# "First generation" means the immigrants - or their children?

1. The way I learned the meaning of “first generation,” it’s the first people in a family to live in a given country. That means they came from somewhere else. My grandparents were born in Sicily, they immigrated here before having kids, they were first-generation Sicilian-Americans. My dad is second-generation, and I’m third-generation, by this definition.

2. It can be confusing because sometimes I hear it used to mean the first generation that was born in a given country. So their parents, who after all had to move here from somewhere else for the kids to be born here, should be numbered what? The zeroth generation? They didn’t just drop off the newborns in foster care and hightail it back to the old country. They settled here, became naturalized citizens, and raised the kids.

We don’t usually use “zeroth”* as an ordinal (outside of certain branches of mathematics, perhaps). So it looks clear to me that definition 1 is the only correct one. Is there any general agreement as to which is right?

*OK, I just looked and found that some wiseacre blogger actually is using the phrase “the zeroth generation” http://www.zerothgeneration.com/ for immigrants. So who’s right?

My understanding was that the immigrants were first generation and their children second generation. Never heard the zeroth thing.

I’ve always understood to be the second meaning. My Great Grandparents were from the Old Country, My Granparents were the First Generation (to be born in America).

They’re not Zeroeth, they’re from the Old Country, like all the generations before them, who aren’t issued negative numbers. Sounds like GD material to me, or dueling cites.

{banjo} Bend-de-ben-de-ben-de-ben-de-ben {/banjo}

Generation = birth. As in, “the people of my generation” means “the people born in the same year or era as me”.

So “First Generation American” = “First Generation (in your family tree) to become Americans”, I suppose this is possibly meant to mean citizenship, but usually is used in the context of “growing up in this country” versus the “Old Country”, i.e., to have “internalized” some kind of inherent American-ness.

So it’s a bit vague. In my experience, if your great-grandparents “came from the Old Country” when they were adults, especially if they came over already married, and then your grandparents were born to them here, most people would call your grandparents the “first generation”, not the great-grandparents. On the other hand, if your GGP came over as children and met in the US while going to school, most people would call your GGP the “first generation”, and your grandparents “second generation”.

Just to further cloud the issue: issei refers to a Japanese immigrant (especially to the U.S.) and literally means “first generation”; nisei or “second generation” is the American-born son or daughter of Japanese immigrants; and sansei or “third generation” is the second generation to be born in the U.S. (the grandchildren of the Japanese-born isseis).

My understanding as well, with the caveat that context is given.

First generation = born here.

I’ve always understood “first generation” to mean first generation born here. But I can understand the confusion.

Really? My Asian American Studies professors always promoted the theory that first generation were the immigrants and the second generation were the children who were born in the new country. There is also discussion of a “1.5 generation” or children who were born in the old country but were essentially raised and lived the rest of their lives in the new country.

I can see that.

But I still disagree that anybody that just moved here can classify themself as any “generation”.

Further, the whole title flaunting thing pretty much subtracts credibility, in my world.

My father has always claimed to be first generation American, of Italian immigrants. I think that first generation = first generation (of whatever nationality) to be born in the new country.

What of a family who immigrates while the children are old enough to be members of the “Old Country”'s culture and speak the language fluently, but young enough to adopt a native-sounding American English accent and integrate fully into American culture as well? My best friend in high school was just such a child. Is she “first-generation”, or would her (American-born, we’ll assume) kids be first-generation?

The whole thing is subjective, therefore, there can be no GQ answer.

I say you have to be born the in country to be first generation.

My maternal grandparents were born in Lithuania, and I’ve always referred to my mother as “first-generation American.”

What title flaunting? Did I miss something?

This starts to look like a controversy on the order of “the week starts on Sunday” vs. “the week starts on Monday” - or “next Saturday” means this week vs. it means next week.

Mom born in Italy and arrived in Venzuela at age 2. I consider myself to be first-generation Venezuelan. So does she.

My personal barometer would be, if they can “pass” as native Americans (not Native Americans, mind you), they count as 1st Gen under this rule of thumb.

True cultural duality is pretty rare though. Kudos to those who achieve and maintain it.

I always referred to myself as “second-generation Canadian” because both I and my parents were born here, but my grandparents were born overseas.

You might think this phrase had a well understood meaning, but I hear both. However I think I hear “first generation” meaning the first generation living here more often than meaning the first generation born here. Of course, “the first generation to live here” and “the first generation born here” are both perfectly clear and well defined.

Well, the dictionary doesn’t provide much clarity beyond saying that both meanings are used. Which we’ve figured out on our own, Mr. Webster

We’ll settle this issue next Thursday. Don’t you think that’s reasonable? (Yes or No?)