English Should be America's Official Language

By official, I do not mean that you cannot speak whatever language you want or that firms cannot write ads in Spanish, Chinese, Greek or anything else. It is just that they could never be required to do so and all official documents would be available only in English. Private parties could translate them, but it would not be a government expense. A polyglot America is really not necessary, desirable or even possible.

Everybody writes from their own experience. Mine is uncommon and I think gives me unusual insights into this language thing. I have lived in several non-English speaking countries and at one time spoke four languages reasonably fluently. Not all at the same time, mind you. This is a big secret of language study. Very few people can be fluent in more than one foreign language at a time, although many people say they are and some really believe it.

We look at the rare individuals who can speak three or four language well and think that we could match that proficiency with practice and determination. No! Most of us cannot. One reason is simple exposure. If you do not use a language regularly, you forget the details. Not many places offer the opportunity to speak languages very often.

Then there are the problems of time and talent.

It takes a lot of time to learn and maintain a language. The time you spend learning and using a foreign language is time you will not have for something else. You might have to make a choice of being fluent in a foreign language and "fluent" in math.

Talent is also crucial. Even when you go to a place like Brussels, where lots of languages are spoken every day, most people know two languages: English and French. Some people are reasonably good at three: English, French and their own, but usually they are not equally strong in all of them. More and more - to the chagrin of the French - English is coming to dominate. Language skill requires talent. It is very similar to music. Many people can learn to play the piano, but not few are really good enough to entice listeners and somebody who can play piano, French horn and the saxophone is a bit of a prodigy. Not everybody can be Mozart.

We often overestimate the language proficiency of foreigners because so many speak English. There is good reason for this. English is the world language. I will tell you another language secret. Most American language learners can understand more than they can say, but this is not true of foreigners leaning English. The ubiquity of English has ensured that a generation of foreigners has been exposed to English sounds from an early age. That means that it is often easier for a non-native English speaker to make a reasonably good sounding English sentence w/o the comprehension you or I would have if we could utter a similarly melodious sentence in his language.

The last paragraph also points up the dilemma of anybody whose native language is English. English is everywhere. It is the most useful language in the history of the world. For every other language, you have to ask yourself where you will use it. Not English. If you were dropped down randomly any of the seven continents (Antarctica too) your absolute best bet for finding someone who would understand you would be if you spoke English. Everybody knows this, especially English speakers, which dampens their enthusiasm for the hard work of learning a language.

I respect foreigners who learn my language because I know how hard it is. If you learn as an adult (i.e. after puberty) you will never be accent free. This very difficulty is why I want America to have English as the official language. It is bad enough when you are dealing with only one other language, but there are places in the U.S. where you have dozens of languages spoken in the schools. Who can learn them all? It makes sense that there should be one common language and that should be English.

That does not mean that we should not learn languages in school. An educated person should know languages (although you might be as well served studying classical Greek or Latin as any modern language). It does not mean you should not learn languages when you go to other countries for extended periods. If you are going to France, by all means learn French. It will enrich your life. If you plan to spend every summer in Brazil, you would be foolish not to learn Portuguese. Planning to live in China? Learn the proper Chinese dialect. But if you think you will just be passing through all these places, on business or pleasure, English will serve just fine.

And if you plan never to leave the United States, the only language you should NEED is English.

Posted by Jack at January 24, 2007 5:40 PM
Comments
Comment #204838

Jack,

I agree that a national language is necessary. (I actually think that everyone should be required to speak at least two languages, but that’s another topic).

Everyone should be able to communicate with each other in some way. By selecting a language to do this in everyone would be in agreement of what that language would be and be prepared. Some might suggest Spanish, which I wouldn’t be necessarily against, but I still think that English is the most common one in the US today so it would make the most sense.

However, no one should be required to speak the language in public like the moronic law that was passed in Montreal requiring that only French could be spoken in public. Everyone should be free to speak and communicate in whatever language they wish. I simply feel that a unifying language ensuring that we can all communicate with each other effectively in necessary, especially in such a diverse country as the US.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 24, 2007 5:56 PM
Comment #204840

Rhinehold

Spanish is not as common as some people think. It is fairly common in the U.S., although by the third generation most Hispanics speak Spanish poorly unless they live in a heavily Hispanic area. Once you leave the Americas, Spanish is almost no use at all. Even in Spain, you might get some trouble in Catalonia and north of the pyrenees, you got nothing.

All our founding documents are in English. Making Spanish the official language, frankly, never even occured to me.

I think it is sort of like that myth that German was almost the official American language. You know even today Germans are America’s largest minority. I think it was 58 million in the last census. Thank God it doesn’t make any difference anymore.

Posted by: Jack at January 24, 2007 6:11 PM
Comment #204841

I feel that if our government holds our meeting in the english and our schools teach in english, and the news is delivered in english(notice these are our every day activities.) Then what the heck is the point in NOT making it the official language? the only purpose i can see is to please the illegal immigrants that come over and cost the average taxpayers alot of money to give the illegal immigrants free education and healthcare. So if you think that the official language should not be english or if you think that there is no point in making an official language then Go back to mexico or wherever it is that you came from since probably speak very broken english and dont want to have learn.
p.s. you can press one for spanish. we should not have to press one for english!!!

Posted by: Jonh at January 24, 2007 6:15 PM
Comment #204843

Jack,
Bad idea, declaring an official language. Language changes over time, and even within this country, English varies a little by region. English is an incredibly elastic language, with words from various languages incorporated into vocabulary, new slang becoming acceptable usage, and technical terms becoming commonplace that did not even exist twenty years ago. Fixing it in time, as if it were static and unchanging, makes no sense.

Posted by: phx8 at January 24, 2007 6:22 PM
Comment #204846

And will we then have speech cops fining people for speaking other languages. Republicans have no end of ways to grow the size of government.

Speech takes care of itself. You want something from someone, ask them. If they don’t speak your language, move on.

Secure our borders against a million new non-english speaking illegal aliens each year and the probably largely takes care of itself. Those here legally will learn English. Those here for a free ride and with no care for our laws, won’t exert the effort. They will form a subcommunity which barely speaks English at all, like in L.A.

BTW, hear about the gang busts of criminals, illegals, drug and gun runners in L.A. Wake up America, there coming to your neighborhood if they aren’t there already.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 24, 2007 6:30 PM
Comment #204851

David & Phx8

The only reason I want English to be official is so that nobody can be compelled to use another language.

I specifically said that people would be free to use whatever language they want. It would just be up to them.

I think it is silly to have drivers’ tests, ballots etc printed in multiple languages. If it was ONLY Spanish, that might be possible (although not desirable) but we have dozens of languages.

I learned to speak four languages. It is a chore. I am not enthusiastic about having to learn another language to use in my country.

Phx8

I would not worry about the official status except to the rights revolution. Things that used to be just nice to do are becomming rights that you can get sued about. We need the protection.

Re language change, you can read the Constitution, can’t you? It does not require translation. Presumably we would adapt. I do not propose a grammar police like they have in French. Just make the law that no official document or no document in general must be provided in anything other than English.

Posted by: Jack at January 24, 2007 6:38 PM
Comment #204852

Phx8:

Why would making English the official language somehow fix it in time? I don’t get that.

David:

Speech cops? I don’t think so. What Jack has proposed makes a lot of sense.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 24, 2007 6:39 PM
Comment #204853

Damn! I hate to be agreeing with Jack so much :)

Posted by: womanmarine at January 24, 2007 6:41 PM
Comment #204857

I would like to see English named as the official language of America, but I don’t see that printing government documents in only english as a good thing.

You mentioned living abroad for an extended amount of time. Did you have to file any paper work while you where there? If you did were you able to request a copy in your own native language or did you have to use theirs? Being sure what you are filling out and signing is difficult (and at times impossible) when you are not completely fluent.

The only problem I see is that declaring that documents can only be printed in the national language would be limiting. Not only because, while they may be passable in english, not everyone here is fluent. Nor will they ever be, so long as new immigrants (both legal and illegal) continue to come to our country.

As phx8 pointed out, language is a fluent thing. Look back at the start of the twentieth century and you’ll see a dramatically different language then the one we use today. I’m not saying that it’s incomprehensible from ours, only that the meanings and connotations of words have dramatically changed.

Besides, the point’s moot at the moment anyway. That bill already went through Congress (May, 18 ‘06). I think it’s still bouncing around the House though.

Forgive me if this isn’t entirely coherent. It’s late here and I’m off to bed.

Posted by: Friday at January 24, 2007 7:02 PM
Comment #204859

By this logic, shouldn’t we here in Texas and those in other SW states speak Spanish? They were here first, Jack. They’ll soon be the majority population. Maybe they’ll decide speaking English is YOUR problem.

I see no problem with assisting those who, in large numbers, do not understand our language. I kinda thought we were a melding pot.

As to adults learning English not having an accent, not true. While many Persians do speak English, I know of one man who took diction classes to rid himself of his accent. It worked.

Posted by: gergle at January 24, 2007 7:07 PM
Comment #204860

It won’t matter before much longer, if irresponsible Congress keeps ignoring wide-open borders and refuses to enforce laws against hiring illegal aliens

But Republicans want cheap labor,
Democrats want votes,
Voters keep rewarding both for it, and
Illegal aliens keep flooding across the borders by the millions.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 24, 2007 7:15 PM
Comment #204861

Jack,

I have to disagree with you on this one. Generally, the government needs to be able to effectively communicate with its citizens and residents. Immigrants, resident aliens, and new citizens are much more likely to have an interaction with the government than you or I are. They need to be able to read and understand what they are agreeing to.

That said, there does need to be a reasonableness test put to what is required. I’m currently working on a computer system for a large state. We were told last year that we would have to make available all of the reports from the system in those languages that were “major” to a particular area of the State. “Major” was defined (at one point to us anyway) as any language that was spoken as the primary language of over 100,000 citizens statewide or 5% of the population of any locality that would use the system.

For us that would mean in some counties, as few as 200 people who’s first language was something other than English would require us to add language support for the forms. These percentages applied whether or not those citizens would ever receive a form from our system. Our rough estimates were between 50 and 100 languages would have to be supported. The translation cost alone would run into the millions. The support for additional character sets (think Russian, Greek, Chinese, and Japanese to name a few) would again cost millions. Overall, the expenses would be at least 20% of the total budget for the system. Luckily, the requirement was postponed as the State rethought their plan.

When the cost to provide individual translation services is cheaper than what it costs to make the document available is probably the top line to draw as to when it is no longer necessary to produce forms in multiple languages. I’m sure that there are other such lines that could be drawn, but there are some forms that need to be produced in multiple languages.

Posted by: Rob at January 24, 2007 7:19 PM
Comment #204862

Jack,

You just have to get a hobby.
Official language?
Wouldn’t that be like Bud (yuck) being the official beer?

Ok, so I would be for this unlikely venture if it didn’t cost us anything, not a dime, but like anything the “government” might get involved in this is going to be expensive, so count me out.
All the same, the idea of “English as the official language” is probably going to play well in those parts of America where the grasp of true English is tenuous at best.

BTW, we speak American English, not a true version of the Queens English, and if we really want “English as the official language”, shouldn’t we ask the English first?

Second BTW, the Spanish that is spoken in Mexico isn’t truly Spanish either.
Castilian Spanish is to Mexico, as Proper English is to America.

Posted by: Rocky at January 24, 2007 7:20 PM
Comment #204866

English should be the official language here in the USA. My grandparents spoke in their native tongue while at home and conversing together but also they learned english.

Posted by: KAP at January 24, 2007 7:41 PM
Comment #204867

American English and no anchor babies.

Posted by: dawn at January 24, 2007 7:48 PM
Comment #204870

Not strictly on topic, but the Irish Constitution declares the Irish language, also known as Gaelic, to be the first official language. Now, funny enough, even though our Constitution was written in English and translated into Irish, according to the Constitution in any case where there is a conflict of meaning between the two languages, the Irish version shall prevail.

It gets funnier. Because Irish is the official language, in all dealings with state institutions, a citizen has the right to conduct their business in Irish, so the state institution must have people capable of facilitating this. Perhaps here I should point out that, with the exception of cettain small areas around the country designated as “Gaeltacht” areas, where Irish is allegedly spoken as the vernacular, (though all of our people can speak English fluently) the vast majority of Irish people cannot speak Irish very well, if at all. It gets even better. A few years back, a crazy Government minister got a law passed that all official documents had to be not just published in Irish, but printed en masse also. Now shelves are groaning under the weight of publications gathering dust that at most, tiny numbers of people have any interest in. This does not include only official government documents, but also documents published by all agenices of the state, some of which are commercial companies.

To crown it all, recently a campaign by the Government to have Irish recognised as an official European language succeeded. Now, guess what……..?

Official state policy since we won out freedom almost 90 years ago has been to revive the Irish language. It was attempted in a way which sought to coerce children to learn it, which as you may imagine, had something of the opposite effect to that intended. Today, Irish remains precariously balanced on the life support machine. Which is a shame. It is a beautiful language, and it contains much of our social DNA and the soul and spirit of Irish genius and psyche. Apologies for veering off topic, but the topic theme for some reason put me in mind of the above.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at January 24, 2007 8:20 PM
Comment #204873

Friday

I am not ruling out using other languages for convenience. I just want to ensure against the RIGHT to something other than English and that the English version is always the determining document.

You know it is interesting that English is so readily available in so many non-English speaking countries. That is because for so many non-native English speakers English is THEIR language when they leave their home countries. It is ironic that almost every place in the world understands the importance of English, except the U.S. and UK.

Gergle

Language is a tool. English is the most important language in the world today. We have the right to use it in our country.

Most immigrants WANT to learn English. We just need to help them.

Re the reconquista, that is another reason to insist on English. The Indians had no immigration policy. The Mexicans let Stephen Austin come in with large numbers of his countrymen. We should learn from their mistakes. I prefer not to be second class in my own country and I don’t much care if that offends others.

Re melting pot - sure. We effectively melted more immigrants than any other country in the history of the world. Teach people English as fast as possible and we will facilitate the integration.

Re accents - it can happen, but it is very uncommon.

Rob

Every citizen should speak passable English – period. That is required for effective participation. Help people learn English; do not facilitate their disability.

Rocky

See above. My proposal just saves money. We are REQUIRED to do things only in English language and the government has to pay only for that. Everything else is optional.

Posted by: Jack at January 24, 2007 8:37 PM
Comment #204876

Jack,

“Every citizen should speak passable English – period. That is required for effective participation. Help people learn English; do not facilitate their disability.”

One of the beautiful things about America is that participation is not required very often. However, those who have to participate most often are those most likely to not understand English to the degree necessary to understand forms. There was a wave of refugees from Serbo-Croatia in the early 90’s, they were required to fill out gobs of paperwork. Now imagine fleeing persecution, getting off a boat, and being presented with forms not only in a different language but in a different alphabet. How does that make for good participation?

Posted by: Rob at January 24, 2007 8:47 PM
Comment #204879

This nation has existed 200 years, with waves of non-english speaking immigrants flooding in and has somehow managed to muddle through without having a official language.

Ours is a language by default, and given the extremely large population of English speakers in this country, It’s likely to remain the default for some time.

The fact of the matter is, language is best taught in early childhood. Past age eight, it is unlikely that one will learn a language like a native. To put it simply, the best way to teach English is to welcome immigrants who speak other languages into our communities, such that their children grow up surrounded by English speakers.

Methods that create exclusions, that bar non-English speakers from interaction with the community only serve to increase linguistic isolation of different communities. People will do their best to learn, but language is as much imprinted on people as it is learned.

We shouldn’t be threatened by folks who don’t speak the language. We should be using them to help us. Think about all those people who speak Arabic as a first language. Why don’t we utilize speakers of those language, actively recruit people from different areas of the Arab world?

We don’t need an official language. We need better language skills.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 24, 2007 9:00 PM
Comment #204887

Jack!!

I just had to wade in on this one. I totally agree with you!!! A rarity!!!!

I do want to make another point regarding the cost of making English a national language. For those of you are concerned about the costs, please simply go to a gas station, restaurant, buy a dress pattern, or a new gadget. You will find Spanish translations all over the place. What do your suppose the cost of making translations for everything in two languages already costs us? There is virtually no incidentive to learn English anymore. We interpret everything for our Spanish speakers. The other minorities that have come to America did not have that benefit.

I believe that Stephen does make a valid point. It seems to me that at least half, if not more, native - born residents in our country can not speak English. I am not referring to the various accents, rather to the improper use of English on behalf of our own citizens. If we had more pride in our own language, history, and culture these problems would resolve themselves. I just wish I knew how to instill this pride…

I do however disagree with Stephen regarding the communication gap found between those who speak English and those who don’t. Many of our immigrants, particularly those who are illegial, do not learn English because they tend to be very inclusive in and stay in and almongst themselves. There is no need for them to learn English, because the odds are high they will never have to use it.

As for learning a language - teenagers have been forced to learn foriegn languages after the age of 8 for many years. While they are not fluent, they can if they use the langauage, communicate with those who speak their new language to the extent that is frequently needed.

Posted by: Linda H. at January 24, 2007 10:00 PM
Comment #204888

I agree we do need to make English The National Language.. languages do evolve and grow the English spoke in say the 1600’s is not the same English spoken today.. but amazingly they still speak English and call it such.

Even thogh we have ALL heard these Roosevelt quotes before I still enjoy them

“We should provide for every immigrant, by day-schools for the young and night-schools for the adult, the chance to learn English; and if after, say, five years he has not learned English, he should be sent back to the land from whence he came. “.

“But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American. If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn’t doing his part as an American. There can be no divided allegiance here… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding-house; and we have room for but one soul loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.”

Posted by: Rhancheck at January 24, 2007 10:01 PM
Comment #204895

I grew up in the South Bend, IN area. There is a huge Polish and Hungarian population there. I learned a few words in both languages, but not enough to converse very well in them. Those people that I knew always spoke English in the public arena and most of the time they used their native tongue at home. There were no complaints. It worked very well for them. Many of them were immigrants (legal) from Poland and Hungary. It was necessary for them to know English as a matter of getting citizenship here.

Also, commercial pilots flying internationally must speak English when conversing with aeronautical communications.

Posted by: tomh at January 24, 2007 10:36 PM
Comment #204897

Linda H.-
There’s plenty of incentive to learn English. It’s the native language. Knowing it means being able to communicate with potential employers. Not knowing it limits prospects. For legitimate immigrants and even some illegals, there’s plenty of incentive.

Folks should note that I said it was unlikely that people would learn to speak like a native. I’m not saying people shouldn’t learn the language. What I’m saying is that language within a community changes according to one’s surroundings. The more we do to make immigrants second-class, the more we encourage a separate language community to develop.

Nobody can force somebody to learn a language, and generally past childhood, the uptake is poor. Now people can quote Theodore Roosevelt on the subject, but people in Theodore Roosevelt’s time believed a lot of funny things.

You can’t force language and culture on people and expect it to stick. We should relax and let society soak its influences into the children. The tendency, as I’ve heard it laid out is for the first generation to poorly understand the language, the second to be bilingual, and the third to be basically fluent in the language.

America is robust enough to not need official sanction in order for it’s English language society to survive. In history, the only means by which a language permanently loses hold is that people either voluntarily give upon the language (as the inhabitants of Gaul did), or there’s some sort of Demographic clear out, like what happened with England. We should look at Iran and at the Middle East, and see how Greek, Aramaic, and Arabic (in the case of Iran and many outlying areas) failed to dominate once their political support went. We should also observe just how little of a dent the Germanic Languages made in the Romance tongues of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Look how little a foothold Russian has in most of the former Republics.

We’re not going to be suddenly converted to Spanish speakers. English is established. If we choose to block people off, we might just create persistent communities of this language. If we let people in, social forces will do most of the work of maintaining English as our uniting language.

In so far as English-speaking Americans are united anyways. We are having disputes on an English Speaking site, after all!

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 24, 2007 10:46 PM
Comment #204898

Stephen

If I speak Polish and you speak Persian, we really cannot communicate very much. It doesn’t matter how much I claim to respect you. If we both speak English, we are now potential members of a community.

The bottom line is that somebody has to learn the another language. If you do not have non-English speakers in America learn English, you are either asking English speakers to learn the other languages or consigning the non-English to a semi communicative status.

It is impractical to require native Americans (original non-PC meaning) to learn languages of immigrants. There are too many varieties.

The thing to remember is the Americans melting pot worked very well until the 1970s. We absorbed many more immigrants as % of the population 100 years ago. We can do it. Some of us have lost the will.

My grandfather was Polish. He never spoke English very well, but his kids all did. My grandfather called Poland the old country. He understood that he had come to America - the new country - because it was better here. All immigrants have come to America because they think it is a better place for them than wherever they came from. Otherwise they would have stayed there. We should stop pretending otherwise and stop maintaining the bogus old culture. There is nothing more pathetic than a second generation immigrant who thinks he is still of the old country. All these guy manage is to fall between two identities. Their cousins back home like thier money and laugh behind their backs. There is a chasm between cultural identities and we all know you cannot cross a chasm in two jumps.

English language is part of the American identity. I personally cannot accept a non-English speaker into my community as full member simply because I cannot understand what he is saying.

Posted by: Jack at January 24, 2007 10:58 PM
Comment #204899

The government is for all the people of our great nation. Limiting it’s operations to English only is lazy and exclusionary. It is geocentric-ethnocentric elitism and reflects the worst nature of people. My vote is no.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 24, 2007 11:02 PM
Comment #204902

Jack

I believe that most liguist we tell you that by the time you even discussing the need for an official language you are living in a bi-lingual(or multi-lingual) country. Spanish in particular is not a forign language.In much of the US it prceeds English as the chief European tongue.
Perhaps of interest,the town I grew up in was lilly white at the time. A few years ago the city passed a law requireing that signs on stores be in English. Not just English, mind you,but.some English so the few English speaking residents could identify them. This brings up the question,if the majority of Californians become Latino( a real possibilty at some point) should they pass laws mandating that official state papers be in Spanish only?Why not. Unity is important,right?
English is my favorite(and only) language but really,whats the harm of the government useing whatever means help it to communicate with its people? There is an expense but it is not a great one. Some and I am not accusing you of this, use English only retoric as a thin disguise for xenophobia and racism. We see some examples of that on this thread.
Also Spanish is very useful in South America is it not?

Posted by: BillS at January 24, 2007 11:15 PM
Comment #204904
We look at the rare individuals who can speak three or four language well and think that we could match that proficiency with practice and determination. No! Most of us cannot.

Most can’t even speak one language. Much less 3 or 4.
Don’t believe me just try to make out what a Yankee is saying. They sure aint speaking English are they? hehehehehehehehehehe


Dave1-20-2009

The government is for all the people of our great nation. Limiting it’s operations to English only is lazy and exclusionary. It is geocentric-ethnocentric elitism and reflects the worst nature of people. My vote is no.

It’s not lazy. It’s smart. It saves money, time, and the sanity of government employees that have to deal with folks all day. And heaven knows they have to deal with enough other crap all day without have to learn to speak every lanugage on earth.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 24, 2007 11:21 PM
Comment #204917

Yeah, Jack, like Christianity should be the official religion. We are a melting pot, let people assimilate as they always have, make it easier for them, not harder. Bilingual government functions aid new legal immigrants in their assimilation process at their own natural pace, without force from the government. Republicans love to force people to do things. Enjoy your party’s minority status, and get used to it if you are not going to be reasonable and lose the ‘force’ penchant.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 25, 2007 2:04 AM
Comment #204920

First, I’ll bet that many foreigners quite fluent in english still have hard time to understand americans’s english. Intra-language accents are so time more outrageous than inter ones.
It’s often easier for one speaking and understanding “international” english than “native” american english…

Second, I fail to see why languages “market” should be regulated. It’s auto-regulated since start.

After all, people uses their native language by default, right. The keyword here is “native”.

If more and more americans kids speaks in their family circle another language than english, it means that more and more families use another language than english. Period.
When more and more people are fluent in a language, this language becomes well alive.
And eventually the new de-facto nation language.

If more and more people were speaking Klington, I would learn it and, eventually, become my kids native language. Should terrian language enforced to protect it?

Why someone should be faulty that less americans are native english speakers than before? Why should we *protect* a language, if less people use it, what’s such protection purpose? To keep it in a museum?
That’s life and death of languages. And each language share some DNA with others, dead as alive ones. Linguistic Darwinism.

Today, english language is *the* world language commodity. It’s the swiss knife language.
Does it means that it should be protected? Does it even need it?

If tomorrow more and more people worlwide are more fluent in, let’s say, spanish, spanish will become the new world language commodity.

And that’s all. Things change.
In particular languages.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 25, 2007 5:05 AM
Comment #204921

Jack,

I personally cannot accept a non-English speaker into my community as full member simply because I cannot understand what he is saying.

I guess mute/deaf people in your community will be glad to learn they’re now half-members.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 25, 2007 5:23 AM
Comment #204922

Ron Brown,

The government is for all the people of our great nation. Limiting it’s operations to English only is lazy and exclusionary.

It’s not lazy. It’s smart. It saves money, time, and the sanity of government employees that have to deal with folks all day. And heaven knows they have to deal with enough other crap all day without have to learn to speak every lanugage on earth.

How right.
But don’t stop there.

Government should be smarter than that and saves BIG money, time and the sanity of government employees by stopping serving their people taxpayers employers.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 25, 2007 5:31 AM
Comment #204923

This cuts to the heart of the cultural war. The “progressives” around the globe who live in western nations are insistant that “enlightened west” open their boarders wide open, allow no restriction the massive flow of legal and illegal immigrants. What’s interesting, very interseting, is that while supporting massive illegal immigration, progressives refuse to admit it…knowing that to openly support it is to lose their bid to keep the illegals flowing.

At the heart of the progressive movement we learn that we are all racists, and that our cutlure is not worthy defending, our flag is not worth defending. The enlightened “educators” are trying to teach us we must loath ourselves, and that the way to salvation is to surrender. We must surrender ourselves, our nation, our language, our lives to the new, global, multicultural, socialist vision.

Of course, in Europe this has resulted in a massive influx of intollerant radial Muslims and Europe is in the process of surrendering themselves to intollerant Islam. Europe was too weak to stand up to Hitler and now they seem too weak to stand up to Islam.

I believe in the melting pot. I believe in LEGAL immigration. I believe our culture, our nation, our language are worthy of defending. I believe that we should seal the boaders with a fence, that only legal workers and legal immigrants should be allowed in, that we should insist that all would-be citizens demonstrate a certain level of english language proficency.

I oppose the multicultural surrender of our nation to whatever group wants to flood across our boarders and take over. It’s not enlightenment, its self desruction and I oppose it.

Bilingual does nothing but encourage people not to assimulate. Guess what, kids in the bilingual programs do WORSE in school. I oppose two americas, three americas, four americas, however many languages liberals want to force upon us. It’s not enlightenment, it’s radicalized left wing progressivism designed to tear the west down. Europe is falling, liberals are trying hard to take America down too.

Posted by: Stephen at January 25, 2007 5:54 AM
Comment #204926

Stephen, what is the basis of your expertise on Europe? Have you even been to Europe? If so, for how long, how many Europeans have you met? I live in Europe. I travel extensively in Europe. I have many contacts throughout the continent. I simply don’t recognise the Europe you describe. It is totally alien to me.

Europe is no more ready to surrender itself to intolerant anything than America is to renounce vicious colonialism throughout the world. As for radical Islam, well, there is a clear reason for that. Formerly European colonial meddling in their world, to their detriment, latterly US similar behaviour, and that of its tail wagging dog, Israel.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at January 25, 2007 7:17 AM
Comment #204928

Stephen, you can add a large number conservative business persons to those progressives who want the borders to remain open. Where do you think the pressure on Bush was coming from to delay for 6 years? We know he wasn’t yielding to progressives.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 25, 2007 7:29 AM
Comment #204929

Phillipe, appears Jack doesn’t want anyone under the age of 4 years old in his neighborhood either, or autistics, or folks with organic brain disorder. Perhaps we should bring back the ovens and dispense with them all from all of our neighborhoods. Now there’s a population control method with teeth ‘for anyone not like me’.

Amazing how easily so called ‘conservative’ core values escape into the open regardless of all efforts to the contrary.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 25, 2007 7:34 AM
Comment #204938

Jack,

To use your criteria, English-only government may be desirable, but isn’t necessary or even possible.

Think about someone who only speaks Spanish showing up at the ER of a public hospital. As I understand your proposal, they would have to provide their own translator at their own expense so they could fill out the paperwork. This isn’t going to happen.

Some ideas are too impractical to even bother debating.

Now, it is true that you can’t accommodate everyone’s linguistic preferences. Some middle ground is needed.

Posted by: Woody Mena at January 25, 2007 8:51 AM
Comment #204940

Jack,

If you enter an Indian market, for this case lets pretend you like curry, and they say “We only accept orders in Indian,” (of course, they say that in the Indian dialect of their choice) I’m sure you’ll argue “Hey free market, yada yada”. Now let’s extend that to the government. I’d be interested to hear a response that isn’t some emotionaly pleading excuse, but it is a rational thought out explanation as to why this analogy is false or why the gov’t can justifiably selectively service only a subcategory of people.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 25, 2007 9:02 AM
Comment #204942

Philippe

It is not a matter of choice or prejudice. It is just a practical fact. Since you are writing in English, you know very well the power of language. You are a full and valued member of this American based community because you write well in English. If you wrote the same things in French, we just couldn’t understand each other and we would not be in the same intellectual community.

Re your other points, I will say again that I do not advocate regulating language in any way. I am saying only that English should be the only language REQUIRED in the U.S. Restaurants can print menus in Italian. Kids can speak Choctaw if they want. But the law should state the official documents must be published in English. Anything else is strictly optional.

Paul

Thanks for the comments about Irish. You actually WERE on topic although it is a contrasting example. The government REQUIRES Irish and your government spends a great deal of money in pursuit of a politically correct ideal. We Americans have no ancestral language. English has been the accepted language of the United States since there was a United States. We never had much reason to defend English until recently. English can take care of itself in the actual competition among languages. Left alone, English would continue to predominate in the U.S. and would come to dominate in Europe within a generation (I am not saying it would replace local languages, but anyone traveling among countries would naturally speak English). What we have in the U.S. today (and worse in Europe) is a type of language protectionism. The political authorities are REQUIRING languages other than English. In Europe you have some reason for this with local languages. In America it makes no sense at all. If we leave things alone, English will be somewhat modified by foreign languages (as it always has) and then it will absorb those foreign speakers. This is good. Let it be.

David

See above. You know that is not what I mean. As I told Philippe, if you cannot make yourself understood, you cannot be a functioning member of the community. Children are NOT full members of the community. If I chose never to write again, I would NOT be a member of this blog community.

And I say for the 10th (?) time, I would do absolutely nothing against any languages. I would only say that English be declared the only REQUIRED language. I do not want someone to be able to sue in order to force anyone to use a language other than English.

It would be like the U.S. dollar. A dollar is legal tender for all debts public or private in the U.S. You cannot legally demand someone pay you in anything other than U.S dollars. But you CAN use other products and trade as you please with mutual consent.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 9:07 AM
Comment #204943

Woody

See above my analogy to the U.S. dollar. You would want to satisfy the needs of your customers. But in your ER case, I would not want to make Spanish a requirement. It can get crazy. What if someone shows up who speaks only Hmong? You would try to help this guy, but you could not reasonably expect a hospital in rural Virginia to have immediate access to Hmong speakers.

It would be a lot safer for everybody if they could speak English.

YOu also know that language is tricky. Translations are never perfect and sometimes not even very good. Pepsi’s famous “Pepsi comes alive” slogan was evidently translated into Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead”. Numbers are very hard to understand in many languages. When our foreigner shows up, I would not want the translator to mistakenly say take ten tablets each day instead of one.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 9:14 AM
Comment #204944

Dave1

It is their business if they want to speak only Indian. If you want my money, they may make accomdations, but they do not have to. That is the free market.

It is usually true that if you go to an ethnic market speaking only English, they rip you off (i.e. charge more than the local speaker). This is also free market, although a good reason to learn a few of their terms.

The situations above would be unaffected by my proposal. But the health department document posted on the guy’s wall would be in English only.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 9:22 AM
Comment #204945

Jack,

So what is your alternative to having a Spanish interpreter in the ER (or available over the phone)?
Getting rid of interpreters won’t magically turn people into English speakers.

Posted by: Woody Mena at January 25, 2007 9:35 AM
Comment #204946

Stephen,

Of course, in Europe this has resulted in a massive influx of intollerant radial Muslims and Europe is in the process of surrendering themselves to intollerant Islam.

I dunno what a “radial” and/or “intollerant” muslim could be, but it seems at least I’m not here the one damaging english…

Europe was too weak to stand up to Hitler and now they seem too weak to stand up to Islam.

Most probably because we “tollerate” “radial” things… BTW, I’m sure your english friendly britishs will be happy to learn they didn’t resist Hitler.

But you’re right, after World War I, Europe was indeed too weak for another war. Literally weak. The wounds of war (1,857,800 deaths for just France) was still wide opened.
WW II didn’t happened because we didn’t stood up against Hitler but because WWI Versailles Treaty was madly unreasonable, thanks for our Clemenceau’s lack of substainable peace vision.

And IMHO that’s the bigest french fault regarding WWII. Afterall Britishs too had to flea at Dunkerque but, what a suprise, only french are still called surrenders today…

I oppose the multicultural surrender of our nation to whatever group wants to flood across our boarders and take over. It’s not enlightenment, its self desruction and I oppose it.

Every monoculture die quickly. Without new blood, there is no culture for long time. Today, a more global culture is emerging and *cross bo[a!?!]rders* everywhere.
Welcome to communication age.

Bilingual does nothing but encourage people not to assimulate. Guess what, kids in the bilingual programs do WORSE in school. I oppose two americas, three americas, four americas, however many languages liberals want to force upon us. It’s not enlightenment, it’s radicalized left wing progressivism designed to tear the west down. Europe is falling, liberals are trying hard to take America down too.

Hum, let me check again… yeah, IIRC, Europe was never a monocultural space. Neither a mono linguist space. In fact, EU motto is “united in the diversity”.

Now if you could give us European some facts about this gravity issue we are, according to you, facing. Thanks.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 25, 2007 9:51 AM
Comment #204947

Woody

I think you might want to have translators, but Spanish is not the only language we have in the U.S. The best option is to encourage English speaking. I non-English speaker WILL get inferior care. If nothing else, you have to go back and forth between the translators.

In my earlier career, I could speak good Portuguese. I could translate. But very often there were big problems, especially with specialty terms. Translating on the phone is very hard too.

There is a sort of bottom line in policy. Anything that encourages and facilitates the learning of English is good. Anything that holds it back is bad. Anything that is neutral is optional.

What we really need to get rid of are these misguided bilingual education ideas that seek to maintain the old country language. Teach English. You can use the old language to help do that, but do not work to preseve the old culture.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 9:51 AM
Comment #204948

Jack,

Good avoidance. Now answer the quesiton or not, up to you.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 25, 2007 9:53 AM
Comment #204951

Dave1

I honestly have trouble with your questions. I thought I answered it. Let me try this:

I do not care what private individuals do. I do not care what anybody does voluntarily. I want only to make English the “legal tender” in the USG, so that nobody could ever be REQUIRED to use anything other than English in any official capacity.

English is the language almost all AMericans speak. There are hundreds (thousands) of languages in the world. We cannot speak them all. We need to agree on a common language. I am not willing to waste money translating into every possible language. It is not possible for anybody to maintain competence in very many languages.

Yes, if you come to the U.S. and you cannot speak English, you can expect to get less than first class service all around. A smart person will figure that out and do the needful things to improve himself, or adapt to the situation. If he won’t, it is more his problem than ours.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 10:05 AM
Comment #204952

Dave1

Or put another way, if I am an official who speaks English, I do not see any reason why someone can come in and demand that I spend the years of study to learn his language. If you got 100 people in a room, 85 speak English, 5 speak Spanish and one each speak, Hmong, Chinese, Greek, Polish, Lithuanian, French, Dutch, Arabic, Persian and Urdu, what language do you think everybody should learn?

You cannot say they should all learn a couple. I know from personal experience that this is just not possible.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 10:10 AM
Comment #204954

To all: I really don’t care too much about language, maybe because in the area where I have grown up (in the Boston metro area) there have been speakers of many different languages around me, French speakers from Vermont, Italian speakers in the North End, Portuguese speakers everywhere (there are many immigrants from Brazil around here) and Chinese speakers in Chinatown. I agree that every tiny piece of government paperwork should not be translated into every little language, but I think that certain basic services should be provided on a multilingual basis, mainly the courts and possibly the Emergency Rooms in hospitals. If we really wanted to everyone to learn English we should offer free ESL languages for anyone, possibly at public schools.

I have also had the unique experience of attending elementary school in the late 1990s when the school had more money than they what to do with so they hired a Spanish teacher and started teaching foreign languages in first grade. I can attest that I have had much more success at learning the language than I would have had if I had not started until later. If we truly want people to learn more than one language, instruction must start early or else it will be very difficult.

Ron Brown: I can say the same thing about Southern Dialects of American English, but no matter what you do I will still call the fruit and vegetable section at the store the prawduce section and I will still call automobiles cahs.

Posted by: Warren P at January 25, 2007 10:22 AM
Comment #204960

Jack,

It is not a matter of choice or prejudice. It is just a practical fact.

AFAIK, in some US areas, it’s more pratical to speak latino than in english.
That’s linguistic pragmatism at work.

Since you are writing in English, you know very well the power of language. You are a full and valued member of this American based community because you write well in English. If you wrote the same things in French, we just couldn’t understand each other and we would not be in the same intellectual community.

True.
But my life wouldn’t be at risk if I couldn’t read & write in English here. Plus, this community is in cyberspace, where borders are gone and multicultural everywhere.

That’s not the same at ER entrance for non-english speakers. Or near a english-only road sign for non-english readers. Or along a power plant fence… and so on.

I always hear about Bush speeches on protecting americans. Don’t tell me it doesn’t include people that can’t understand (to not be confused with people who ignore them) warning signs!?

Pragmatically, it’s needed.
On the long term, if people don’t need that much to talk in english in some part of american, it’s because non-english people becomes the majority, not the minority. It’s more then an issue of communitarism (wait, I said communITARism, not communism!!!) segmentation than national identity via english language, I’ll say.

Sure, common ground are needed. English is one, worldwide. But training and checking plane pilots are skilled enough in english take both time and money.

Let’s spend as much on non-english kids and, meanwhile, use bilingual for safety sake. In the future, check again if bilingual for safety reason is still needed that much.

But the law should state the official documents must be published in English. Anything else is strictly optional.

Doesn’t every official documents always available in english already? Seriously, I’m asking as I dunno.

This thread have an interesting echo in our own debate about official EU languages…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 25, 2007 10:47 AM
Comment #204971

Jack, I’ve got news for you. The hispanics don’t much like being second class Americans, either. I doubt they care if you are offended, either.

Posted by: gergle at January 25, 2007 11:30 AM
Comment #204972
But in your ER case, I would not want to make Spanish a requirement. It can get crazy. What if someone shows up who speaks only Hmong? You would try to help this guy, but you could not reasonably expect a hospital in rural Virginia to have immediate access to Hmong speakers.

It’s internet time, Jack.
With some structure built, finding a translator for a foreign language could be even be a question of minutes or a few hours at worst, not days.
It’s a typical opportunity for private services, BTW.

It would be a lot safer for everybody if they could speak English.

But you can’t expect that from everybody. You must be prepared for the worst case. In particular when its probability is increasing…

Between a patient speaking a bad english and a bilingual translator assisting him/her, I’ll bet the later is safer. It’s way easy to screw very badly a medical diagnostic with dual-sense words, pronunciation semantical differences could be fatal. Wrong drug name pronunciation anyone!?

When our foreigner shows up, I would not want the translator to mistakenly say take ten tablets each day instead of one.

I would not want the foreigner to mistakenly say in bad english something dangerously wrong either.

What works better in language translation issue is to double check with the speaker what you’ve translated. It take twice the time, but it’s way safer. Reverse translating does works too.

Anyway, it’s not a matter of translator or not, it’s a matter to be able to communicate in an emergency situation. In such situation, the message integrity and consistency matters more than the cost to transmit it. While speed could be impacted, most of the time it worth it.

if you come to the U.S. and you cannot speak English, you can expect to get less than first class service all around. A smart person will figure that out and do the needful things to improve himself, or adapt to the situation. If he won’t, it is more his problem than ours.

But 1) not everybody could be a smart person (otherwise, everybody will be equally smart, aka, well, no more than anybody else ;-)) and 2) one could die because he can’t be warned/understood efficiently. You could call this darwinism at work, but usually a Society try to give an hand in such case, not blame.

Or is it the next “everybody for itself” step in America?

If a government knows that many citizens can’t understand live safety signs and/or can’t be understood by emergency services, isn’t its duty to fix the issue. Forcing people to learn english wont be enough for a long time. Meanwhile, bilingual seems needed.

BTW, all around the world, the best places where you’ve the highest probability to make yourself understood whatever language(s) you could speak are international airports. Linguistic road crosses…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 25, 2007 11:32 AM
Comment #204980

Interesting comments, but focused on the US. I learned Spanish as an adult, prior to a several year assignment in Bolivia and other parts of South America. I don’t recall any bi-lingual efforts being made for me as a primarily English speaker, although most professionals had a rudimentary or better understanding of English. I realized I needed to learn Spanish when a machinegun totin’ guard in the airport was asking me questions I didn’t understand. I agree with Jack, learning Spanish (or any other foreign language)as an adult is difficult. (I have made my share of mis-usage, mis-pronunciation mistakes that kept my friends laughing.) I’d like some input from some of the European posters as to whether foreign language accomodations (i.e., signs or publications in multiple languages, translators) are common in Europe.

Mike in Tampa

Posted by: Mike in Tampa at January 25, 2007 12:18 PM
Comment #204982
I’d like some input from some of the European posters as to whether foreign language accomodations (i.e., signs or publications in multiple languages, translators) are common in Europe.

Signs are usually language neutral as much as possible. Documents in multiple languages are quite common more and more these days, but usually english is the de-facto media.

What make a big difference is the fact, except for UK and Ireland people, pretty much every european have a distinct native language. Since latest decades, we’re used to *needs* another language, “international” english more than often.
Which give nobody an advantage over the others.

Not even native english speakers. Very often, the more one speaker skill is higher than the other, the more harder it is.
Least Common Denominator works as well if not better, maybe because both sides could respect the effort of the other…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 25, 2007 12:46 PM
Comment #204993

Jack,

Your basic asumption appears to be that the Government should operate as a free-market service provider and ignore those people who don’t meet your definition of a valuable customer. No one here suggested that every civil servent learn every language. Yet, the propsal you make is that the government should make second class citizens of everyone who doesn’t speak English fluently simply because it costs more money than not and might inconvenience a civil servent or two.
Despite the fact that I bet I could argue there are net cost savings in using multilingual forms, we’re not talking a neghborhood conveinience store. We’re talking about the government and services of the United States of America; Remember:
OF the people,
BY the people
FOR the people?
The proponents of all these exclusionary, divisive, and effectively prejudicial regulations seem to forget that “we the people” is more than some anglican WASP.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 25, 2007 1:25 PM
Comment #204995

Language is best and ultimately only affected by the “free market”. Here in Texas, knowing Spanish has advantages. Knowing English here is also advantagious. Spanglish or Texican is much more common, and I suspect is likely the future language here. TV has made “American” much more uniform as Robin MacNeil pointed out in his piece on language years ago. I think this is much ado about nothing, to quote a famous English writer. I wonder if we would have understood his version of English, if we were transported back to his time.

Try reading Beowulf in it’s original text sometime.

Posted by: gergle at January 25, 2007 1:30 PM
Comment #205003

Warren
Lighten up. I was just kidding. Or didn’t ya catch the hehehehehehe after my comment about y’all.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 25, 2007 2:12 PM
Comment #205013

I think social pressures, and the desire to function in the economy means that most people who come to America, legally or otherwise, will make an effort to learn at least some English voluntarily. Some are willing or able to live in this country without much use of English, but those who want to fit in seek out the language because it allows them to become an integrated part of society, with all its rewards.

You see this happen time and again. Making English official will not speed this process, only make it harder for immigrants to do business with their new government. That only encourages isoluation and resentment, especially if Bush’s guest-worker program gets into play.

Conservatives are keen to control culture, but the fact of the matter is, culture emerges from more than it obeys the laws of men. Out of fear, and a rather normative sense of what works best, they try and use authority to do what authority has a poor track record of trying to do over time throughout the world: impose language.

If English is doomed in America, which for the time being I doubt, there’s not much we can do about it. That said, I think it’s far likelier that over the next century that we’ll see a greater admixture of Spanish words in our vocabulary, and that English will undergo the normal drift of languages over time.

Languages are best preserved through their inheritence by the next generation. Do we look like a nation on the verge of the kind of Demographic collapse that would signal the end of English in America? No. In the meantime, folks will learn the language in the midst of the social networking that occurs. The Republicans are trying to force something to occur out of a misguided concern for the culture that will happen naturally on its own.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 25, 2007 2:48 PM
Comment #205021

Who needs an official language? we should also use currency from other countries anywhere in the US.
Why should people have to be bothered with such things?
/sarcasm.

Posted by: john at January 25, 2007 4:08 PM
Comment #205024

Gergle

The passion is misplaced. It is not something any of us can ordain and it is not subject to political will. If you do not speak my language and I do not speak yours, we cannot be part of the same communication community. To solve this problem, one of us has to learn the other language or both of us need to learn a third common language. English is the common American language. Almost everybody in the U.S. can communicate in English. It makes a lot more sense for those who cannot to learn English than it does for the majority.

English and other languages are NOT coequal in the U.S.

Yes, languages change. None of us can read Beowulf w/o training. Most of us can read Chaucer almost all of us can read Shakespeare, with little adjustment, and the Constitution is accessible to all. In 400 or 500 years we can talk again if the changing language is a problem.

Philippe

You write English very well. How long did it take you to learn that? I bet it was a long process. Languages and translations are not that easy. In emergency situations it is even worse. That is why all pilots use English.

Re making yourself understood, I was using the concept of randomness in the thought experiment. If you have no idea where you will be in the world, what are the chances that you will be able to communicate with somebody within a ten kilometer radius? If you can use only one language, which one would you choose?

Re bilingual - we are not talking bilingual. We have dozens of languages spoken in any major U.S. city. We would need to have a book length for everything. The WORLD is on the way to being biligual, i.e. English and local language, as I am sure you must notice in Europe.

We have been here before. 100 years ago, a greater percentage of the U.S. population was foreign born than today. In those days, we also had a very large minority language population - Germans. They made up around a quarter of the total U.S. population, about twice as many as Hispanics to today. We handled that well and can do the same now.

Dave1

I am not an Anglican WASP. My father was Polish and my mother was German. None of my grandparents spoke English as a native language. Assimilation worked in my case and can work in most others. We just need to let the process go as it will naturally.

Re our government, we make it a requirement of citizenship to speak English. Anyone born in the U.S. should at least be using English when he gets to school. There is not logical reason that a U.S. citizen should need any language other than English.

Stephen

If history is any guide, the chances of Spanish replacing English in the U.S. are near zero. That is not my worry. The mistake we can make is to artificially maintain languages with legal requirements. I am not asking anyone to give up his language. I am only saying that nobody should be REQUIRED to speak anything other than English in the U.S.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 4:22 PM
Comment #205027

Hmmm…

Jack, a “conservative,” proposes making a law to deal with the “problem” of people expecting to be communicated with in a clear way, a law that denies them that expectation explicitly, rather than the implicit way in which it is routinely denied these days. Yes, more laws! The fundamental conservative ideal! To the barricades, Jack!

Posted by: mental wimp at January 25, 2007 4:35 PM
Comment #205031

Mental

I repeat once again, nothing I am saying prevents anyone from speaking, reading or writing any language. It simply protects everyone else from having to use any language except English in the U.S. It is like the U.S. dollar. It is the legal tender. If you want, you can trade anything you want, but only the dollar is the legal tender for all debts public and private.

BTW - I could once speak four languages and I could read Latin and Greek. I know how hard it is to learn and maintain a language.

Given the nature of our multi language world, you could well require a full staff of translators on call everywhere in the nation (just to be fair). It is just not practical.

Beyond that, as Gergle pointed out, languages do change. A native speaker who left Russia in 1970 and has not used the language since speaks poorly today. Any language you do not use will atrophy. So you get somebody up to a high level, and they do not practice for a while, it goes away.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 5:01 PM
Comment #205042

Mike in Tampa, here in Ireland, major road signs are posted in English, French and German. Over the last ten years we have had massive immigration from Eastern Europe and China, as well as other exotic parts of the world. There is a certain amount of material published in some Euro languages, e.g. Polish, Luthuanian and also some in Chinese ( Mandarin? - I don’t know!) But my own belief is that if you go to another country, then you should learn their language. I find even in France, if I use my imperfect French when seeking directions or just talking to people, I get a far warmer response. I recall actually a couple of years back I was in a McDonalds queue on the Avenue Wagram in Paris, just a short distance from the Arche de Triomphe at the top of the Champs Elysee. An elderly American couple were asking for directions to to Champs Elysee for the Air France office. they asked several people ahead of me in the queue, but their accent did not perhaps render a perfect pronounciation. All of the French people looked at them as if they were aliens, totally incapable of being understood, one of whom was a police woman. We were no more than 100 metres from the Arch and the Champs. And yet no one could help them. That is until yours truly stepped in and did the honours.

Philippe, doesn’t France have a government office for the protection and preservation of the French Language? I seem to recall some years back that they were trying to eliminate things like “Le Weekend” par example, non?

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at January 25, 2007 6:16 PM
Comment #205046
If you want, you can trade anything you want, but only the dollar is the legal tender for all debts public and private.
Not true.

The U.S. dollar is falling (by design). Ever played Monopoly ?

Posted by: d.a.n at January 25, 2007 6:35 PM
Comment #205047

Currency is a BAD example.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 25, 2007 6:37 PM
Comment #205055

d.a.n.

The dollar is by law the legal tender. If I owe you $1 and present you a U.S. dollar my debt is discharged. You have no further recourse.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 7:34 PM
Comment #205062

Wrong. There are many people that choose to use another currency.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 25, 2007 8:28 PM
Comment #205064

Philippe Houdoin,

Your understanding of the Rice of Hitler is lacking. I suggest you read “The Rise and Fall of Adolph Hitler”. Europe could have stopped Hitler time and time again. Instead Europe helped Hitler build his war machine, which he then unleashed on them.

Nice try Philippe, but I’m a history minor and have studdied WWII extensively. When I say Europe was too weak to oppose Hitler I don’t mean too weak physicaly, they were too weak moraly. Just as todays democrats in the US are too weak to stop N. Korea or Iran from building nukes. They have the power but not the WILL POWER. That’s how World Wars are made, the weak, the pacifists insist that we are all too enlightened…and the get the world to stand by and do nothing…until it’s too late and global war is let loose.

Posted by: Stephen at January 25, 2007 8:39 PM
Comment #205065

Some corrections. The Rise and Fall of the Third Riche. Sorry, not of Hitler.

The past does not dictate the future. We can find in events elements of the past that helped to bring them about. But Europe very clearly had many opportunites to step in an intervene and bring down Hitler BEFORE his war machine was ready to launch a world war. They failed. NOt because their armies were not up to the task, they failed because they were weak inside. They lacked the moral fiber, the will-power to stop that mad man when they could have done so short of world war.

Posted by: stephen L at January 25, 2007 8:55 PM
Comment #205072

d.a.n.

Listen, people CAN use any form of currency they want. BUT if an American chooses to use American dollars in the U.S. you CANNOT demand payment in any other currency.

It is very simple. If I owe you a dollar and I give you a dollar and you refuse to accept it (you want a Euro), I no longer owe you anything.

You and I can agree to anything. If we both agree to pay in Euro, we can do that. BUT only if we agree.

Your grasp of currency is a bit tenuous. The values of currencies fluctuate. They are worth what the market pays for them. You may believe the dollar will go up or down against the Euro, but today it has a particular exchange rate and that is what it is worth.

Your link to coins of precious metals is a bit of a scam. The price of gold, silver etc is very unstable. Back in 1979, gold was selling at about $800 an oz.

Beyond that, precious metals are not an investment in the usual sense. They only rise or fall with currency changes or scarcity. Nobody but an idiot holds his savings in actual currency. You invest that. If you invested your $800 in stocks in 1980, you would have nearly $10,000 today. If you put that money into gold, you would have $644 worth of gold.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 9:16 PM
Comment #205075

Jack
Lets see. We went from language to WW2 to currency so is assume we can discuss anything. Do you recall my mention of useing the strategic oil reserve to help stabilize oil prices at a relative high but steady rate. Bush has proposed doubleing its size and the action will be before congress. Seems like an opportune time to amend the enabling law to include somthing to that effect. I have my congresswomans home phone number . How about you?Thoughts?

Posted by: BillS at January 25, 2007 9:25 PM
Comment #205084

Jack, Passion?

Are we speaking the same language? Lol. I’m not sure what language you will need to reach me in 4 or 500 years, but I’m doubtful it will be English. A seance might be more appropiate.

I don’t really care, nor do I think does anyone else, what government mandates here. People use what works for them.

Yes, English is the universal language of money. That’s why so many cultures teach it. I just find it odd that such a free market proponent wants to dictate an official language. I know you said you don’t want to mandate it, but I’m really not sure what you mean otherwise. It’s either official or not. People are still going to speak what they are comfortable with. Are you feelin me? That’s the shizzle.

Posted by: gergle at January 25, 2007 9:51 PM
Comment #205104

Gergle, try reading Adam Smith. His olde English style is a real bitch for us modern TV kids. But, worth every hour to grasp and appreciate.

I took a course in philosophy that required Theory of Moral Sentiment as reading on the first day of class. By the third class, 2/3 of the students who showed up on the first day dropped the course.

Another course, a philosophy of economics course, required Wealth of Nations. About half the class dropped by the 3rd session. This is how I know that most people who quote Adam Smith have never read Smith’s books cover to cover.

The problem was not with Adam Smith’s English, it was impeccable. The problem is what we call ‘English’ today is not real English, but Consumerish and Technish with a vastly distilled English as an archaic root.

Olde English had the capacity to carry and convey and debate the ethereal world of great ideals, concepts, and principles which acted as rudders for an entire nation. Today’s English has the capacity to sell and convey ratios and data, and is, for each new generation, losing its capacity for great ideals, concepts, and principles. Numbers, probability trends and gray areas between black and white are the currency of today’s English.

The last great English speakers I can recall were Martin Luther King, preceded by JFK, Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill, and of course the great poets of the early 20th century. Reagan had some vestiges.

Obama is trying to revive the English of Ideals and 1st principles, but I don’t have a lot of confidence he can pull it off. I commend him for trying, however.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 25, 2007 10:53 PM
Comment #205111

All Americans should change their message on their answering machines:

“GOOD MORNING, WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES”

“Press “1” if you speak English or, “Press ‘2’ to be placed on hold until you can!

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 25, 2007 11:08 PM
Comment #205113
My father was Polish and my mother was German. None of my grandparents spoke English as a native language. Assimilation worked in my case and can work in most others…Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 04:22 PM
So now your argument of forcing everyone to speak English when dealing with the government is that assimilaiton was good enough for your Grandparents so everyone MUST do it or else?

To FORCE people to learn english by EXCLUDING access to government for those without fluency in ENGLISH is by definition exclusionary and has the effect of apartheid. There is no way to argue around it. It is no wonder that the right wing is called fascist and then shakes it head wondering why…

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 25, 2007 11:13 PM
Comment #205114

David,

I’ve never read either in their original text. I’ve read updated versions of both.

I have reviewed, though not even slightly understood, original Beowulf. It is related, in my mind at least, to Welsh or Celtic, of which I descend. There are audio Celtic sites on the Web. It is fascinating to listen to. It sounds very Tuetonic to me.

I find most Revolutionary era text difficult to really understand. In doing some ancestry research I’ve read many documents in the common english of the time, with it’s highly variable spelling, and colloquial context and usage, it is very hard to really understand.

Posted by: gergle at January 25, 2007 11:21 PM
Comment #205115

Gergle

What I want is very simple. I just want the rule to say that nobody can ever DEMAND anything be written or said in any language other than English. I want official documents to be available only in English in their official form. If somebody wants to translated them, I have no problem, but the taxpayers should not pay for it.

The reason I think we need this law now is because of the rights revolution. All sorts of things are being defined as rights. I read that someone put some dog crap into some guy’s mailbox and is claiming it is free speech.

I do not want anyone claiming it is his right to have something in a language other than English.

BTW - English is not only the language of money. Most scientific papers are written in English. English has a very well developed literature because it can draw on many subcultures.

English also has more words than most other languages. I know that sounds odd, but if you study most other languages, you find that they rely much more on compounds of simpler words. Languages are NOT equally expressive. English is a complex language. It draws on Latin, old English, Norse, French and Greek, as well as almost all world languages.

You can tell English is a world language by the vocabulary and expressiveness. Greek is also like that. Most languages develop in a much more limited cultural context.

So do not sell English short. We are very lucky to have that as our first language.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 11:24 PM
Comment #205116

LOL, David, I’m changing my message today!!That’s hillareous.

Posted by: gergle at January 25, 2007 11:27 PM
Comment #205117

Gergle

Beowulf is Germanic. It bears no particular relation to Celtic languages. English in those days was a scandinavian language. When the Vikings invaded, they could make themselves understood to the local populations.

If William the Conqueror had not taken over and brought Norman French, English would probably sound something like Dutch. The closest language to English is actually Frisian, spoken in N. Holland. If you get a chance, listen to Chaucer read by someone who can read it as it is thought to have been spoken.

English has a truly interesting heritage.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 11:28 PM
Comment #205119

Dave1

How many languages do you want to learn? Either people can speak to you in your language or you speak to them in theirs (or you both speak a third one) but there is no way you can just ignore this problem.

I am curious and not trying to be nasty. How many languages can you speak at professional level? I ask that because most Americans cannot speak a second language and they think of it as something much simpler to acquire than it is. Most foreigners who speak English have studied the language for many years, and they still make mistakes. We simply cannot use multiple languages.

You know the U.S. State Department trains its emloyees in language. These guys tend to be unusually talented (only 2% of those who try to get in pass the tests). It takes them 6 months of FULL time training to learn easy languages (Spanish German); it takes a year to learn medium languages (Russian, Polish) and it takes two years to learn hard languages (Arabic, Chinese). And even after that, the average guy sounds like Sargeant Shultz from Hogan’s Heroes. I do not know the total costs, but when you include salaries and teachers it costs upwards of $300,000.oo to teach an adult to reach the professional level. Government officials generally use language at the professional level. It would not be enough to give them the waiter’s vocabulary and expression. AND if they do not practice it atrophies like a marathon runner who just watches tv.

You can call me fascist, but there really is no practical solution besides having a primary language. Otherwise we have our citizens divided into language ghettos.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 11:39 PM
Comment #205121

Jack said: “English also has more words than most other languages.”

Yeah, because our educational system allows students to create and use mangled Frankenstein words like ‘irregardless’. Then there are all those common currency Acronyms like CIA, FBI and CYA. (No, that last one is not short for see ya!)

I can always tell something about a person’s education when I hear them use that word. I will never forget my freshman year when a prof called me out for using it. It was embarrassing and very healthy for me. I had been using it for years, and no one ever mentioned it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 25, 2007 11:42 PM
Comment #205122

Folks,
Please let me clarify something. I beleive the problem that is ocurring here is one of mis-undrstanding the difference between the WRITTEN language and the SPOKEN ONE.

I maintain that if English were the “OFFICAL” WRITTEN Language of the the USA many problems in our lives would be solved. If our legal documents, contracts, and laws are written in the most commonly used language what is the problem? American English is the most common language in the US. This would prevent duplications of many documents, and help to ease the costs of these documents.

Yes, I understand many immigrants might need the use of an interpreter, but it would also encourage those who wish to move up in our world to actually ‘attempt’ to learn the most used Language of our land.

I am not suggesting, nor do I believe is Jack, that we should make the ‘common’ SPOKEN language of our nation English. The idea of prohibiting the use of all of the common spoken language uses would be ridiculous. American English is made up of so many words from so many other languages that to try to prevent it’s growth would stagnate the language, our culture and our people. It is for this reason that we accept the various translations and definitions of one single word.

As time moves along, I am sure that many of these newer words will find themselves in most American Dictionaries. Until then, I believe that our language of WRITTEN choice should be the one found in the most recent and reputable dictionaries.

BTW - I incluse all of our IMMIGRANTS in my thoughts, not just those of Latino descent.

Posted by: Linda H. at January 25, 2007 11:45 PM
Comment #205123

Jack,
In America, I’m not a lawyer, I think you are covered without being bilingual.

I think Quebec’s mandatory bilingualism is an equally stupid idea.

I don’t think that bilingualism as practiced here in Texas is a bad idea though. I don’t think it’s absolutely required, though. I think it would be dumb to ignore the population and start trying to convict spanish speaking citizens in a courtroom without interpreters present. Depriving them of treasure or freedom without informing them of what is going on in their native tongue would be politically stupid, especially since hispanics are the soon to be the majority in Texas. It may well provide a legal avenue for overturning an action as well, official or not. Rights aren’t about officaldom. They are God given, remember?

I took a telecourse in Spanish once and found it uselesss. I want to learn Spanish and often watch Spanish channels. I get laborers to teach me phrases. It adds to my communication skills and even reveals english to me in a different light. I know you get this.

I just think your bias is unfounded, and antithetical to America.

I don’t think Greek or English hold any special status in the communication of ideas.

Posted by: gergle at January 25, 2007 11:45 PM
Comment #205125

David

I know you are joking, but I will give the serious answer. English adapts foreign words very easily. In addition, we have history of England with layers (saxons, Norse, Norman French, church latin various colonial languages). That is why English literally has more unique words than any other language.

Re CYA - if you use it as I think, it should not be embarassing. Very often that is exactly what you are trying to do.

My favorite is OBE’d. Some words indeed are OBE’d. You better not use disinterested in the original sense, for example.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 11:50 PM
Comment #205127

Gergle

The American (as in United States) experience has always included English. English has been the common language since before there was a United States. We copy the foods of immigrants and we take some words. But assimilate them into English. Eventually, we also assimilate the people too.

You cannot have a commmon culture w/o a common language. YOu are thinking biligual because you live in Texas. America is MULTI lingual. We might be able to handle two languages, but we cannot have all the permutations of a dozen.

Think of the limit of what you are asking. We would have to be fair and include all sigificant languages. And if English was not primary, we would have to cross translate, from Persian to Spaanish, for example. It gets kinda silly.

Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 11:58 PM
Comment #205130

Jack, English is the richest and broadest language on earth. Which I guess is why so many Americans born and bred here don’t speak it very well. I watch C-Span’s Wash. Journal call in segments most mornings and it is a shame on America that so many Americans are so poor at expressing themselves coherently and especially, logically.

Which is why I lean toward allowing legal immigrants to learn at their own pace with the help of government bilingual signs for major language denominated immigrant numbers. Businesses should be not be forced, except where safety issues are paramount.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 26, 2007 12:06 AM
Comment #205141

Paul in Euroland,

Philippe, doesn’t France have a government office for the protection and preservation of the French Language? I seem to recall some years back that they were trying to eliminate things like “Le Weekend” par example, non?

Oh yeah, it comes even with a law, named after its genitor, Toubon, at this time our Culture Minister. French made then and still make jokes about it, calling it the “Allgood law” (loi Toubon -> Loi Tout bon -> All Good Law).

It was more an anti-anglosaxon law than a french language protection, and nobody in france really could care less. Except for ads producers.

While many international anglicism make their way in french culture, the same is often true the other way too (Et Voilà, Rendez-vous, Déjà Vu, pretty much all gastronomic terms, or whatever french word could sounds chic/elitist. Before 9/11. Since, french bashing rules) and, basically, frenchies don’t care that much about their old french language.
In fact, today an english student or a quebecer have more luck to understand old french (pre-revolution) than a native french, because up to 25-30% of english words comes from old french ones, and keep the orignal meanings, while new french words coming from other cultures replace them in french lingua.

It’s totally fair (and darwinian, linguistically speaking) that such move happens both way. French used to be a major language in western civilization, now it’s clearly english.

What matters is more people can actually communicate with others than before. The rest is plain indentity protectionism.
And IMHO the francophony community does worldwide a better job diffusing french than any protectionism law France could ever throw…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 26, 2007 4:54 AM
Comment #205143

Jack,

You write English very well. How long did it take you to learn that? I bet it was a long process.

Too long, indeed, and it’s a never ending process. But I do it because I want too, not because I need it for my survival.

Languages and translations are not that easy. In emergency situations it is even worse. That is why all pilots use English.

But not passengers. People with emergency or very important responsabilities are required to, or at least should know another language, the second most frequently used in their activities would make sense for example.

Could you expect plane crash survivors to speak the same language than rescue teams? Or do you hope, being one wounded survivor, they will speak english?
What if you are *not* english speaking?

I’m against bilingual in school. Basic english training should be offered to all new immigrant.
But, meanwhile, I’m for public services being able, in particular in serious situation (emergency, justice, police) to communicate as much clear as possible with whoever citizen. Even if he can’t speak the predominant language.

Protecting the minority rights. They should have equal rights than any citizen of the majority.
And it’s not limited to non-english speakers. Blind, mute & deaf people come to minds.

You’re not against Braile labels embossed on goodies, right? Why should public signs or documents only written in english when an enough large minority of people is well known for, currently, not being able to understand it at all!?

If you have no idea where you will be in the world, what are the chances that you will be able to communicate with somebody within a ten kilometer radius? If you can use only one language, which one would you choose?

Body language. Only this works with my 6 months old daughter. ;-)

Otherwise, international english, french and spanish (no expectation here, as I’m very bad at spanish).

The WORLD is on the way to being biligual, i.e. English and local language, as I am sure you must notice in Europe.

Agreed, except I see it the reverse order: local language and English. ;-)

We have been here before. 100 years ago, a greater percentage of the U.S. population was foreign born than today. In those days, we also had a very large minority language population - Germans. They made up around a quarter of the total U.S. population, about twice as many as Hispanics to today. We handled that well and can do the same now.

Did a law making English US’s official language was required in the past? If not, why today then?

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 26, 2007 7:34 AM
Comment #205152

It’s not our responsibilty to cater to people who come here. It’s their responsibilty to assimilate if they want to live and function here. It’s not a hard concept. It’s not even a “mean” conpcept. It helps absolutely everyone. Instead of wedging a divide, it brings people closer.

Posted by: Matt at January 26, 2007 9:15 AM
Comment #205153
How many languages do you want to learn…Posted by: Jack at January 25, 2007 11:39 PM
I am not asking anyone to learn any language, which is what your proposal is doing. I am talking about equal access to government. I am talking about making sure that the purpose of government remains to be a service for the people of that government. You talk about language ghettos by remaining multilingual yet if you force english to be the sole language of government that is what you are creating. Of course some things would be “easier” and “cheaper” if everyone spoke the same language, but it would not be better.

BTW- 1; I speak one language fluently, one language functionally and can “get by” understanding the spoken language of one more, although not effectively speak it.

BTW- 2; I did not call you a facsist. What I was saying is that there is a very cavalier attitude in the right wing today that says “I want the trains to run on time so we want you to do everything the way we think is the best way. Conform or else you will suffer the consequence”

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 26, 2007 9:29 AM
Comment #205160

So let us say the government, in order to have some semblance of order prints my voting ballot in the required languages. Chines in all of its dialects, french, spanish in all its forms, all the african languages, russian, farsi, arabic, italian, all the scandanavian languages, well you get the pix. What a hoot!! I can just imagine the mixups because the translation was not perfect. Hey, I get it now. The libs want a new source of votes. Misprint the oppositions name to something that would fit into the libs column.

All of that makes as much sense as a fart in the punchbowl at the homecoming party.

Posted by: tomh at January 26, 2007 9:56 AM
Comment #205168
It’s not our responsibilty to cater to people who come here.

But it’s your responsability that none get killed or hurted because you refuse to warn them efficiently.

Welcome in Everyone for Itself Land. Go to Hell if you can’t read this welcome message…

PS: How many people refuse to employ immigrant people to clean their house, swimming pool or babysit their kids because they don’t speak english??? How hypocrital.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 26, 2007 10:56 AM
Comment #205169

All this remember me Galatic HitchHiker Guide warning sign displayed since millions of our years in the nearest galaxy about earth being soon destroyed to build a new space highway…

;-)

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 26, 2007 11:01 AM
Comment #205195

Phillipe, I agree with you that noone made English official up to now and we’re getting along fine. I guess Jack is still enamored with the tax and spend Republican Congress of yesteryear and wants more beaurocracy.

Jack, I said let language develope on its own, not require bi or multilingualism. Local people will figure out what to do. Free markets, Jack.

I wasn’t melding Celtic and Beowulf. I was just being anecdotal. I chose Beowulf because I know how foreign it looks, and it’s commonly known. I chose Celtic because of my ancestry. No relationship between the two. By the way Celtic is still spoken in some places in Wales.

Posted by: gergle at January 26, 2007 12:59 PM
Comment #205204

Phillipe,

Then you also must remember the “Guide” had “Don’t Panic” written in very friendly letters on it cover, and Zaphod, the Galactic President, wore “peril activated” sun glasses (if you can’t see it there is no danger).

Posted by: Rocky at January 26, 2007 1:08 PM
Comment #205212

I do not agree that the official language in the United States should be English. Millions of indiviauls that speak other languages as their fisrt language live, and work here, pay taxes just like you and I. It is a complete dis-service to them to have to go to a private party to get government letter and other information translated. We live in a very diverse society. The United States is home to many different ethnicities. In short, since we live a diverse society, we have to be versatile. Thus, the United States should not be the offical language!

Posted by: Tiffany at January 26, 2007 1:18 PM
Comment #205220

Tiffany:

I totally disagree. Making English the official language is just that. It doesn’t mean that other languages couldn’t be accomodated where necessary.

If these folks live and work here they do a disservice if they don’t learn enough of the language to function. I did that when I was stationed in Japan because I felt it was my duty to my host country. I didn’t expect anything to be provided in English automatically.

For me, it’s just common sense, and the folks who claim it is racially motivated are out in left field.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 26, 2007 1:32 PM
Comment #205241

Marine,

If English is the official language of a gov’t, there would be no other language in use within that government beaurocracy. No matter what the intent, it would be an aparteid based on language.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 26, 2007 2:19 PM
Comment #205242

MW: Jack…proposes making a law…that denies them that expectation explicitly, rather than the implicit way in which it is routinely denied…

Jack: It simply protects everyone else from having to use any language except English in the U.S. It is like the U.S. dollar.

One way to deal with points made in a debate is to ignore the one actually made and pretend it is one for which you have a ready-made response. Fools the weak-minded all the time. Are they your target, Jack, or are you interested in discourse? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Making English the official language hardly protects anyone from anything. It does do what I described in my post. You just didn’t respond to the assertion that passing a law to do this is anti-conservative in the extreme. It just happens to be part of the current Republican talking points to stir up the goomers about immigrants “ruining this country” and how you’re going to fix that. So dishonest, Karl.

Posted by: mental wimp at January 26, 2007 2:22 PM
Comment #205246

mw,

“goomer”? Is that a new term, with which I am unfamiliar, or did you mean “Gomer”?

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 26, 2007 3:50 PM
Comment #205247

gergle,
I believe you mean Gallic, not Celtic.

Posted by: Linda H. at January 26, 2007 3:51 PM
Comment #205249

Linda H.

Gaelic is is a form of the proto-Celtic languages.

Wikipedia has a good summary.

I didn’t really want to get that technical

Posted by: gergle at January 26, 2007 4:13 PM
Comment #205250

Linda H.,

I’m not a language expert. My surname is Williams (Welsh origin) and I’ve traced my lineage back to Irish, Welsh and Scottish origins circa the 1600’s. That’s where I went off into Celtic language.

Posted by: gergle at January 26, 2007 4:20 PM
Comment #205271

Jack,

English IS already the offical language. The only people that don’t learn english are stay-at-home immigrant (grand)parents. Someone who doesn’t know english in the US is already handicapping themselves in the workforce and socially. But that’s not enough is it? You want to marginalize them even more. What exactly are you after? A federal statute? What will that do to make this a better country? How will it change ANYTHING? Or do you just want to impose some kind of PENALTIES for those that don’t learn it? ….That’s what I thought.

Get over it!! The country is a melting pot and we thrive because of it. For some families it just take a generation to melt.

Posted by: Matthew Jones at January 26, 2007 7:55 PM
Comment #205272

This is a land of immigrants; our culture from science to industry has been fueled by the talents of immigrants. Seems to me that it’s worked well, offering official, scholarly and other documents in a multitude of languages can only help fuel the free flow of ideas and information - continuing to make this the a land of freedom, creativity, opportunity, and productivity. Declaring a National Language seems an act of xenophobia rooted in distrust and fear. And distrust and fear often come from not understanding others.

Posted by: Chris at January 26, 2007 8:19 PM
Comment #205302

Stephen-
You take the wrong lessons. We had the willpower to grind Germany into the ground after WWI. We saddled them with reparations on top of reparations. We caused so much suffering that as memory of the war faded, we eased up. Instead of having a confident nation that could put the past behind it, we had a demoralized nation that wanted revenge, and wanted somebody to tell them it was alright.

As an American you can look at both World Wars with a bit of objective distance. Unfortunately, you don’t seem to have picked up on an essential point, and that is just how economically disastrous WWI was for them. These people lost millions of soldiers in battle, not a few hundered thousand. The cult of neoconservatism worships these slaughters as if they represent some kind of ideal solution to the world’s ills, but in truth, they represent the height of horror for those most heavily involved. The British and other world powers did not have the benefit of our hindsight, just the recent memory of millions of Brits and Frenchmen dead in cold mud for some very stupid reasons.

Additionally, tell me just how keen most Americans were to take care of Hitler at that time? Not very. Did we lack the moral fiber to take on Hitler? Well you could say that, but everybody involved somehow found that moral fiber when the chips were down.

As for Iran?

You are going to send us into war with a severe manpower shortage, already high debt from the other war, and American support for the war we’re currently in down the toilet.

Now you can pass moral judgment on us heathens concerning what appeasers and lilly-livered cowards we are, but I don’t think your formulation of how we are going to approach this war even remotely deals with the logistical, fiscal, and military challenges of starting a war with Iran.

Those who dreamily fantasize about such righteous wars, but pay little heed to practical necessities of their waging aren’t going to do their country a lot of good. Wars are not won by staring contests. They are won by men and machines put in the right place to the right effect. You can’t just apply willpower arbitrarily to any plan and have it work. Our willpower, when applied, must have greater effect than our opposition. We poured our will into that war. Americans supported it for so long, even while seeing things only get worse.

What do you want? Do want America bled dry so we can prove our nation’s masculinity? We’ll have six seconds to celebrate, before our enemies start exploiting the weakness that has come as a price. No, I’m for an America whose strength is not squandered on the textbook pipedreams of a bunch of foreign policy theorists who can’t be bothered to look at the real world when they formulate a policy.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 26, 2007 11:01 PM
Comment #205323

Chris,

Well said. I agree 100%.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 27, 2007 9:05 AM
Comment #205339
Jack wrote: d.a.n , Listen, people CAN use any form of currency they want. BUT if an American chooses to use American dollars in the U.S. you CANNOT demand payment in any other currency.
Sorry. You’re correct that “legal tender” is the valid currency that may be offered in payment of a debt and that a creditor must accept.

I wasn’t paying close attention and thought you were saying the U.S. dollar was the ONLY currency in the U.S.
My bad.

Jack wrote: Your grasp of currency is a bit tenuous.
That’s not true, since I’m more aware of the problems with types of currencies (e.g. commodity backed money, silver/gold backed currencies, and especially fiat money) more than most.
Jack wrote: Your link to coins of precious metals is a bit of a scam… . Nobody but an idiot holds his savings in actual currency. You invest that. If you invested your $800 in stocks in 1980, you would have nearly $10,000 today. If you put that money into gold, you would have $644 worth of gold.
It’s not a scam. Also, your example is a bit of a scam, since gold prices (due to speculation were very high in the 1980s; prices in year 2000 fell to $300 per ounce). Also, your example isn’t adjusted for inflation of the U.S. currency ($800 in 1980 is equal to $1957 in 2006 due to inflation). Still, for many centuries, gold has been used as a store of value that is much more stable than any fiat currency.

So, what you just revealed more than anything is the insidious inflation of fiat currency (although some real increase in value is possible with stocks, depending on the investment). You are right about “no idiot holds savings in actual currency”, and that is because of the real scam (due to the inflationist practices inherent with fiat money and the people that decide how much of it to print).

Still, I’m not sure that currency is a good example as to what the official language of the nation should be, since it is not the only form of currency (even if it is technically the only “legal tender”).

Making English official makes speaking one language and not another a duty?
But, isn’t that a violation of free speech?
Even if “official English” doesn’t mean “English only”, then why bother?

The root problem with this concern about the official language has more to do with the fact that our borders are wide-open and being over-run by the millions (annually), and government ignores the problem decade after decade, and prefers instead to use the issue to pit American citizens and illegal aliens against each other. It’s yet another wonderful wedge issue (like partisan warfare) to divide and distract voters, who should be angry with their elected officials, but instead prefer to demonize the illegal aliens, and keep re-electing those same politicians.

Of course, our public schools can’t adequately educate the millions of illegal aliens (speaking many different languages) to speak English.

So, to get to the real root of the language problem (which is the least of our problems) will require doing something about the massive, uncontrolled illegal immigration.

Unfortunately, that ain’t likely, since:

  • Republicans want cheap labor,

  • Democrats want voters,

  • voters want illegal immigration stopped and don’t want another amnesty either,

  • but voters keep rewarding those same politicians that ignore the voters (and the nation’s other deteriorating problems) by repeatedly re-electing irresponsible those politicians.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 27, 2007 1:38 PM
Comment #205354

I read through most of this thread, but not all of it (it’s very long) so forgive me if I repeat something. It seems to me that most of the bloggers here have completely misunderstood what Jack is trying to say. He has tried explaining it several times but continues to receive the same types of comments to his explanation. Maybe you do get it but you just don’t like it and that’s okay. The purpose of having English as the official language is all about one thing: money. I don’t want to have to pay (in taxes) for someone else to move here nor do I think I should have to. If someone else moves here from another country, they have to adapt to America, not the other way around. I don’t want to be forced to pay for their interpreter or to pay for their translation of some official document. I do agree that this could save time and money in some cases, and therefore should be done, but it should not be required by law.

I had a patient in the hospital scream at me because she felt like she was being discriminated against because she didn’t speak English (she has been living in the US for 10 years at that point). She said to me that it was her right to have someone speak to her in Spanish (I speak Spanish BTW, and was speaking to her in Spanish, but she needed to schedule an appointment with scheduling which has a phone menu in English and she was too impatient to wait for the Spanish prompts). This is what Jack is talking about as I understand it. If she sued, she would lose, but how many others of these types of cases would be won simply because a translation service was not available?

We should do what we can as a society to welcome and help others, but don’t think for a second that you have a right to the taxpayer’s money to provide all these services for others wishing to come here.

Posted by: TJ at January 27, 2007 4:35 PM
Comment #205362

Dave1-20-2009

It’s kind of a cross between Gomer and Goober, I guess. You can imagine.

Posted by: mental wimp at January 27, 2007 6:52 PM
Comment #205366

Tj,

The basis of your agreement is one unreasonable patient? My disagreement is it’s best to leave well enough alone.(sorry, but I’ve got to do it) Doctor, first do no harm. Don’t kill the patient trying to fix what ain’t broke.

Posted by: gergle at January 27, 2007 7:45 PM
Comment #205368

TJ,

We got Jacks point. I don’t think you got ours. What ever happen to your Hypocritic(sic) oath anyway?

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 27, 2007 7:49 PM
Comment #205374

Dave:

That’s dangerously close to breaking watchblog rules. IMHO of course.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 27, 2007 8:34 PM
Comment #205427

TJ

I think you got it right. Thanks.

Phillipe

Re German/English 100 years ago.

We did not make English the official language 100 years ago because we did not have this rights revolution at that time. Economic and cultural forces will get people to learn English. I do not want make it a right to maintain the old country language.

To all

All I am asking is that NOBODY can sue to force anybody to provide any service in any language other than English. This does not preclude using other languages. I would expect that a business in a heavily Polish neighborhood to use Polish. But it should never be a right.

I do not say this because I want to punish anybody or because I think it is easy to learn languages for foreigners. I know more than most people how hard it is to learn languages. Many of those writing in probably have not lived in other countries. They think language learning is something that can be turned on and it is just that Americans do not want to do it. This is not the case. MOST – not some most – people cannot learn more than one second language to an acceptable level. MOST – not some – people cannot maintain even one language other than their own if they do not have constant contact with that language. That is why the world is choosing English as the international language. I have seen this fantastic change in the course of my 20 year career. In the Middle East a generation ago, educated people spoke Arabic and French. Young people speak Arabic and English. A generation ago educated people in E. Europe spoke their local languages and Russian. Young people speak local languages and English. Even in Latin America, when I first went to Brazil 20 years ago I had to speak Portuguese to get by. Today you can carry on business in most big cities in English.

I am not saying learning local languages is not a very good thing. But English has taken on a role never before filled by any language. In our (at least the older among us) lifetimes, English has largely supplanted most regional second languages.

What I wrote above is not a digression. WHY has this happened? Because in a truly diverse situation, people need a common language, even if NONE of them speak that language as a first language.

This is also what we need in the U.S. and it is what we will get UNLESS we allow using a foreign language to become a right. My proposal, in summary is not a law against any language. It is a rule that would prevent anybody from interfering with the natural evolution of language.

To an immigrant to America I would say: you can speak whatever language you want. I don’t care. But it is not a right. Do not ask me (as a taxpayer or consumer) to pay for it. As a taxpayer, I am willing to help you learn English, but not maintain the old country’s cultures frozen in amber the day you left.

Posted by: Jack at January 28, 2007 11:35 AM
Comment #205451
A polyglot America is really not necessary, desirable or even possible.

Then why worry about making English the official language?

Posted by: Trent at January 28, 2007 2:21 PM
Comment #205463

If,n I was a gansta, I would be raising holy heck for” pop a cap up three if yo be a needn ebonic.”

Now that whata idabe tawkin bout.

Posted by: im at January 28, 2007 4:43 PM
Comment #205498

Jack, my only issue is, where do you get the idea that someone CAN sue for not publishing in a language other than english? I got it, I just don’t think it has bearing in reality.

Sure they can sue, because you can sue for anything, but can they win?

Posted by: gergle at January 28, 2007 8:02 PM
Comment #205524

Marine,

Thanks for the reminder…

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 28, 2007 9:04 PM
Comment #205593

Trent and Gergle

I have seen too many things become enforceable rights. I do not want speaking a foreign language to become one of them.

Posted by: Jack at January 29, 2007 10:14 AM
Comment #205624
The only reason I want English to be official is so that nobody can be compelled to use another language… Posted by Jack at January 24, 2007 06:38 PM
We’re not talking “nobody,” we’re talking the government. What you want is to force people to speak the language you want them too. BTW, can you imagine the regulations involved as to what is “official” English
I have seen too many things become enforceable rights. I do not want speaking a foreign language to become one of them.Posted by: Jack at January 29, 2007 10:14 AM
So, Jack, your point now is that you want to take away the right of free speech? Or that you have free speech but it has to be in English?
My proposal, in summary is not a law against any language. It is a rule that would prevent anybody from interfering with the natural evolution of language.Posted by: Jack at January 28, 2007 11:35 AM
And a rule prohibiting the use of language other than English is not interfering? See above re: what is “official” English. Talk about no progression
I am willing to help you learn English, but not maintain the old country’s cultures frozen in amber the day you left.
Frozen in amber? What does that even mean?

There’s a reason why regulations developed identifying the need for multiple languages in governement and government mandated documents. You want to undo all that simply because, why, again? I mean, really why. Not some elitist AEI talking point about encroachment on free market drivers and forcing English on the rest of the world, please.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 29, 2007 12:30 PM
Comment #240894

u fucking idiots who think english shouldnt be the official language are prbly lazy asses who dont want to face reality. our constitution, our daily news, our schools, the military, our federal courts, and other foundational documents are all done in english. 30 of the states have already made english the official language so it should just continue.

“Welcome to America…Now speak English.

Posted by: tito at December 17, 2007 9:21 PM
Comment #240895

and dave, you can suck my cock. english was our 1st and should be our only language.If I were to go and sleep over my friend’s house and he was Chinese, and when it was time to eat dinner, they were eating Chinese food. I can’t expect their family to change their norms and eat American food just because I am over. How does that make it any different for the Hispanics who come to America and try speaking their native language?

Posted by: tito at December 17, 2007 9:27 PM
Comment #271889

I think you should not learn a foriegn LANGUAGE because why would you need to learn a different language when you can just learn English.Now for the two years required in high school well i think thats unfair because you just have other things to do.

Posted by: Tommy knowles at December 12, 2008 3:40 PM
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