Millionaires in the U.S., but these immigrants don’t speak English

The New York Times tells the story of successful immigrant entrepreneurs who have built their empire while not knowing the language of the country where they have made a fortune. "It is not a handicap for our business"



Felix Sanchez, Zhang Yulong Chol and Kim Ki have at least three things in common. They are all immigrant businessmen in the US, have built huge fortunes out of nothing and did so without knowing any English.


Their stories have landed on the New York Times a few days ago, food for thought in the debate on whether English language proficiency actually is a prerequisite for integration. And beyond the US borders, on the value of introducing good knowledge of the English language as a mandatory requirement for settlement in the UK (and study in the UK).



According to the American Census Bureau, 4.5 million head of households in the United States speak the English language "not well" or "not at all". And in 35,500 cases they earn over $ 200 thousand a year. They succeed, says the sociologist Nancy Foner, immigration expert, thanks to new technologies that allow to do business on a global market.


Mr. Sanchez, who arrived in the United States from Mexico in 1970, started from scratch, selling tortillas on the street, but now has an industry of Mexican food with a turnover of 19 million dollars a year.


“The entire market is Hispanic,” Mr. Sanchez said of his business to the NYT. “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. Zhang began selling mobile phone accessories in Manhattan, then, with money from relatives and Chinese investors, he opened a manufacturing plant in China to make leather cellphone cases for export to the United States, Canada and Latin America, managing the business from New York. He rates his English comprehension at 30%: while his employees speak many languages, he speaks only Chinese. He believes that it is not a handicap, " “The only obstacle I have is if I get too tired,- he says – is fatigue."


Starting from a clothing accessories shop opened in Brooklyn thirty years ago, Korean Kim Ki Chol went on to become a successful retailer, real estate investor and civic leader in the region’s Korean diaspora..He says that his first clients were African-Caribbean and Afro-Americans, who certainly did not speak Korean, but “You don’t have to have a big conversation,” he recalled. “You can make gestures.”


Read the article: Moving to the U.S. and amassing a fortune, no English needed


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