[lg policy] US:
hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Feb 21 15:37:23 UTC 2015
(Spoiler alert: US English)
Why an official language is needed now more than ever
By Mauro E. Mujica
Last year, Congress enacted countless symbolic laws re-naming post offices,
schools and federal buildings. Congress also chose, once again, to delay
action on an issue widely supported by more than three quarters of
Americans: declaring an official language policy for the United States
On this policy, we are behind. In fact, more than 90 percent of the world’s
nations recognize an official language. And English is the most common,
official in 53 nations. An official language policy would put the United
States on par with other nations in keeping all residents united through a
America is a melting pot, celebrated for its diversity. Here in the land of
the free, differences are—and should be—celebrated. Recognizing English as
our common, shared language allows for that.
As a nation that welcomes immigrants from all over the world, without a
common thread to unite us in our diversity, we become divided. With more
than 325 languages spoken in the United States, English is the bond that
brings us all together.
To that end, the English Language Unity Act has recently been introduced in
the House of Representatives. This bill would declare English the official
language of the United States government and would also save the federal
government tens of thousands of dollars on foreign language materials.
This is not a controversial issue. In fact, the bipartisan legislation is
supported by more than 83 percent of Americans.
As an immigrant myself, I know there is no denying the benefits of a
government that operates in one language.
By declaring English the official language, federal government agencies
would no longer be required to provide documents and services in languages
other than English—saving valuable taxpayer money, which could then instead
be used to create more opportunities for immigrants to learn English.
Even more importantly, operating in one official language sends a clear
message to newcomers to the United States: learning English is essential to
It is for that reason that support for Official English is so widespread.
A September 2014 study from the Brookings Institution found that English
proficiency can lead to a 25 to 40 percent increase in income. With this
income boost and the ability to face life without language barriers,
success becomes attainable. But without an official language policy, these
divisions continue to exist.
That is not to say that declaring English the official language would
discourage the use of foreign languages. Official English legislation
impacts federal government agencies, but leaves private businesses and
individuals free to speak the language of their choosing.
In fact, the English Language Unity Act before Congress includes several
common sense exceptions that allow federal government agencies to use
foreign languages in instances relating to public health and safety,
judicial situations and more. But the policy sends an important overarching
message: to achieve your highest potential in the United States, English
proficiency is key.
Thirty-one states, with the help of U.S. English, have already done their
part to unite residents through a common language. Now, it is time for the
United States Congress to recognize what Americans across the country have
long advocated: English as our nation’s common language is the glue that
unites us in our diversity and opens the doors of success to all.
*Mujica is the chairman of U.S. English, Inc., the nation's oldest and
largest non-partisan citizens' action group dedicated to preserving the
unifying role of the English language in the United States. Founded in 1983
by the late Sen. S.I. Hayakawa of California, U.S. English, Inc.
(www.usenglish.org <http://www.usenglish.org>) now has more than 2 million
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