview, in Spanish. “In addition, all the people around me were speaking in Spanish, too.”

In New York City, successful non-English-speaking entrepreneurs like Mr. Sanchez have emerged from the largest immigrant populations, including those from China, South Korea and Spanish-speaking countries.

Among them is Zhang Yulong, 39, who emigrated from China in 1994 and now presides over a $30-million-a-year cellphone accessories empire in New York with 45 employees.
其中有一个39岁的Zhang Yulong,1994年从中国移居美国。现在他在纽约有价值3千万美元的手机配件产业,并且雇了45个员工。

Kim Ki Chol, 59, who arrived in the United States from South Korea in 1981, opened a clothing accessories store in Brooklyn and went on to become a successful retailer, real estate investor and civic leader in the region’s Korean diaspora.
59岁的Kim Ki Chol在1981年从韩国来到美国,在Brooklyn开了一家店卖服装辅料。他不停努力, 现在是Brooklyn韩裔聚居区的成功的零售商、房地产投资商以及市政府领导人。

In the United States in 2010, 4.5 million income-earning adults who were heads of households spoke English “not well” or “not at all,” according to the Census Bureau; of those, about 35,500 had household incomes of more than $200,000 a year.

Nancy Foner, a sociology professor at the City University of New York who has written widely on immigration, said it was clear that modern technology had made a big difference in the ability of immigrant entrepreneurs with poor or no English skills to expand their companies nationally and globally.
Nancy Foner是纽约市立大学的社会学教授。她写了大量的有关移民的文章,并指出:很明显,现代技术让英语糟糕、甚至不会说英语的移民创业者们能够在全美范围甚至全球范围内扩大公司规模。

“It wasn’t impossible — but much, much harder — for immigrants to operate businesses around the globe a hundred years ago, when there were no jet planes, to say nothing of cellphones and computers,” Ms. Foner said.

Advocates for the movement sometimes known as Official English have long pressed for legislation mandating English as the official language of government, arguing that a common language is essential for the country’s cohesion and for immigrant assimilation and success.

But stories like Mr. Sanchez’s, though certainly unusual, seem to suggest that an entrepreneur can do just fine without English — especially with the aid of modern technology, not to mention determination and ingenuity.

For Mr. Sanchez, who became an American citizen in 1985, one anxious moment came when he had to pass his naturalization test. The law requires that applicants be able to read, write and speak basic English.
在1985年的一个紧张时刻,Sanchez 先生变成了美国公民。他必须得通过入籍考试因为法律要求申请者基本的英语读、写和说的能力。

But Mr. Sanchez and other entrepreneurs said that the test, at least at the time they took it, had been rudimentary and that they had muddled through it.

Mr. Sanchez immigrated to the United States in 1970 from the Mexican state of Puebla with only a fifth-grade education. He held a series of low-paying jobs in New York, including washing dishes in a Midtown restaurant. The Mexican population in the New York region was small back then, but it soon began growing, as did the demand for authentic Mexican products.

In 1978, Mr. Sanchez and his wife, Carmen, took $12,000 in savings, bought a tortilla press and an industrial dough mixer in Los Angeles, hauled the machinery back to the East Coast and installed it in a warehouse in Passaic, N.J. Mr. Sanchez spent his days driving a forklift at an electrical-equipment factory and spent his evenings and nights making tortillas and selling them door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods around New York City.

His company, Puebla Foods, grew with the Mexican population, and he was soon distributing his tortillas and other Mexican products, like dried chilies, to bodegas and restaurants throughout the Northeast. At its peak, his enterprise had factories in cities all across North America, including Los Angeles, Miami, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Washington. It has since been buffeted by competition and by the economy, and he has scaled back.
随着美国墨西哥移民人口的增加,他的公司Puebla Foods也在壮大。不久,他把玉米粉圆饼和干辣椒等墨西哥产品配售给美国东北部的酒店和饭店。他的公司在鼎盛时期时的工厂遍及北美,包括洛杉矶、迈阿密、匹茨堡、多伦多、华盛顿。但因为行业竞争和经济形势的影响,他已经缩减了公司的规模。

He has relied heavily on a bilingual staff, which at times has included his three children, born and raised in New Jersey.

Mr. Zhang, the cellphone accessories entrepreneur, said his lack of English had not been a handicap. “The only obstacle I have is if I get too tired,” said Mr. Zhang, who also owns a property development company and an online retail firm.

In 2001, Mr. Zhang set up a wholesale business in cellphone accessories in Manhattan. He then raised money from relatives and investors in China to open a manufacturing plant there to make leather cellphone cases for export to the United States, Canada and Latin America.

His business boomed, and he opened warehouses in Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, controlling his international manufacturing, supply and retail chain from his base in New York.

Mr. Zhang now lives in a big house in Little Neck, Queens, with his wife, three daughters and parents, and drives a Lexus S.U.V. He has not applied for citizenship, preferring to remain a legal permanent resident and maintain his Chinese citizenship, which spares him the bother of securing a Chinese visa when he goes to China for business.
张先生和他的太太、三个女儿还有父母住着Queens的Little Neck的大房子,开着雷克萨斯SUV车。他没有申请美国国籍。他是美国的合法性永久居民,并依然保留中国国籍-他很喜欢这样的状态;这样就免去了他回中国处理业务时办签证的麻烦。

While he can speak rudimentary English — he rates his comprehension at 30 percent — he conducts nearly his entire life in Chinese. His employees speak the languages of trading partners: English, Spanish, Creole, Korean and French, not to mention multiple Chinese dialects.

Over the course of a lengthy interview, he gamely tried on several occasions to converse in English, but each time he ran into roadblocks and, with a shrug of resignation, resumed speaking through a translator in Mandarin.

Mr. Kim, the Korean retailer, recalled that when he opened his first store in Brooklyn, nearly his entire clientele was Afro-Caribbean and African-American, and his customers spoke no Korean.

“You don’t have to have a big conversation,” he recalled. “You can make gestures.”

While his holdings have grown, he has also formed or led associations and organizations that focus on empowering the Korean population in the United States. As in business, modern communication has made it much easier for him to raise his profile throughout the Korean diaspora well beyond New York.

“The success of my life is not only that I make a lot of money,” he said, “but that I make a lot of Korean people’s lives better.”
他说: “我的成功不仅仅在于我挣了很多钱,更在于我让韩裔人在美国生活得更美好。”

Yet he admitted that he was embarrassed by his inability to speak English. He has gone so far as to buy some English-tutorial computer programs, but for years, they have gone mostly unused.

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2 Responses to 成功的移民企业家在美国不说英语

  1. noch says:

    this situation creates also social and family problems for 2nd, 3rd and now 4th generation immigrants, as they can’t understand their own parents… since they probably speak fluent english in comparison

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