Oklahoma: English language unites people

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Feb 18 12:43:26 UTC 2009

English language unites people

Sunday, February 15, 2009
2/15/2009 4:09:57 AM

Passage of legislation to make English the state's official language
will prevent Oklahomans from being compelled to deliver
taxpayer-funded services in the 119 languages currently spoken in
Oklahoma. It will eliminate enormous printing costs of ballots,
registration forms, brochures and signs for cities, county and state
agencies.  The erroneous argument from the open borders crowd would
have us believe only English and Spanish requires expenditures. Not
so. Currently 119 spoken languages have the right to require
communication, translations and/or debates in legislative houses to be
conducted in the language of their choice.

This legislation will regulate government communication — not private
communication between individuals. Uniting Oklahomans with one
language will eliminate irresponsible spending of millions of taxpayer
dollars on the inefficient multi-language industry of
"translation/interpreter" agencies. One local firm alone reaps
enormous profits when supplying county, city and state agencies with
translators whose approximate fees are $45 to $85 an hour. All this at
a time many taxpayers suffer from high pump prices, declining
economies and layoffs.

Although paid interpreters translate languages, the legal liability
for omissions or errors lie with the medical provider, the school
administrators, cities and state agencies. Medicaid or Medicare are
now at risk of civil rights complaints and prosecution if they fail to
provide translation services. Taxpayers expect legislators to
eliminate added liabilities — not heap more on them.

Having one official language will align Oklahoma government policy
with federal policy that encourages learning English in order to
benefit the immigrants earning power. U.S. English reports that
immigrants with limited or no English proficiency have median weekly
earnings of about 57 percent of U.S.-born workers. Poverty and the
need of public benefits and food stamps to survive are more closely
related to limited English proficiency than with legal status or
citizenship. Tennessee spends more than $285 million for services to
illegal aliens. It's poverty rate has increased 27.6 percent since

Canada spends $260 million annually to run government in both of its
official languages (English and French) Los Angeles County's 2004
general election cost an additional $2 million in printed ballots and
translations. That amounted to one-third of the total election costs.
San Francisco spends $350,000 for each language that a government
document is translated into. Oklahoma would require 119 languages to
be translated.

The 30 states that already have some sort of official English-only
laws have reported no significant negative impact but can show budget
savings. English is the global language with 1.5 billion people using
it. Thirty-one nations have adopted English as their official
language. Another 20 nations recognize English as one of two or more
official languages. It is apparent that foreign countries seeking to
communicate with nations realize the avenue of success is through

Language unites races and ethnic groups while multiple languages
divide nations, cities, schools and communities. Many Oklahomans,
including me, have American Indian heritage, but we are grateful that
our forefathers chose to replace centuries of war, fear and distrust
between tribes with a shared language that can now produce successful
commerce and benefits for people.

With history being our best source of evidence, no nation has survived
the tension, conflict and antagonism that two or more competing
languages bring. While it is a blessing for individuals to be
bi-lingual, it is a curse for societies forced to be bilingual.
Lebanon, Malaysia, France, Canada and Belgium all face crises to their
national existence. Pakistan and Cypress are divided while Nigeria
experiences ethnic rebellions. Should Oklahomans be so naïve as to
expect different results?

Let us all be proud of our heritage, nation and state, and encourage
our immigrants to become self-sustaining Americans. It is evident that
those who expect Oklahomans to embrace diversity in politics,
religion, morals, and nationalities are the very ones who reject
diversity when applied to English as our official language.  Language
unites people. Multiple languages divide nations.


Carol Helm is founder and director of the Oklahoma-based Immigration
Reform for Oklahoma Now (IRON).

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