Gingrich Backs English Official Language Push

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jan 26 14:37:06 UTC 2007

Gingrich Backs English Official Language Push

By Payton Hoegh and Fred Lucas Correspondent and Staff Writer
January 25, 2007

( - A significant majority of Americans don't believe the
federal government is doing enough to promote English as the country's
preeminent language, according to a Zogby International Poll released
Tuesday. The poll comes as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich adds his
voice to calls for Congress to pass a bill to make English the official
language. A bill introduced in the House last week calls for an amendment
to the Constitution to make English the official language of the United
States.  It is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

"Being for a program that immerses first generation immigrants in learning
the English language is pro-immigrant," Gingrich said at a press
conference Tuesday in Washington sponsored by ProEnglish, the group that
commissioned the poll. Without a common language, Gingrich said, "The
civilization will decay and the culture will collapse." He added that
"bilingual education has been a disaster." Funds already allocated for
bilingual teaching should instead be used to teach students English.
Gingrich called for English-only ballots and government documents.

"This movement to make English the official language of the U.S. and to
make sure immigrants are taught to speak English will help improve the
future of immigrants, and those who began as migrant workers may one day
run the business," Gingrich said. "If you want your children to have their
optimum future, then you want your children to learn English," he said.
According to the Zogby poll, 60 percent of Americans think Congress and
President Bush aren't doing enough to protect English's role as the
"common, unifying language of the United States." Only one in four believe
the government is doing enough.

Meanwhile, 69 percent of Americans believe the United States is at risk of
becoming a multi-lingual society where people cannot communicate because
they don't speak the same language. Gingrich's call for Congress to enact
an English-only policy comes as the Georgia Republican is mulling running
for president in 2008. Last year, the Senate considered a proposal to make
English the national language. Among 2008 candidates, Republican Sens.
John McCain of Arizona and Sam Brownback of Kansas voted for the measure.
Likely Democratic candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York, Barack
Obama of Illinois and Joe Biden of Delaware voted against it.

The survey did not ask respondents if English should be the only official
language of the federal government. However, K.C. McAlpin, executive
director of ProEnglish, said results strongly indicate public support for
an English-only policy. "In view of these findings, the question is why
are Congress and the president ignoring the desire of the American people
to protect their nation's historic unity in the English language," McAlpin
said. "If the new Congress and the president are sincere about their
desire to enact truly comprehensive immigration reform this year, they
have no excuse for not making English our official language," he added.

Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said English is
not under assault as some of the public might believe. "People hear a
little Spanish-speaking in the grocery store, and they get scared," Jacoby
told Cybercast News Service . "Immigrants want to learn English, and they
are." The Zogby poll also said 92 percent of Americans believe preserving
English as a common language is important to maintain unity as a nation,
and 78 percent believe the government should take a more active role to
help immigrants learn English.

On these points, Jacoby agrees. She said most immigrants realize English
is the language of success, but there aren't enough English classes
available now. This doesn't have to be a government program, Jacoby said,
as churches, nonprofit groups and the business community all have an
interest in sponsoring English as a second-language classes. "Employers
have a stake in this," she said. "Government should encourage, but
taxpayers shouldn't pay for it."


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