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Exercice - Immigrant


Texte A : A Chinese family

Frank McCourt tells of his experience as a teacher at Stuyvesant High School, New York.

When the class ended Ben Chan lingered in the room. Mr McCourt, could I talk to you? He knew what I was saying about poverty. The kids in this class didn’t understand anything. But it wasn’t their fault and I shouldn’t get mad. He was twelve when he came to this country four years ago. He knew no English but he -studied hard and learned enough English and mathematics to pass the Stuyvesant High School entrance exam. He was happy to be here and his whole family was so proud of him. People back in China were proud of him. He competed against fourteen thousand kids to get into this school. His father worked six days a week, twelve hours a day, in a restaurant in Chinatown. His mother worked in a downtown sweatshop. Every night she cooked dinner for the whole family, five children, her husband, herself. Then she helped them get their clothes ready for the next day. Every month she had younger ones try on the clothes of the older kids to see if they’d fit. She said when everyone was grown and none of the clothes fit anymore, she’d keep them for the next family from China or she’d send them right over there. Americans could never understand the excitement in a Chinese family when something came from America. His mother made sure the children sat at the kitchen table and did their homework. He could never call his parents silly names like Mom or Dad. That would be so disrespectful. They learned English words every day so that they could talk to teachers and keep up with the children. Ben said every-one in this family respected everyone else and they’d never laugh at a teacher talking about the poor people of France because it could 25 just as easily be China or even Chinatown right here in New York.

I told him the story of his family was impressive and moving and wouldn’t it be a tribute to his mother if he were to write it and read it to the class?

Oh, no, he could never do that. Never.

Why not? Surely the kids in the class would learn something and appreciate what they have.

He said, no, he could never write or talk to anyone else about his family because his father and mother would be ashamed.

Frank McCourt, Teacher Man, 2005.


Texte B : Why immigrants’ children do better in school

Children who immigrate to the United States with their families are likely to outperform kids with a similar background who were born here. And when they grow up, their own children are also likely to do better than their peers. But by the third generation, that advantage will be gone. [...] That may fit a pattern some Americans see of so many kids from Asia who excel in everything from music to science as they embrace a new culture. But it holds for all immigrants, including those from Mexico who often arrive here in a desperate flight from poverty.

It doesn’t mean that a poor kid who arrives here as a preteen will do better than an American kid from a wealthy family that values education, of course. But compared to an American youth with a similar background, the immigrant will have certain advantages.

“They have higher expectations, they make a higher effort, and they have better cultural tools,” sociologist Lingxin Hao, lead author of the study, said in a telephone interview. “Their culture is not just American.”
They have the experience of living their first years in a very different culture, “so they have cultural diversity and they are able to take the best part of both and use it while in school,” she added. That will continue to help them transition into adulthood.
The study indicates the immigrants are more likely to succeed because they arrived here with high expectations, their parents expect them to work harder, and it’s likely they will have a stronger relationship than their American peers with their teachers.
In most other countries, particularly Asia, “teachers are somebody,” Hao said. “They educate you, so you have to respect them.”

Lee Dye, “Why Immigrants’ Children Do Better in School”,, Sept. 21, 2012.


  • Question 1

    Texte A

    Where does the scene take place? 

  • Question 2

    Write what you know about Ben Chan (age, origin, languages, family members).

  • Question 3

    Select from the list below three values which are important for Ben Chan and his parents : individualism, ambition, respect, competition, solidarity, tolerance.

    In each case, justify your choice with a quotation from the text.

  • Question 4

    Text B

    “Why Immigrant’s Children Do Better in School”. Pick out from the text four characteristics which, according to the report, help these children to succeed.

  • Question 5

    Both texts

    Find quotations to match those indicated below (there is no need to copy the given quotation) :

    A) Text A: “They’d never laugh at a teacher”. Text B: ...

    B) Text A: “He knew what I was saying about poverty”. Text B: ...

    C) Text A: ... Text B: “Their parents expect them to work harder”.

    D) Text A: ... Text B: “Children who immigrate to the United States with their families are likely to outperform kids with a similar background who were born here”.