andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Thu Jun 1 04:10:39 UTC 2006
Drop language bill
We should have pride in our country and in the things that make us
Americans, including our common language. But America has never been
a country in which only English has been spoken, so it’s with regret
that the Senate passed a bill earlier this month proclaiming English
the national language.
The Senate measure, which was approved 63 to 34, wants to “preserve
and enhance” the role of English by restricting federal
communications or services to English without altering current laws
that require some documents and services in other languages.
We don’t need a language law, though, for a few good reasons.
For one, English is the predominant language in the United States,
and nothing in more than 200 years of nationhood has threatened its
unofficial status. Up until the 1980s, few even thought about the
need for a national language declaration.
The proposal, if it becomes law, also is an affront to this
Many Native Americans still speak their native languages. They are
proud of their languages, as they should be, and it doesn’t make
someone less of an American if they do not speak English.
But the simple fact of the matter is that most people naturally will
assimilate and lose their native language, and if not them, their
children. Again, that’s something that has been happening throughout
our history and is happening right now at a rate greater than ever.
But English-only supporters raise unfounded fears that somehow things
are different today and English will be squeezed out of existence. It
won’t, even given the diverse world we live in. Just because the
merchandise signs at Lowe’s are in English and Spanish and product
assembly instructions are printed in four or five languages, it does
not mean suddenly the Senate will become bilingual.
And lastly, opponents to the national language bill are correct — if
made law, the Senate’s bill could eventually negate executive
orders, regulations, civil service guidances and other multilingual
ordinances not officially sanctioned by acts of Congress.
We are and have been a big country, big enough to accommodate many
people with many ideas and languages. Their presence doesn’t affect
the status of English — it never has — but the Senate’s national
language bill does make us look small-minded.
Originally published May 31, 2006
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