Pennsylvania congresswoman warns against officializing English

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Dec 14 13:45:07 UTC 2005

>>From the U. of Pennsylvania Daily Pennsylvanian
Site URL:

State congresswoman comes to Penn to warn against making English the state

By Ivona Boroje
December 13, 2005

Neither the United States nor Pennsylvania has an official language, and
one state representative is fighting to make sure that this does not
change in this state. The Pennsylvania House State Government Committee
recently presented a motion to declare English the official language of
the state and designate it the only language to be used for government
acts and documents. The measure was defeated. The leader of the
opposition, State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Phila.), discussed the bill at
Penn's Solomon Asch Center on Friday. The talk was arranged by the
Consortium for Language Policy and Planning at Penn.

Josephs said she loves English and has been an English teacher. But she
also serves on the board of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties
Union. Josephs believes that conflicts arise when people have difficulty
communicating with each other. "Almost all problems human beings have with
each other can be traced to misunderstandings in communication," she said.

But making English a state-mandated language is not the solution, she
said. Josephs has said before that this bill discriminates against
Pennsylvanians who speak English poorly. She also believes that having
multiple languages in the U.S. "threatens the economic security of a
certain class of people who think they are 'real' Americans." She added
that "economic insecurity very often translates into political action."

A small audience attended the talk. Most present were part of the
Consortium for Language Policy and Planning. Those who expressed opinions
generally agreed with Josephs. In support of their argument, audience
members highlighted the pluralism on which they feel Pennsylvania was
founded. In the country's early days, there was a substantial German
population in Pennsylvania.

One audience member asked why the Democratic party is not more proactive
in trying to ensure multilingual culture in the United States. Josephs
responded that it would be harder to rally support behind a bill that
attempts to change the status quo in some way.

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