[lg policy] The English Language Is Under Stress

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Aug 8 11:39:48 EDT 2018


 The English Language Is Under Stress
July 30th, 2018 Colton Hveem <https://thehayride.com/author/colton-hveem/>

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Immigration advocates once referenced America as a great melting pot. This
impressive pot could take in a variety of ingredients and assimilate each
an every addition into the broader American culture. This process acted as
transformation. Those who migrated to this country embraced a new identity,
an American identity.

Thus, to be American once was a unifying descriptor. The populous at large
united around common values and norms. One such norm that is paramount for
a collective cohesion is language. This is the glue for all social
interaction. If fellow citizens cannot talk to one another, socialization
is quickly replaced with separation. Society then fractures at the seams.

Any intelligent policy would be wise to preserve the element of
communication. Yet, the standard practice of English is under stress today.
A robust 22% of the US population does not speak English at home. But this
is far from contained behind closed doors.

Existing in the public space, one would need to lack both eyes and ears to
miss the emergence of a foreign language into society. Billboards are
popping up, unintelligible to the English speaking community. A night out
on the town with the family will likely pass by conversations that cannot
be deciphered. Countless experiences in the daily lives of Americans
reveals the fading prominence of a common tongue. How did it come to this?

The Migration Policy Institute found that 13.5% of people living within our
borders today are foreign born
<https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/immigrants-us-states-fastest-growing-foreign-born-populations>.
This is the highest percentage since 1910. It is important to note that in
1910 the population was just north of 92 million. That means the immigrant
portion was right about 12.5 million. Today, there are 44 million
immigrants living in the United States. This sizable mass, nearly 50% of
the 1910 population, is the highest number ever recorded. Nevertheless,
thousands more are coming in daily.

Pair these numbers with our lax immigration policy, and the issue becomes
quite plain. No real effort has been made to preserve the English language
when America weighs the suitability of modern day immigrants. The voting
public may not often make this connection – but polls show Americans are in
chorus when expressing the desire for a national language.

A Rasmussen Reports survey from April 2018 revealed that 81% of American
Adults think English should be the official language of the United States
<http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/general_lifestyle/april_2018/americans_strongly_favor_english_as_official_language>.
Only 12% are opposed to this notion. Such overwhelming agreement on an
issue is rarely found, especially in the polarized state we live in today.

Congress would do the populace a great favor by turning this into
legislation. A national language would naturally dictate immigration policy
to respond in turn. This could be a real legislative domino to help the
United States regain some of its former glory and a united national culture.

Cultural wounds have too long festered on the homefront. Citizens are
united when it comes to what language they want spoken by their neighbors.
It is about time that they were heard.


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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