[lg policy] Edling Digest, Vol 7, Issue 5

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Feb 5 22:15:00 UTC 2013

 Forwarded  From:  edling at bunner.geol.lu.se

Today's Topics:

   1. Re: Political Economy of Culture: Where   Should  President
      Obama Start: By Designing a Consistent    language        policy or on
      Imposing English Language as a    Requirement to  the Path of     U.S.
      Citizenship? (Francis Hult)


Message: 1
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2013 09:14:42 +0000
From: Francis Hult <francis.hult at englund.lu.se>
Subject: Re: [Edling] Political Economy of Culture: Where       Should
        President       Obama Start: By Designing a Consistent
language        policy or on
        Imposing English Language as a  Requirement to  the Path of     U.S.
To: The Educational Linguistics List <edling at bunner.geol.lu.se>
        <11E8DB9B84AFED40AA11BE609088B77115325841 at UWMBX01.uw.lu.se>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="Windows-1252"

Jim Crawford has written a thorough FAQ related to this topic:

As a further point about the desire for English among Latinos, it
might be worth noting that the influential League of United Latin
American Citizens (LULAC), with the mission of promoting a new
Mexican-American middle class, wrote in their 1929 constitution that
the English language is ?necessary for the enjoyment of our rights and
privileges?and we pledge ourselves to learn and speak and teach the
same to our children.?  See Garcia's (1991) 'Rise of the Mexican
American middle class: San Antonio, 1929-1941.'  College Station:
Texas A&M University Press for more on this.  It can be argued that
language ideologies of such organizations has had negative
consequences for bilingualism among some communities in the US


Fr?n: edling-bounces at bunner.geol.lu.se
[edling-bounces at bunner.geol.lu.se] för Thomas Ricento
[tricento at ucalgary.ca]
Skickat: den 4 februari 2013 23:37
Till: The Educational Linguistics List
?mne: Re: [Edling] Political Economy of Culture: Where Should
President       Obama Start: By Designing a Consistent language policy
or on    Imposing English Language as a Requirement to   the Path of
  U.S. Citizenship?


      Here is a brief snipet from a chapter I wrote to appear in R.
Bayley, et al. (editors), The Oxford Handbook of Sociolinguistics
(2013, p. 540):

"Rumbaut, et al. (2006: 458), relying on data from two published studies and a
survey they conducted themselves in Southern California during 2001?2004,
conclude that ?under current conditions . . . the ability to speak Spanish very
well can be expected to disappear sometime between the second and third
generation for all Latin American groups in Southern California.? They also
found that ?the average Asian language can be expected to die out at or near
the second generation? (ibid). To account for such a wide discrepancy between
the apparent facts and widely held misperceptions, it is necessary to consider
the influence, and effects, of deeply held beliefs about language and identity
that are resistant to contrary evidence".

It is amazing that someone who has expertise in English language
teaching also succumbs to the stereotype that 'Latinos refuse to learn
English'.  This
has been the battle cry of Huntington and others (mostly right wing,
anti-immigrant advocates) who categorize Latinos as refuseniks.  It's
just not true.  Maintaining Spanish (an American Language) alongside
English should be viewed as a positive outcome, even though, as
Rumbaut and his colleagues demonstrate, Spanish is being lost.  If
'experts' make such claims as Myrna does, it shows that we as applied
linguists have a long way to go to educate the broader public.

Tom Ricento
Professor and Chair, English as an Additional Language
Faculty of Education
University of Calgary
From: edling-bounces at bunner.geol.lu.se
[edling-bounces at bunner.geol.lu.se] On Behalf Of Myrna Goldstein
[myrnaenglishfile at gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2013 3:21 AM
To: The Educational Linguistics List
Subject: Re: [Edling] Political Economy of Culture: Where Should
President      Obama Start: By Designing a Consistent language policy
or on    Imposing English Language as a Requirement to the Path of
  U.S. Citizenship?

Dear David,

I read your piece with interest, trying to understand the
rationale behind it, beyond the numbers of the Hispanic
population. Fact is, historically, Hispanics are the only ethnic group
immigrating to the U.S. that has resisted learning English. I'm not
sure why this is so, but it might be a good basis for some research if
it has not already been done or if it is not already in the works.

I'm not judging. I'm curious. In order to get decent jobs, immigrants
to any country in the world realize that they must learn the L1. If they
don't, they will always remain in low-level jobs, be isolated from society
at large, and will not be able to study at universities to let their
talents bloom.

I'm not sure that legislation is the answer; this would have to be studied.
But common sense is. So rather than compelling people from above (government)
to learn English, it would seem more logical that people themselves would
want to learn the nation's common language if those people have a vision of a
better life that they feel they can achieve. I believe this has always been the
basis of every group's immigration everywhere in the world.

Perhaps after the U.S. gets its fiscal house in order, it could finance
an immigration program that includes ESL courses, thus giving people the option
to attend or not to attend. That way, people who do not want to learn
the nation's
L1 would not be compelled to, but people who do, would have free lessons, say,
to get themselves to a B1 (intermediate) level (Common European
Frameworks). People
who would like to get to an advanced level could do so either through
self-study or
through community language programs.

Let us not forget that non-native speakers must take various
standardized tests to
be admitted to many universities and colleges. I'm not sure if
community colleges
require TOEFL, GMAT, SAT etc. So, the fact remains, David, that
English is the nation's
L1 and the future of every immigrant who wants to better his life and
the life of his
children resides in learning that L1.

Linguistically yours,


Myrna Goldstein, B.S.J., MATESL
Founder, Director
Are You in Your English File??
Second Language Learning Research Center
Eilat, Israel (formerly Milan, Italy)

Linguistic Society of America
American Association for Applied Linguistics

e: myrnaenglishfile at gmail.com<mailto:myrnaenglishfile at gmail.com>
Skype: myinmi
c:  ++972 053 525 5360

On Feb 3, 2013, at 2:35 AM, David Balosa wrote:

Political Economy of Culture: Where Should President Obama Start: By
Designing a Consistent National Language Policy or by Requiring
illegal Immigrant to Learn English as a Path to the United States
David Balosa
                                             University of Maryland
Baltimore County, (UMBC)

        Spanish is currently spoken as a first language by
approximately twenty-two million people
         in the United States. The Hispanics are currently America's
fastest growing ethnic
         community and their numbers are set to rise to 96.5 million
by 2050. This is not without
         problems as the United States does not have legislation which
states that English is the
         official language of the Union; it has always relied on the
desire of immigrants for social
         assimilation and mobility to consolidate the pre-eminence of English.

                     (Miranda Stewart, 1999: 6-7)

In his address regarding "Fixing broken immigration system" entitled
"Vision for winning the future" President Obama mentioned four key
points which he calls accountabilities and responsibilities: 1.
Responsibility by the federal government to secure our borders, 2.
Accountability for businesses that break the law by undermining
American workers and exploiting undocumented workers,
3. Strengthening our economic competitiveness by creating a legal
immigration system that reflects our values and diverse needs, and 4.
Responsibility from people who are living in the United States
illegally. My question for discussion and my reflection will  focus on
the president's point number 4. I think that the President plays too
much politics here and that he is undermining the scholarship on the
everlasting debate on language policy in the United States. Fixing
broken immigration system is one thing, but requiring illegal
immigrants to learn English as one of the requirements is tantamount
to English-Only America movement. Until there is a coherent language
policy, by coherent I mean agreed upon by the United States citizens,
a unidirectional language requirement by federal officials, especially
the president of the United States is getting out of the house through
the back door. I am not saying that illegal immigrant should not learn
English or Spanish, the point i!
 s that so far there is no legal basis to require any one to learn
English for what so ever in the United States. If the President is
going to initiative a path to language policy weather English or
English and Spanish as official languages, then the United States will
make a big step forward in solving big issues regarding intercultural
relations. To clear understand my point, let's analyze the president
approach to learning English as a requirement to illegal immigrant
path to the United States Citizenship.

     One of the key requirements that the represent mentioned that
illegal immigrants living in U.S. must fulfill to the path of U.S.
citizenship is learning English. The president's statement reads: "
Those people living here illegally must also be held accountable for
their actions and get on the right side of the law by registering and
undergoing national security and criminal background checks, paying
taxes and a penalty, and learning English before they can get in line
to become eligible for citizenship. Being a citizen of this country
comes not only with rights but also with fundamental responsibilities.
We can create a pathway for legal status that is fair and reflects our
values." Wait a minute! Is Mr. President here trying to have his cake
and eat it too? Since the president favorite sentence in this
immigration debate is "We are a nation of law and a nation of
immigrants", is the president telling us that English is going to
become the fundamental language of Ameri!
 can values? How about the 55 millions U.S. Spanish -speakers? Do
their language and culture also contribute to the American Values?
Should U.S. citizens working for Univisions, Telemondo, UNI-MAS, etc.
who may also contribute to the economic competitiveness of U.S. be
required to learn English for U.S. citizenship?  According to Stewart
(1999:6-7), "The Hispanics are currently America's fastest growing
ethnic community and their numbers are set to rise to 96.5 million by
2050 (quoting, The Guardian, 16.07.98)." Stewart observes that "This
is not without problems as the United States does not have legislation
which states that English is the official language of the Union; it
has always relied on the desire of immigrants for social assimilation
and mobility to consolidate the pre-eminence of English."
     During the 2008 Democratic presidential election primary debate,
President Obama, Senator Obama at that time articulated, when he was
asked by a CNN journalist weather English should be the Official
language of the United States that, "We should not focus on issue that
divide us, instead we should focus on how to fix our broken
immigration system." It has been the politics of escape goat forever
when it comes to regulating language policy in fair and realistic way
in the U.S. President Obama, after winning 75 % of Latino votes
without questioning weather they spoke English or not at the time they
went voting now is suggesting learning English as a requirement for
legal immigration status. If learning a language was an easy task,
most college graduates U.S. would be speaking Spanish fluently. Since
President Obama likes to look at fair game plays, would not t be a
fair game to say all illegal immigrants must learn both English and
Spanish as a requirement to citizenship?
     One may infers that requiring learning English alone is a support
to English -Only movement. This approach undermines the substantial
contribution of Hispanic culture to the values of the United States.
The "Latinazization" (Benitez, 2007) of illigal immigrants may also be
a valuable inference if we don't require illegal immigrant to learn
Spanish as well. Will various English dialect speakers be required to
learn American Standard English if that what Mr. President meant? The
"World Englishes" (Mesthrie & Bhatt, 2008) as well as the world
Spanishes (Stewart, 1999; Lorenzo-Dus, 2011) can only be used as
requirement for national immigration legal status after they have been
adopted as Official language of the nation. Otherwise they should not
be mentioned in the fixing broken immigration system.

   In Conclusion, It is not only the immigration system that is
broken, it is the entire public policy system that is broken. If Mr.
President wants to start fixing this broken system of public policy
the workable strategy would be looking at the policy of that public or
social sector setting, fix it, that is, make it if it is a
commonsensical argument and truly reflective of U.S. values, a law of
the nation. Since thee is no federal law regulating languages in U.S.,
it would  illegal to require a given language learning as a
requirement to U.S. citizenship. Requiring learning English will sound
like a cultural hegemonic strategy and  it will not reflect what the
president calls "A smart 21st century" - a century of  people and
communities cohesion by consensus, that is people decide their
intercultural democratic rules of governance not bias policy makers.
Either English alone or English and Spanish as co-official languages
for the United States- why not create a referendum!
  on this issue and stick to what the U.S. diverse population decide.
It will make more sense after people will look at these two global
languages - both spoken by significant numbers of legal U.S. citizens
in the ballot and let the people decide. It is only after that
referendum that all cultural groups will live with the decision
weather they like it or not. Because it will become the law of the
land. Leaving the issue on the policy makers whose bias attitude and
cultural hegemony have been demonstrated through centuries will never
lead the U.S. to the Smart 21st century language policy. Should not a
true vision for the future of the United States plan also for a
language which the numbers of its speakers will reach 96.5 million in
2050? Should the U.S. language policymakers understand that a language
policy that reflects the cultural reality of the country makes the
country more prosperous economically and culturally? May be the
example of Luxembourg, South Africa, Paragu!
 ay, and Switzerland will inspire us as we plan for a "smart 21!
 st century". What do you think?


Benitez, C. (2007). Latinization: How Latino culture is transforming
the U.S. New York: Paramount
     Market Publishing.
Donnelly, J. (2003). Universal human rights: In theory and practice
(2nd. ed.). New York: Cornell
     University Press.
Lorenzo-Dus, N. (ed.) (2011). Spanish at work: Analyzing institutional
discourse across the Spanish-
     speaking world. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Mesthirie, R. & Bhatt, R. M. (2008). World Englishes: The study of new
linguistic varieties. New York:
     Cambridge University Press.
Stewart, M. (1999). The Spanish language today. New York: Routledge.


*David M. Balosa*
*Doctoral Student, PhD Program in Language, Literacy and Culture (LLC)*
Research Focus: Intercultural Communication & Cultural Exchange
Interculturalists GSO President 2012-2013
*University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
**1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250*

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