Tuesday, June 10, 2008

English - the official language of the United States

I don't know what the hub-bub is all about having ballots in a kazillion different languages.  We voted - when our nation was formed - that English was the official language of the new nation.  Do we have to keep doing that over and over again?
English is the language of the United States of America.  It was voted on at our founding.  Any and all "official" ballots printed in any other language other than English should not be counted and should be considered "null and void".
Upon receiving citizenship, a naturalized citizen must prove some marginal fluency in English.  Why?  Because English is the official language of our nation.  End of story.
Aside from being generally offensive and insulting to me as an American citizen, all ATM machines which use more than English for transactions should be closed.  No ballots or census documents should be printed in any language other than English.  End of story. 
Our greatest strength and the greatest flexibility and mobility offered to our citizens is through the use of English as our national language.  In my particular case, I have life-time teaching credentials in California yet I cannot teach in selected areas because those areas have essentially been given back to Mexico, not Spain as should be the case.  In any event, no American should be hindered from access to any part of our nation because of a language barrier.  
Interestingly, at our founding, two languages were voted upon - English and German.  English won by one vote to be the official language of the new nation.  That vote has never been changed.  So, let's get on with promoting our national cohesion, our language which is English which offers all of our citizens the greatest path to mobility and assimilation into the American culture, not a hyphenated culture, not a fragmented culture, but a unique American culture that - regardless what socialist politicians say - has enabled us to meet our challenges and will enable us to do so again and again and again as Americans, not as hyphens who cannot communicate with each other.
Let's admit that it is difficult enough to communicate within the scope of one unifying language, we don't need to compound the problem, do we?

16 Comments:

Blogger Findalis said...

What we need is a Constitutional Amendment stating this with an exception for emergency and medical information.

BTW: Like the site. Do you mind if I put up a link?

11:54 PM  
Blogger Cristina M. said...

I agree that it should be the only language spoken in public, and written on all produces. At home everybody can speak whatever they want.

Besides, with two languages, history shows us that we will divide. And divided we fail.

2:40 AM  
Blogger Eric Bakovic said...

What's your source for this? English has never been "official" at the federal level -- that's precisely why there are groups like US English, English Only, and so on who have since the 1980s been very successful at making English official in various states. (Their ultimate goal is to accomplish this at the federal level, but so far they've been unsuccessful at that.) An accurate and up-to-date summary of the situation can be found in this Wikipedia article; the first sentence begins: "The United States does not have an official language ...".

I'm not saying you shouldn't believe that English should be the official language of the United States. But you're simply misinformed if you think it already is.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Beach Girl said...

Eric, I don't remember the exact source. I recall during some graduate course or other, it was noted that during our founding, a vote was taken, perhaps by the Continental Congress on the choice of language. I was surprised to learn that the choices were German or English and that English "won" by one vote. I am not misinformed unless the text that I read and the professor as well were misinformed - not saying that that is not possible.

Perhaps, it could be argued that "it" was not voted on by our existing House and Senate but I do recall having studied that it was voted on during our founding as a nation.

Thank you for the Wikipedia link.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Eric Bakovic said...

Another link you may find helpful in this regard: James Crawford's Language Policy site. Check out the Official English page in particular.

Christina M.: 'history' shows nothing about multiple languages being divisive. Many well-established nations have more than one official language and show no signs of problems because of it. As I said in my previous comment, it's one thing to have a political opinion about an issue, but it's another to base it on false information.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

You and your professor were misinformed. (But it's a common enough mistake.)

The vote was well after the War of Independence etc. and the question was only on whether to print laws in German so they could be understood by some Pennsylvanians:
"On January 13, 1795, Congress considered a proposal, not to give German any official status, but merely to print the federal laws in German as well as English." http://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/officialamerican/englishonly/

7:54 PM  
Blogger mady said...

Beach Girl, sounds like you might be thinking of the Muhlenberg legend, see Wikipedia here.

BTW, what about braille on those ATM machines or elsewhere? And how about American Sign Language (which is not signed English)? And which variety of American English do you want to be official? I'm Australian and I have trouble understanding some varieties but not others, so there's a fair bit of difference.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I think http://www.snopes.com/language/apocryph/german.asp is what you're thinking of.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

Sorry CBG but the German story is a complete myth. There was no vote. You've been hoodwinked.

Google 'united states official language german myth' for loads of links, e.g.: http://www.watzmann.net/scg/german-by-one-vote.html

3:41 AM  
Blogger dferguson said...

Why would a conservative want to restrict businesses desiring to serve as many customers as possible as easily as possible -- e.g., by prohibiting a bank from having languages other than English on its ATMs? What happened to the free market?

The almost-German-by-one-vote is a complete myth, though one often repeated. Even U.S. English calls it a "patently absurd story" here.

I'm afraid your initial premise -- that "we voted" on this way back when -- is incorrect. On the other hand, we did approve -- and have since amended and extended -- the Voting Rights Act, which includes protections for citizens who speak languages other than English.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Krisnawan said...

Well, someone was misinformed, that much is clear... The vote was only about whether the laws passed by Congress should be published in German as well in addition to English. As you might imagine, the myth that German almost became the official language of the United States is often recounted in Germany, and it's always a pleasure for me to debunk it, whenever it comes up.... Snopes has an article on it as well

9:28 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

"Let's admit that it is difficult enough to communicate within the scope of one unifying language, we don't need to compound the problem, do we?"

I don't find it difficult to communicate... maybe you're doing something wrong.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Beach Girl said...

Thank you all for your comments and links. We have had a tragic loss recently and I hope you will forgive my lapse in replying more quickly.

On signing - yes, I am familiar with the differences here and also in America our dialects and colloquial differences sometimes require a bit of adjustment; however, having a common language that is generally written the same way allows us great freedom of movement from place to place within our nation. This freedom has been responsible for our mobility and our ability to "reach" the American Dream as we each define it.

Ken Hamblin, a radio talk show host, has defined it rather well. And recently I have been reading that along with their massive network of roads, the Romans also carried with them a common language (let's set aside the power thing for a minute) that enabled travel to more people than would have otherwise been possible.

We need a common language in America. While there is nothing wrong with being bilingual or multilingual, one of our strengths as a nation has been a common language which for the time being is English. That may well change to Spanish within the nation but we can expect English to be the universal language of commerce for some time to come regardless of what our "national" language is.

Since we're on the subject, if citizenship requires rudimentary knowledge of English and only citizens can vote, why do we waste tax dollars printing ballots in so many languages? A few years back, the French went through a frenzy of ridding their language of any and all of the Anglo words that they could.

I don't suggest that. Burrito is as much English now as it is Spanish, right? So is Taco!

But in elementary school, we must teach English and teach it hard to all of our young students regardless of what language is spoken at home. The children need to be mobile, period.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Would you at least acknowledge that native Americans have a special status, given that they were here first? They didn't migrate to the United States and they certainly didn't ask to have the Union forced upon them. If you're offended and insulted that ATMs offer multiple languages including your own, just imagine how native Americans must feel when they find multiple European languages on offer but not Navaho!

If so, you should also acknowledge that many of the Hispanic families in Texas, New Mexico and California have been living there since before those areas were annexed to the United States. They didn't move, the borders did.

No one is suggesting that English shouldn't be taught in all schools. They're just suggesting that English should be taught as a second language to those for whom it is a second language. That's just good pedagogy!

9:23 AM  
Blogger Findalis said...

Native Americans were here first but their ancestors migrated here from elsewhere thousands of years ago.

Mexicans lost the South Western US in the Mexican-American War of 1846. Look it up. They paid the price with land.

2:39 AM  
Blogger cinimonluver said...

2 languages will not split us up-- it can/ will bring us closer together- and im trying to learn spanish right now since i reside in cali, but the point is that we r one of the only countries that don't really enforce or push our students to be multilingual--- pssshh forget bilingual-- many german high school students know about 5-6 languages and still want to learn more!! i wish our country would be more determined in that way- then we wouldnt have to be worried about things such as this--- not to say that im taken out of the group of "americans" who only know 1 language...cuz, im just as well guilty for not knowing another language... but these are just simple thoughts... on a well spoken about topic

1:58 AM  

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