November 22, 2005

Should English Be Our National Language

While on my way home I heard a couple of men debating ways to try and improve unity within the US. One of their arguments was insisting that English be declared the national language and mandating that all documents only be available in English.

I have a number of thoughts about this but am interested in hearing yours. What do you think?

12 comments:

kevin said...

Hmm. I think that English has already been declared the national language of the U.S. It's my understanding that this happened during the "Articles of Confederation" period. And there was one vote between our nation's language being English and GERMAN. Can you believe it?

MC Aryeh said...

English is already the official language, no? It seems kind of wrong to only have documents and other things in english. I know I appreciate when things are available in my language when I am in other countries. Why shouldn't others have the same courtesy here?

At the same time, however, I think that all immigrants to the U.S. should be required to learn english...

Robbie said...

The US has no official language, actually, and I like it that way. Sure, it would be easier to only let English-speaking people in - (it would certainly keep out all of the people who are "different") - but what's the fun in that?

And in the serious side, if we're supposed to take their "tired, hungry and poor" then we'll need to take them as they are. We can help them learn English, and we should, but, in the meantime, we'll have to teach them about America and its customs another way.

The Misanthrope said...

It doesn't really matter too much to me, just make sure it's marked clearly. I didn't realize Best Buy had signs in English and Spanish, so I couldn't find what I was looking for thinking I was in the wrong section.

Ric said...

The people will ultimately decide the language they speak. Language is culture and you can't ram that down anyone's throat and have them embrace it willingly.

Right now if the majority forces the minority to english, what will be the argument 100 years from now when the border states decide to switch to spanish?

We find the english/german debate funny now, but after the revolution, there were a heck of a lot of Germans in some areas of the country.

People change, Populations change. Language changes. Trying to legislate it is like trying to nail jello to a tree.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Here in Canada, we have had endless political drama based on our two official languages. Sometimes it even breaks out in Quebec sports: like when Al McNeil (anglophone) benched Henri Richard (francophone). McNeil coached the Canadians to the Stanley Cup that year, but still lost his job because of the dispute with Richard.

An immigrant from Europe once said to me, "I don't understand why Canadians have a problem with two languages. Where I came from, no one was unilingual — everyone spoke three or four languages." (She herself spoke seven.)

I think Spanish will become an official language of the USA eventually. And I think that would be a good thing.

Languages are enriching. I deeply regret that I speak only English.
Q

Anne said...

Our parents were ashamed of Bubbe and Zayde's heavy Yiddish accents, and as a result, Yiddish is as endangered as the snail darter.

I've encountered Mexican-American parents who only want to speak English to their kids and I tell them they're nuts. Bi- and multi-lingual kids' brains grow differently; studies have shown they're more capable of abstract thought at an early age, since they learn that the meaning of words can be arbitrary.

More language is good. It's good for the brain, it's good for society.

Irina Tsukerman said...

I think we do need an official language (and it should be English, since that is what our historical heritage is), but we should also encourage children to learn other languages and preserve their culture at home. Knowing more languages is only to an advantage. However, I agree that having a single language will definitely be a unifying factor.

Daled Amos said...

You mean that knowing what everyone else is saying is actually going to _increase_ unity?

Jack's Shack said...

Kevin,

Stranger things have hadppened.

MC,

I think that it is reasonable to provide docs and info in several languages. I also think that it is reasonable to ask people to learn the common tongue of whatever country they are in.

Robbie,Ric, Irina, Q, IE,

I am a huge proponent of speaking multiple languages which is why my son attends a school that provides a complete Hebrew immersion program.

I grew up in a house where multiple languages were spoken.

But I think that there is a need to try and encourage people to speak at least one common tongue.

Misanthrope,

The Spanish section at Best Buy, I have done that.

DA,

I overheard the conversation and replayed it here. I don't know that it will resolve all of the cultural issues, but it can't hurt us.

Bill said...

I agree with the statement"But I think that there is a need to try and encourage people to speak at least one common tongue."

However, wouldn't legislating one official language justify the right wings claim that the WASP heritage is superior?

Jack's Shack said...

Bill,

I wouldn't be in favor of legislating a particular tongue. I don't have any exceptionally bright ideas other than I think that we should push people to all learn how to speak a common language.

Not very helpful, but........