The US has never adopted a national language. Until fairly recently, it was just assumed that people who chose to live here would learn to speak English. Now an increasing population in the Hispanic community is changing that; I can foresee a situation here in the US similar to that in Canada, where the province of Quebec has declared itself to be officially a French-language province, New Brunswick is officially bilingual in French and English, and the rest of the country officially speaks English. This situation has had a tremendous financial impact in Canada, where all governmental bodies must conduct all their business in both languages.
My question is, what do you think the US should do? Should we adopt English as an official language? Declare ourselves officially bilingual, and figure out how to handle the expense of doing so? Or should this be done on a state-by-state basis?
11 Answers | Add Yours
I do not think there is any need to adopt an official language. I think that the idea that Hispanic immigrants will change the assumption that people need to learn English is simply incorrect.
In the school where I teach, we are around 70% Hispanic. There is a mix of recent immigrants and families who have been in the US for at least a generation. The vast majority of the students are trying hard to assimilate into American culture. Hispanic immigrants know that learning English is the only way to truly achieve the standard of living that they have come to the US to have. They (or at least their children) are not trying to create their own separate Quebec-style enclave in the US. I think we need to realize that Hispanic immigrants are like previous waves of immigrants who really want their kids to be successful Americans. Therefore, there is no need to worry about creating an official language.
I don't think we should adopt a national language in the sense that people are not able to speak their own language. America has a lot of immigrants, and a history of accepting them without much fuss. We believe in making people feel comfortable with their own culture. This includes allowing them to speak their own language. I do believe immigrants should learn English.
There has, from the very beginning, been a view of America as the melting pot of various cultures and peoples who choose to live there rather than a salad bowl, with each culture maintaining its distinctive parts. Whether this is a right or correct view is another matter, but I agree with #2 and #3 that America has historically received immigrants since its inception without any struggles regarding language.
I would definitely not agree with legislating a national language. The whole idea goes against my understanding of what our national historic attitude toward a diversity of people and cultures means. The Statue of Liberty doesn't require that the immigrants she is welcoming speak English.
When immigrants came into Ellis Island from mostly European countries, they spoke many different languages. At the time, Fiorello LaGuardia (after whom the airport in New York is named at once mayor of NYC) was an interpreter in several languages, assisting many. Nevertheless, it was not long before these new people became citizens and learned to speak English. When telephones became household staples, there was no button to push for Spanish or any other language other than English. But, people wanted to speak English, anyway. The children of immigrants who heard Italian, or Polish, or Norweigan, or Swedish in the home responded in English. They told their parents they were Americans.
Having a language that is spoken throughout a country unifies this country. When these new immigrants learned English they considered themselves Americans. Nowadays, there are many living in the U.S. who do not consider themselves Americans. They just live here, and they speak only their native tongue. Language is culture; it unifies people. There should have been a national language established centuries ago. Don't other countries have a national language?
Many immigrants to America are already multilingual with fluency in English--of course there are also many who are not. My own experience, from having lived in an area very attractive to immigrants from many nations (including my grandparents!), is that the immigrants expect and desire to speak English and work to achieve fluency for themselves and their children, of course different individuals attain different levels of proficiency and fluency. Without contradiction, they also expect to maintain their own language and cultural traditions, a predisposition that has not hurt America as these traditions expand America's breadth of daily experience. Long live curry, tacos, lasagne, and Cinco de Mayo!
I may be going against popular opinion here, but I am definitely for adopting English as the US official language. This has nothing to do with not appreciating the various cultures that mix here in America, but everything to do with clarity and expediency in running society and respect for the country the immigrants have adopted as their own.
My best friend immigrated here from Romania knowing no English, however she worked feverishly to learn the language because she was so grateful and proud of the country that took her in when Ceausescu forced her out that she wanted to become part of it.
I think this kind of thinking binds us together to make us a stronger nation. It doesn't mean we don't cherish and keep alive the customs, language, and traditions of our ancestors (I am biligual and proud of it), it just means that we will all be able to understand each other better, feel more unity, and be able to conduct business with more clarity.
I have a purely economic reason for adopting English as the official of America. Too much money is spent ensuring that official documents, such as ballots, are printed in the languages of the constituency. The costs are staggering in states like California, of course; thecosts are more modest in places which have a more homogeneous population. In both cases, however, only one set of ballots would have to be made if there were one official language. Signs, documents, forms--all in one langauge only. Of course, this monetary savings has other kinds of costs attatched to it, but from an economic standpoint it makes some sense.
There is no need to declare an official language. As to the argument regarding the economic hardship posed by having to print various documents in a variety of languages (usually English and Spanish), I suppose the main reason that the government and manufacturers of products print bilingual forms is because they recognize the reality that there are many people in this country who do not speak or read English proficiently, so instead of trying change something that cannot be easily (or realistically) changed, they make these documents as accessible to as many of the most commonly-spoken languages as they can. Hey, in many respects it's cheaper to print a form in English, Spanish and Chinese than it would be to hire a plethora of people who speak languages other than English to work in a call center to exclusively answer the questions of confused people who can't read the forms because they were printed only in English.
The national language should be English.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes