Oklahoma: Bill would make English official langauge

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sat Jan 27 14:30:18 UTC 2007

Publication Date : January 26, 2007

Bill would make English official state language

Amanda Wilson Staff Writer

An Oklahoma senator filed a bill that will make English the official
language of Oklahoma and will no longer require government entities to
provide documents in any other language. Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson,
R-Oklahoma City, said Bill 38 requires nothing from any government entity
and was not proposed to save money. The purpose of this bill is to
establish a policy that unifies the state. It unites us as a common people
with diverse cultures, Wilcoxson said. It unites us with a common
language. Bill 38 will be up for senate committee review in early

Karen Gentry, director of driver testing services, said the Oklahoma
Department of Public Safety spent about $75,000 to provide computer
software and drivers manuals in Spanish, which is required by law.
According to a 2005 study by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, 6.6
percent of Oklahomas population speaks Spanish. Drivers' manuals must be
reprinted every time a law changes, which is usually each year, and costs
about $22,000, Gentry said. Wilcoxson said there are many people in
government agencies that speak languages other than English or Spanish,
particularly Vietnamese.

There are no laws in place to provide documentation in Vietnamese. Our
business and economy is in English, Wilcoxson said. Under the
constitution, our education is in English. We should make our government
English. When international students come to Oklahoma to go to school,
they are expected to speak English, Wilcoxson said. English is the
language of success. If you want to succeed in government, economy or
school you have to be able to speak English, Wilcoxson said. This bill
makes the statement that English is the language of this state and people
must speak it to participate in government, Wilcoxson said.

This is not the first time an Oklahoma senator has proposed English as the
states official language. A 2002 bill proposed to make English Oklahomas
official language never passed. The State Supreme Court declared that an
initiative petition to make English the states official language would
unconstitutionally restrict residents of limited English ability from
communicating effectively with their government, according to the Oklahoma
Senate Web site, www.oksenate.gov. Gentry said she expects the Department
of Public Safety to only provide English documents if this bill is passed.

We will follow the direction of the Oklahoma legislature, Gentry said.
Angela Vivar, president of the Hispanic Student Association, said she is
neither for nor against this bill. I understand why they would want to do
it, Vivar said. If you want to live here it is necessary to know the
language to get around. But, I understand the hardships my people go
through in order to live here. Senator James Inhofe, (R-Okla.) proposed a
U.S. congressional bill on Aug.  3, 2006 that would make English the
national language, according to The Library of Congress Web site,

The House of Representatives never passed the law and it was cleared from
the house's books, according to www.govtrack.us.



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