What Is an Example of Cultural Assimilation?

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Cultural assimilation occurs when members of one cultural group adopt the language, practices and beliefs of another group, often losing aspects of their traditional culture in the process. One example involves the forced assimilation of Native Americans, who were required to attend government-funded boarding schools and forbidden to speak their traditional languages. As of today, only 112 of the roughly 300 original Native American languages are still spoken.

Cultural assimilation also occurs when immigrants voluntarily adopt their new country’s language and cultural practices to integrate into society and improve their chances of economic and social gain. Social acceptance is often easier for groups whose culture and appearance more closely resemble those of the majority group. Though Italian and Irish immigrants to the United States were originally looked down on by Americans of English descent, they were eventually absorbed into the dominant white culture. Second- and third-generation children of immigrants from Asian countries, on the other hand, continue to experience stereotypes that mark them both as a “model minority” and “forever foreigners,” which are groups that have severe difficulty fully integrating into mainstream U.S. society.

The counterpart to cultural assimilation is multiculturalism, in which cultural diversity is encouraged and valued as beneficial to society.