Sprechen ze American?

I’ve been following the coverage by Bilingual in the Boonies on Nashville’s proposed English-only law. As One Who Is Interested In Such Things, it’s something that, like immigration, I’m still on the fence about. While our country doesn’t have an official language, it’s part of our multichromatic tradition that people just… learn English. “But we’re a nation of immigrants!” “We have to respect the cultural identity of our neighbors!”. “They’ll learn English anyway…”

This post is the FOR. That is, arguments FOR English-only legislation. Stay tuned for the AGAINST. Perhaps blogging the two sides will help me sort all this out!

I met a woman at a Colombian restaurant the other day who has been here 15 years. She doesn’t speak English.I have students who have been in the US since they were in elementary school and still don’t know how to identify a verb. The lady who cleans the house where I used to be a nanny came from Nicaragua 22 years ago. She can’t do anything outside of her routine for fear of not being able to speak English.

Bilingual seems to think that everyone melts in eventually. Perhaps historically that’s happened, but the US has never assimilated the millions of immigrants at the accelerated rate we are presently. In fact, no country has, and remained a united country. We’ve also not had the emphasis on cultural studies so en vogue at the present. “Respecting their native culture” has come to mean that millions of people never adapt.

And it’s not from a lack of opportunity. Free English classes are available in no less than fifteen places within a 5-mile radius of my home. The technical college down the road from me has state-funded adult education classes, with teachers that have MAs in ESL. Schedules that can work with people in full-time jobs (do I sound like an infomercial yet? Call today for your informational DVD!!!).

Language serves to unite. Barriers are breached, and people can share more than air. English-only legislation can aid in the eventual immersion of new immigrants to our shores. It can save local governments money by obviating the need for translations of official documents. And it can be a way for those who come here for a new life to show respect and honor for our many, varied American traditions.

(The against to follow! Meanwhile, tell me what you think…)

P.S. Bonus points if you can identify which American President said the following:

“[the immigrant must become] an American and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here…We have room for but one flag, the American flag…We have room for but one language here; and that is the English language…and we have room for but one sole loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people”.

(Playing “God Bless the USA” in the background optional).

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8 Responses to Sprechen ze American?

  1. Sometimes my daughter says to her papá, “You need Inglés sin Barreras.” It makes us all laugh. And I love that scene in Spanglish when Flor orders it.

  2. faemom says:

    Great arguements! I can’t wait to read your against! I always feel bad for people who don’t speak English; I figure it must be very hard to live in a place where you can’t comunicate easily. My grandma’s grandparents spoke only French (on her father’s side) and only Polish (on her mother’s side) and both sets were NOT first generation. Heck I’m twelth generation on that Polish side. So this problem isn’t new, and I would think that immigrants would want to learn English so that they didn’t feel so helpless. But here is another issue that I must admit I’m on the fence as well.
    And I love “Spanglish!” (the movie, not the pseudo-language)

  3. antropologa says:

    Yeah, I just don’t think you can legislate learning English, only make things tougher on those who haven’t. And they already have it bad.

    And you and I both know–learning a language isn’t always so easy.

  4. Emily says:

    what i love about you is that you will argue both sides.

  5. minnesotameetskarnataka says:

    I do agree with Bilingual that everyone will blend in eventually. How long that eventually will be differs widely.

    It would make it easier for immigrants and those trying to help them if the immigrants spoke English. Resources should be made freely available to encourage people to learn English, but I don’t see how legislating it will help-would probably create more waste and headaches.

  6. P.S. I’ve tagged you for the “6 Random Things” meme.

  7. ck says:

    Looking forward to the next one…

    I feel smarter after reading your blogs!

  8. Your blog should be required reading for lawmakers…

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