Bilingual Education research

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Jun 5 15:54:10 UTC 2001

rudy troike:
 > Incidentally, it was widely reported that one reason so many
 >Hispanics in California voted against BE was that they feared an
 >Anglo backlash if they didn't.

 > The depth of popular xenophobia toward other languages was brought
 >home to me one day when in a cafeteria line I heard a woman behind
 >me, who was evidently a waitress in a local cafe, proudly telling
 >her friends that she had told a table of customers "jabbering in
 >some other language" that she would not serve them unless they spoke

california hispanics had some reason to fear anglo backlash, given
things that happened after the "official english" law was passed
in the state.

i think i've told some of these stories here before, but a
considerable number of anglos seem to have understood the "official
english" law as a bar to the use of any language other than english
*in public places*.  some cities proposed ordinances banning signs in
any language other than english; SE HABLA ESPAN~OL and mexican
restaurant signs that named dishes in spanish were particularly
singled out as offensive.  there were people who called for ordinances
banning speech in any language other than english in public places,
like on the street or in restaurants and stores.  (a surprising number
of people seem to be affronted by hearing conversations they can't
understand.)  other people wrote angry letters to the bus company in
san jose; they were enraged that bus signs in spanish, chinese, and
vietnamese (as well as english) still stood, even after english had
been declared the official language of california.

well, the bus company explained that their business was to serve their
customers and to increase their ridership, so they'd print signs in
whatever languages a significant number of potential riders seemed to
need.  (most banks have atm instructions in at least spanish as well
as english, for similar reasons.)  and the flurry of laws and
ordinances either failed to pass, or were struck down by the courts.
so, in a sense the initial anti-hispanic wave of opinion died down.

but it has scarcely gone away.  every time the election booklets
go out, there's a lot of anglo grumbling about the fact that they're
printed in spanish as well as english, and that information in
vietnamese and chinese is available to anyone who asks for it.
why is the state spending money on languages other than english,
our official language, these folks want to know.  (the booklets
i get say, somewhat defensively "Federal law requires Santa Clara
County to provide election materials in Spanish as well as English."
the suggestion is that left to their own, the election officials
in santa clara county would do it all in english only, but that
those damn heavy-handed feds forced them to produce the instructions
in spanish as well.)

the "official english" law didn't create anti-hispanic sentiment.
but it certainly legitimated the public expression of such
sentiments, and that, i think, is definitely a bad result.

arnold (zwicky at, off to vote (in english)

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