[lg policy] Edling Digest, Vol 7, Issue 7
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Wed Feb 6 16:05:31 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? (David Balosa)
Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2013 08:54:36 -0500
From: David Balosa <dbalosa1 at umbc.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>
<CAL5XPku2E5i8ZHFxx9JK30u7iQf6XR8KGasE7Qh3Y+OHgdaJWA at mail.gmail.com>
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Your point is well taken. I have a TESOL training background.
I definitely agree and support the learning of English as a global super
lingua franca. But in the context of the United States, the call for
learning English has a deep historical and political components that a
general approach to learning English as a lingua franca may still appeal to
I would assume that there would be some interdisciplinarity in cognitive
applied linguistics. Am I right?
On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 7:49 AM, Myrna Goldstein
<myrnaenglishfile at gmail.com>wrote:
> Dear David,
> I am a cognitive applied linguist and have made my home in two foreign
> I learned the local languages. In fact, it never occurred to me not to.
> And if
> I hadn't, I would never have been able to accomplish anything. If someone
> in Little Havana (as you describe it) wants to stay in Little Havana
> his/her whole
> life, then you are correct in saying that learning English is not really
> on a local level.
> However, I would imagine that people in Little Havana might want to be
> able to understand
> our politicians, business leaders, and the English language media as well
> as see the world,
> not just the U.S.. English is the lingua franca these days the way French
> was in
> the 18th Century. I know lots of people who speak another language in the
> house and with
> their friends who are of the same ethnicity. But they also desire to
> communicate with
> everyone and so then they speak English.
> I feel that people need to decide the parameters of their lives and only
> then decide
> which language(s) they want to speak. In Italy, where I lived for 30
> years, I had an
> interview with the prefect of police when I applied for Italian
> citizenship. The interview
> was in Italian, but I never thought twice about it as I had been speaking
> only Italian for
> quite a number of years (as well as English with English native speakers).
> I found out later
> that knowing Italian was a requisite for gaining citizenship.
> As for the sociolinguistics end of the spectrum, I admit total ignorance
> do not feel qualified to comment further. I am an expert in L2 learning
> and I
> know how difficult it can be for everyone in every language.
> That said, I hope you are able to find your way out of this quagmire and
> send my best regards,
> 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 5, 2013, at 5:06 AM, David Balosa wrote:
> Dear Myrna,
> Within the perspective of intercultural cohesion (which many have thought
> the election of President Obama was going to create the landscape) and the
> history of politics of language in the United States, it is important to
> acknowledge that only the legislation can help create a clear path to
> a national linguistic identity for the United States.
> In his book *"Hold your tongue: Bilingualism and the politics of English
> Only"* James Crawford* *talks about how for centuries, politics in the
> United States has played a robust game of ethnocentrism through the
> politics of language. As a result, the United States has decided to adopt a
> language policy of "no policy at all" ( the equivalent of "self-deportation
> policy for illegal immigrants as suggested by the Republican Presidential
> candidate, Romney). Paul Lang's *The English language debate: One nation,
> one language* (1995) may also be a relevant reading in understanding how
> historically the language issue is serious in the United States.
> If president Obama sustains that the illegal immigrants in the United
> States must lean English as a requirement to the path of the Citizenship,
> then he has to have a legal basis for that requirement. An immigrant living
> in Little Havana in Florida for example, needs to learn Spanish than
> English. It is not the issue of ethnocentrism anymore, it is the social
> reality of the "New United States". Romney's son did campaign in Spanish
> rather than in English. It is no longer a guess, it is serious that no
> candidate can win the presidential election without winning the Latinos'
> votes. It seems commonsensical that an individual who becomes president of
> the United States thanks to the votes of this cultural group listen to
> their voice when planning for the future.
> English as a means of better job, better education, and better life is a
> myth. Cuban literacy level is higher than the United States. High School
> students in the United States are yet to make to the 10th world countries
> in Math and Sciences. In Global economy, any language should be encouraged
> not required or imposed. It is more the issue of human dignity, cultural
> right, and linguistic coexistence. In the case of language contact, like in
> the case of the United States, it is encouraging to expect that legislation
> should step up to regulate the linguistic identity of the country.
> Whether English or English and Spanish (Bilingual United States) as
> official languages - let the people decide; the worst is not to have any
> language policy at all.
> What do you think?
> 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
>> 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
> **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
**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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