[lg policy] Edling Digest, Vol 7, Issue 3
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Tue Feb 5 22:13:45 UTC 2013
Forwarded From: edling at bunner.geol.lu.se
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? (Miriam E Ebsworth)
Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2013 17:26:10 -0500
From: Miriam E Ebsworth <mee1 at nyu.edu>
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>,
myrnaenglishfile at gmail.com
<CAEOm7NvBFXkFH4EDsDtNU6L1xBT0VJA-Ee4hEnMn9bL4joB2Pg at mail.gmail.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
An interesting conversation.
What is the evidence that "Hispanics are the only ethnic group immigrating
to the US that has resisted learning English?"
The second generation all speak English and the bilingualism is often lost
by the 3rd. Living in communities of high enclosure certainly can be
relevant. My husband and I do research that includes looking at resistance
to vs. success in learning English in Puerto Rico, a very different
setting. But some issues may be relevant.
Also, as I understand it, it is counter-intuitive but true that spending
time on developing academic and social competence in L1 is very helpful for
ultimate attainment in English L2 (or Lx). From my perspective, what should
be legislated is bilingualism for all- or at least as many folks as
possible, with resources dedicated to supporting that instead of tons of
What is your thinking?
How are things in Eilat?
Perhaps you can offer us some insights from Italy and Israel.
On Sun, Feb 3, 2013 at 5:21 AM, Myrna Goldstein
<myrnaenglishfile at gmail.com>wrote:
> 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
> But common sense is. So rather than compelling people from above
> 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
> to attend or not to attend. That way, people who do not want to learn the
> L1 would not be compelled to, but people who do, would have free lessons,
> 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
> 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
> 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 Citizenship?*
> * By
> 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
> (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 is 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 American 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, Paraguay, and Switzerland will inspire us as we plan for a "smart
> 21st 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*
> Edling mailing list
> Edling at bunner.geol.lu.se
> Edling mailing list
> Edling at bunner.geol.lu.se
Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth, PhD
Dir. of PhD & Post-MA Programs in Multilingual Multicultural Studies
*Temporary office: 405 East Building
New York, NY 10003
Research Editor: Journal of Writing and Pedagogy
Member, NABE Research SIG, Advisory Board
office phone: (212) 998-5195
office fax: (212) 995-4198
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