Movement to officialize English not dead

Lynn Goldstein lgoldstein at
Sat Apr 16 14:42:22 UTC 2005

I'm curious if anyone knows of any research that looks at the life
circumstances of those who would fall in this mythical 45%, to get at a
true understanding of what access to English they have.  Who are they,
where do they work, how many jobs do they hold, and how many hours do they
work (do they have time for English classes? do they have access to
English speakers/input?). Are there appropriate, sound English classes
available? What about people who are not working, where do they live, what
is the degree of enclosure, do they have access to English classes (how
many classes are there really, how many students get turned away or are on
waiting lists, how affordable are they, how good are the programs), can
they afford them if they are not free, can they get to them (do they have
cars, access to public transportation, money for public

I am so tired of hearing that if we only legislate English "they" will
learn it, a sentiment held, and a statement made without anyone as far as
I can tell looking at whether access to English is present in general, or
access to good ESL classes is available or feasible, in particular. Is
there any research that looks at this?


lgpolicy-list at on Saturday, April 16, 2005 at 6:45 AM
+0000 wrote:
>>>From the New Hampshire, Union-Leader, April 16, 2005
>Commentary:  Maintaining our common culture through our common language
>                      By MAURO E. MUJICA
>                      Guest Commentary
>                      BEGINNING at the decisive moment in the 2004
>Presidential election, the nation cast its political eye forward to 2008.
>As is always the case, the nation will fix its gaze on the citizens of New
>Hampshire, whose first-in-the-nation status confers great power to shape
>national debate. One such debate will concern the national response to
>Americas unprecedented levels of immigration. New Hampshires international
>border may not be the one making national news. However, the Granite
>States legacy as the place where ideas are created, debated, and crafted
>into policy make it the natural location to begin the discussion of what
>it means to be an American.
>                      Our common language English must play a vital role
>in this debate.  From Portsmouth to Plymouth, Keene to Concord, most
>Granite Staters can trace their ancestors to a foreign land, and therefore
>a foreign language. No one expects English upon arrival, but we would not
>have become one people if our forbearers had not proudly spoken accented
>English. Official English laws rest on a principle gleaned from this
>experience. The expectation that immigrants learn English is a fundamental
>American value, and our nations laws should reflect our values.
>                      In 1995, New Hampshire sensibly became one of the 27
>states that now recognize English as the official language of state
>government. Unfortunately, there is still no national policy, leaving
>federal agencies to make ad-hoc decisions that almost never promote
>assimilation.  In federal offices around the country, newcomers can
>receive basic services like Social Security and Medicaid in everything
>from Spanish to Tagalog. But immigrants who have been in the United States
>for 15 years can still receive services in their native tongue. The result
>is an entitlement program that makes not even the gentlest demands of
>those who receive the assistance.  This is absolutely unparalleled in
>American governance: when the able-bodied receive services like
>unemployment or welfare payments, we insist they undertake good-faith
>efforts to become self-sufficient.
>                      Congress is considering legislation that would enact
>the balanced judgment that language assistance, while occasionally
>necessary, is not an entitlement.  Federal agencies would retain the
>flexibility to offer translation services when necessary, such as to
>protect public health and to fulfill the needs of the justice system. A
>similar bill overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in 1996,
>and the matter deserves the attention of both the House and Senate in
>                      Although opposition to such a measure is
>occasionally shrill, the most reasonable objection is that immigrants
>already learn English at acceptable levels, and that an emphasis on
>English is an unnecessary push. While this view is laudably optimistic, it
>collides with the known facts. The Pew Hispanic Center recently found
>among Mexican migrants who have lived in the United States for six to ten
>years, 45 percent speak English either a little or not at all. Among those
>with more than 15 years in the United States, the figure is an identical
>45 percent. The implication is clear: if immigrants dont begin the
>transition to English upon arrival and many do not the transition never
>                      If we are to successfully remain a nation of
>immigrants, the transition to learning English and becoming an American is
>vital.  While English language acquisition is in immigrants economic
>interest, it also a matter of great public interest, because it goes to
>the core of what type of nation we want to be.  We should never be an
>English-only society, but neither should we become an English-optional
>society. By enacting a policy that reflects this value, our nation will
>rightly place its accent on helping todays newcomers become the next great
>generation of Americans.
>                      Mauro E. Mujica is a naturalized citizen and the
>Chairman of the Board of U.S. English

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