[lg policy] When Should Language Be Restricted?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 28 16:42:33 UTC 2012

 When Should Language Be
March 27, 2012 - 11:07am | admin


*“When should language be restricted?”*

*In *World Policy Journal*’s spring
2012<http://www.worldpolicy.org/journal/spring2012>issue, The
Big Question <http://www.worldpolicy.org/journal/spring2012/big-question>investigates
the use and abuse of language. We asked a diverse group of
scholars, authors, bloggers, artists, and journalists to share with us
their personal views on the boundaries of free speech. Dr. Roseann Dueñas
González contributed one compelling piece, drawing from her extensive
experience as a consultant to Congress. We would now like to give her
response the space it deserves and publish it online as an extension of *WPJ
*’s The Big Question.*

*By Roseann Dueñas González*

Language is the most vital expression of identity and lies at the center of
the human ego. As such, the restriction of language is injurious to the
essential well-being of humanity. As a result, restrictive language
policies disempower language minorities and ultimately limit their social

Great strides have been made in the extension of language access to
linguistic minorities in the United States. I’ve spent my entire
professional life ensuring that persons have the right to all of the
benefits and privileges of the country through competent interpreter
services, regardless of their national origin, primary language, race, or
ethnicity. In 2000, President Bill Clinton’s Executive Order 13166
reinvigorated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This progressive,
but unfunded, order reminds United States agencies who receive federal
funding that they have a legal obligation to provide competent language and
interpreting services’. It was the policy answer that I had been waiting
for many years.

The legal responsibility–in particular for courts, social service,
education, and health care institutions–has been judiciously monitored and
enforced by the Department of Justice since the beginning of the Obama
Administration. This will advance the opportunity for language minorities
who are not proficient in english to pursue the educational, economic, and
social benefits. This recommitment to equitable treatment of language
minorities will do much to advance their ability to defend themselves from
criminal accusations, testify as a victim, protect their property and
families in civil litigation, or to seek legal or governmental benefits. It
also implies a reinforcement of civil rights that will prevent the myriad
medical mistakes and harms that result from non-english speakers not able
to communicate in a medical setting.

Still despite these advances in the extension of language access to
language minorities in the United States, restricting language use of
undesirable immigrants and residents has expanded in other ways in U.S.
society—again. Courts should not mandate a blanket “english proficiency”
unless it is supported by rigorous empirical study of the actual language
needed on the job. In Arizona, Proposition 203, “English for the Children,”
is an example of a language policy intended to prevent rather than enable
children speaking limited English from accessing and benefiting from
education. Unfortunately, this is one of many initiatives implemented to
obstruct the upward mobility of Spanish speakers in Arizona. While
situations exist where proficiency in english is a bona fide requirement,
the arbitrary nature of when it is required in the United States has
prevented minorities across the country from getting jobs and supporting
their families.



Roseann Dueñas González, author of the book *Language Ideologies: History,
Theory, and Policy*<http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?index=books&linkCode=qs&keywords=0805840540>,
is a professor of english and director of the National Center for
Interpretation at the University of Arizona.


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