Movement to officialize English not dead

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Apr 19 19:50:51 UTC 2005

Lynn and others:

I'm interested in the kinds of statistics in general that are used in
these kinds of claims.  Another message I sent around today (cloned from
USEnglish, I think) claimed that 92% of the world's countries have
official languages.  Is there anywhere that one can verify such claims?
Who keeps stats on these things?


On Sat, 16 Apr 2005, Lynn Goldstein wrote:

> 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
> transportation)......
> 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?
> Lynn
> 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
> >2005.
> >
> >                      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
> >begins.
> >
> >                      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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