Third Party & Independents Archives

No Habla Español

While English is the primary language of the United States of America, the fact remains we are a culture of immigrants. Language is a part of culture for many. There has been a noticeable trend to force “English only”, recently in California and Kansas this has become an issue. It has gone as far as a mother facing neglect charges because she did not learn English. Where do we draw the line and have we already gone to far?

When I read today's Washington Post article about the recent situation with 16-year-old Zach Rubio who was initially suspended for speaking Spanish in the hall of his high school, I did some personal reflection.

I grew up with a great-grandmother who came here from Poland. I never really learned much of the language but I remember sitting there listening to her gossip with other women from the predominately Polish Neighborhood she lived in. I later married a Puerto Rican, he was born here in the States, his mother moved to the East Coast shortly before his birth. His father still lives in Puerto Rico today. He grew up learning Spanish first then English. The neighborhoods his family lived in were primarily Puerto Rican or other Latinos as far as population. Spanish was for home and sometimes work, English was for school. I was not fluent in Spanish, I am still not though I am able to at least get the jist of a conversation and speak some Spanish; I fully admit it feels strange to be in a home full of people that speak primarily Spanish. You feel left out. You wonder are they talking about you? I used to joke with my husband as long as I didn't hear "gringa or puta" I didn't worry. Miguel's mother prefers to speak in Spanish, her English is still not what I would call excellent. I'm not writing this as a slam on her, it is her preference. She has surrounded herself while still here in the States in a culture that speaks mainly Spanish. In her situation I do not feel this has exactly been a plus as there have been situations where a better grasp of the English language could have helped her. Miguel is the opposite. He is very fluent in both languages and frankly it is why he was hired at his job he has now since the company he works for deals with orders from Mexico and no one there was able to speak or translate written Spanish.

I'll never forget the first time my children heard him talk on the phone to his mother in Spanish. They came running down the hall, "MOM! Miguel is talking funny!!" For me it was, well duh, but to them having never really heard a real conversation in Spanish it was a new experience. They wanted to learn Spanish, several of them went on as they grew older to select Spanish as their foreign language class. In part because they wanted to learn more about the language their stepfather took and in part I believe to know they would have a handy homework helper.

Is there a point to this rather than prattling on about my personal life which is something I don't normally do here? Yes. Miguel chose to take advantage of his ability to be bi-lingual. Notice I said chose. His mother and some of his family members have not.

Given it is a choice, should the Government or private industries be forced to provide services in Spanish for those who live here in the United States? What about the reverse? Forcing people to either learn and use only English or face losing the custody of a child or being suspended from school?

Taking a look at this article written earlier in the year from USA Today This comment stands out:

"We were hearing stories of a lack of interpreters and violence," says Nina Perales, MALDEF's regional counsel in San Antonio. In Norcross, Ga., MALDEF defended a Mexican store owner who was fined for having a Spanish sign. In North Carolina, it intervened when a challenge was filed against voters with Spanish surnames in an effort to disqualify them. "The backlash bleeds into different areas, like voting rights," she says.

If a person chooses to not learn the language in which the majority of government function is performed how much responsibility does the court have in this? How many languages should this extend to? There are immigrants from many countries here, some are more fluent in the language of their nation of birth than this one. Some have a better grasp of the English language than some of us who are of English heritage have.

I know where I personally feel the line should be drawn, but the point of this is not to just tell you how I feel. I'm interested in what you think.

Posted by Lisa Renee Ward at December 9, 2005 1:02 PM
Comments
Comment #100639

Lisa,

There are several sides to this story.

1.) Business. It only makes sense that if a business wants more business than it already has, it must expand. If that business is an English speaking business, it only makes sense to cater to the needs of non-English speaking people. That doesn’t mean, of course, having people on staff who speak some obscure languange, as that obscure languange would only be spoken by a tiny minority of the customers and hiring someone fluent in that language wouldn’t be justified by the amount of sales to that group of customers. However, having someone on staff in, say, San Diego, who speaks Spanish fluently would greatly enhance the appeal of that business to a great portion of the market.

For business…it’s a good idea.

2.) Government. Here’s one sticky part of the equation. Should all traffic signs be bi-lingual? Would that help save lives? How much would it cost? How about government forms? How much would it cost to hire a huge team of translators to convert all documents to Spanish (Social Security, IRS, etc.)? What is the cost versus the benefit?

For government, it’s a toss-up.

3.) Social. Here’s another choice that one has to make. You told of your grandmother speaking to others in her native tongue. Well, those that speak a certain language and share a common backgroupnd tend to “group” together, making neighborhoods. Yes, even ghettos. So how willing are these people (Polish, Spanish, etc.) to put their native language 2nd and put the language of mainstream America 1st to succeed? Don’t forget…Ebonics is a language also. How willing are the people who speak Ebonics to put Ebonics 2nd and mainstream English 1st?

Socially? It’s a toss-up as well.

Lisa, your one question opens up a huge treasure chest of other questions.

Are there any “pat” answers?

Don’t think so.

Posted by: Jim T at December 9, 2005 2:51 PM
Comment #100641

Thanks Jim, and that’s why I decided to write about this. It is a huge topic, maybe after the thread is up for a day or so we’ll see some common concerns/thoughts that seem to be what is most focused on.

Then it would be possible to go from there as far as a more specific dicussion.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 9, 2005 2:56 PM
Comment #100650

I have a pat answer: Individual choice trumps petty discrimination. “No official language.”

This boils down to choice.
An individuals freedom to chose how they wish to communicate should not be defined by the government. Also, it is the Government of the American Constitution’s responsibility to promote the “general welfare” of its citizens. So, if we have to eat a bit of the tax cuts to document a few bilingual forms, then we do so. Not everyone wants to be rich, but we almost all want to provide for our children and family. Not everyone wants to listen to, or understand the lyrics of, Barry Manilow either.

Posted by: Dave at December 9, 2005 3:27 PM
Comment #100655

IMO, private companies can decide for themselves which language they wish to use, their right.
If they dont speak english, I do not give them my business. If they want my business, they need to learn to communicate with me, my right.

Govt? I dont mind if it tries to help those willing to learn our language.
Those not willing just make it harder on themselves.

Posted by: kctim at December 9, 2005 3:45 PM
Comment #100659

A California native, I live in a mostly white, post WWII suburb of San Francisco, where the residents are at least 90% English-speakers from all regions the U.S.

You would think there would be no communication problems among a preponderance of English-speaking Whites, right? Not so. Even speaking a “common” language, subtle miscommunication is frustratingly frequent. Despite the fact we are all college graduates, my Boston-born friend miscomprehends my Georgia-born friend. And I often miscomprehend both of them. It created genuine difficulties when we were all trying to work together to solve a local community problem.

I suspect this is a microcosm of the larger, national communications issue. If we—well meaning, well educated, and sharing a common purpose—can have disruptive failures to communicate in our own native language, just because of regional cues, how much worse is it when we, as a nation, all try to do so across dozens of languages?

Because that is an issue. It isn’t just Spanish (I speak Spanish, after a fashion). It’s Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Farsi, Arabic … and so on. And on. And what about, say, Navaho? And other Native American languages? To be fair, you either have to take into account the languages of all our Native peoples and immigrants or none. Anything else is selective discrimination.

Given an urgent need to communicate clearly, I think we should try to do so in the one predominant language. It’s hard enough.

I would suggest we should offer free English language classes to all immigrants, perhaps even pay people to take them. I think it’s that important.

Posted by: Tovan at December 9, 2005 4:08 PM
Comment #100662
Given it is a choice, should the Government or private industries be forced to provide services in Spanish for those who live here in the United States?

NO!

What about the reverse? Forcing people to either learn and use only English or face losing the custody of a child or being suspended from school?

If they want to live here they need to learn OUR language. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.
If you moved to another country do you honestly think that the people in that country would learn english just to communicate with you? If you do DREAN ON.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 9, 2005 4:20 PM
Comment #100663

Interesting addition Tovan, that is another valid point to add to the consideration.

Something as simple as what you call a carbonated beverage can be very different depending on the region.

Dave, valid point about the “General Welfare” clause as a part of this issue.

kctim, I agree that private industry should be a different aspect of this.

As always, I am never disappointed in the ideas/discussions here.

:-)

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 9, 2005 4:22 PM
Comment #100665

Ron, does that mean you advocate taking custody of a child or punishing someone for not speaking English?

I realize your first point is one I’ve seen expressed, I’m just trying to clarify the second one.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 9, 2005 4:25 PM
Comment #100672

Dave,

The problem, of course, is deciding which languages Government should support, and where it should support them. Spanish seems pretty obvious, but what about French? Chinese? Russian? Arabic? Swahili? Latin? Sanscrit? How far must the Government to ensure that nobody is left out?

Then you get into the question of whether English gets special treatment in those cases. If a neighborhood is 95% hispanic, should they be required to have street signs in English?

Here are my thoughts for answers:

INDIVIDUALS — Nobody should be forced by law to speak a certain language. That having been said, refusing to learn the dominant language (aka English) is a personal choice, and comes with certain consequences. The government should not be required to provide the resources necessary to work around those consequences. The responsiblity for translations falls on the individual, not the state.

BUSINESSES — Businesses should not be required to cater to one language or another. They should instead be governed by the ‘economic democracy’ of voting with our dollars. If a business wants to operate in ‘Spanish-only’ mode, they’re more than welcome to, but they’ll lose a lot of English-speaking business if they do. Likewise, an English-speaking business shouldn’t be required to learn Polish simply because a Polish-speaking person moved into the neighborhood.

GOVERNMENT — Although our Country doesn’t have an official language, there’s no reason why Governments can’t. In fact, it would be very difficult for Congress to function if the Representatives didn’t all speak a common language. At this point in time, it makes perfect sense for English to be that language for the Federal Government. Different states, counties, and towns can choose differently if desired.

As for documentation (Social Security forms, tax forms, etc.), let the voters decide. If you speak Elbonian, and want Elbonian documentation, then elect representatives who will push for that. Eventually, enough will be elected that a law can be passed translating documents into Elbonian. If there aren’t enough people around to get those votes, then it is your responsibility to either (a) learn a language that the documentation is in, or (b) hire a translator.

The point is that language is a personal choice. It shouldn’t be forbidden, but it also shouldn’t be treated like a physical handicap. If the government provides documents in English, and you have chosen not to learn English, then you are responsible for finding a translator.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 9, 2005 4:42 PM
Comment #100673

Dave

How many languages on those “bilingual” forms? And what should the base language be. You assume it is English whether you know it or not, but why?

Others

People come to the U.S. presumably because they think it is better here than where they were. They should enrich our culture and our options. But the onus of adaptation is primarily on the newcomer. Courtesy dictates that we help, but we should not assume equality. I have been to Latin American and frankly I don’t want America to become too much like that. The same goes for every place else I have been outside the U.S. except Scandinavia (maybe).

Learning AND maintaining a language is hard. The time you spend doing that is time you won’t spend doing something else. In the time it takes to learn decent (not great) Spanish, you could probably learn calculus. It should be your choice which is more useful.

This problem will probably heal itself if we let it. The first English only law was enacted in 1920 in Nebraska. The target was not Spanish. It was German. Who remembers today that German once threatened to swamp English? In the 1990 census, 58 million Americans claimed German ancestry. That is by far the biggest minority group. Did you notice them?

Posted by: Jack at December 9, 2005 4:43 PM
Comment #100674

Tovan
If you want to talk about having a problem talking to someone that speaks English but not like you I’ll put you in touch with my wife. She was born and lived in Australia the first 12 years of her life. She speaks with a combination of Australian and Southern acents. Sense the kids and me are used to it we don’t have any problem understanding her. Most our friends don’t have much of a problem. But let her start talking to someone she doesn’t know, speically someone from another part of the country and the fun begins.


Lisa

Ron, does that mean you advocate taking custody of a child or punishing someone for not speaking English?

No I don’t advocate that. But if someone doesn’t want to learn English, they shouldn’t expect us to learn their language. They shouldn’t be supprised when they don’t get a job because the employer can’t understand them either.
I don’t really care what language anyone wants to speak at home. They can speak Martian for all I care.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 9, 2005 4:49 PM
Comment #100680

As an attempt to remove some of these problems, I suggest that we make learning a second language a prerequisite for a high school diploma. Spanish-speaking folks can then learn English as their second language, while others could learn Chinese, Spanish, German, French, Arabic, or whatever else they thought useful. Then we’d ALL be more cultured.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 9, 2005 5:00 PM
Comment #100683

Thanks Ron, I would have been surprised if you would have advocated legal action so I appreciate the clarification.

Rob, we have that here already for all high schoolers except those entering the vocational track. They used to alternate offering Russian with Japanese as well as offering Latin, however there were not enough students interested. Now it is Spanish, French and German as the only three offerings. They do offer after school classes in Spanish and French at several of the elementary schools which are of course elective. That to me has been something I support since most children learn a second language easier while they are younger.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 9, 2005 5:12 PM
Comment #100684

Jack, thank you, historically that should be mentioned.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 9, 2005 5:14 PM
Comment #100690

RC
Prereq? What about those of us who do not wish to learn another language but would instead wish to learn more math skills?
Offer? Yes.
Require? No thanks.

Posted by: kctim at December 9, 2005 5:31 PM
Comment #100706

The idea that the government DO something about the language that I, my kids, or anyone else “should” speak strikes me as a little ironic on a blog under the heading “independent.” But then, I guess this is the crux of being independent. If we were truly that, we would have nothing to say.

What about demanding to fix the problem of needing to speak with a mouth and using breath to do so. The problem with spoken language is in the perception of it, not how it’s spoken. I find that I get into the most trouble with regards to an idea when i try to put it into words. The lack of efficiency of the communication proccess is only one of many problems that i believe must be addressed before we are to move on as a species.

Speaking in a different language is not an example of a choice of communication. It is a “half a dozen of the other.”

Your thoughts?

Posted by: mildewedandsmoldering at December 9, 2005 6:29 PM
Comment #100708

kctim,

So should we stop “requiring” math, science, history, etc., and just “offer” everything? Then, as long as you’ve taken 12 years of something, you can have a diploma?

I think we should hold graduates to a higher standard than that. And, with our world becoming smaller and smaller, being multi-lingual is soon going to be as important as basic math skills.

Most students end up with 12 years of math, 12 years of english, 12 years of history… asking them to take 2 years of a foreign language (especially if it’s offered at a K-6 level) isn’t asking that much. I took 2 years of Spanish, and still managed to get college-prep calculus, physics, english, chemistry, and history under my belt in the process.

Besides, it’s a non-discriminatory way of encouraging the Spanish-speaking populace in this country to learn English.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 9, 2005 6:33 PM
Comment #100712

Besides, it’s a non-discriminatory way of encouraging the Spanish-speaking populace in this country to learn English.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 9, 2005 06:33 PM

Why incourage them. Require them too. Especially if they want to work here.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 9, 2005 6:53 PM
Comment #100716

I think it’s a price of entry to learn the language of the country you live in. Should I get transferred to Beijing, I would attempt to learn as much Chinese as possible in order to be able to function. It is really the only reasonable thing to do. That being said, it is a shame that we are so mono-lingual in our primary and secondary schools. Like math, science, and English we should have some basic fund of knowledge in other languages such as Spanish. I travel internationally often, and I am amazed at some of my colleagues in Europe who can speak 3, 4 or even 5 languages fluently. Given the reality of Globalization, we should have our kids multi-lingual by the time they are out of middle school. Living in Texas, I can readily tell you that it would be beneficial for all of us to be conversant in Spanish as well as English (‘course, here in Texas, we have the third language of “Texan”, pardner). I’ve got three kids, and all of them have been “required” by their mom and I to take Spanish in middle school and high school. My oldest is in college and has a relative strong ability with Spanish. He worked at McDonalds for a while and his entire work team spoke Spanish as a primary language and he told me if he didn’t know how to communicate with them, he wouldn’t have been able to do his job well. At any rate, we are getting smaller as a world, English is becoming the “universal” language so we are lucky there. However, we need to recognize that we do business and operate where they speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Urdu, Farsi, Hindi, etc. etc.

Let’s make the price of citizenship and living in the country achieving basic conversational skills in English. Let’s also educate our kids on how to speak Spanish or some other languages so we can communicate with our neighbors, whether they are immigrants living next door, or emailing us from Tokyo.


Posted by: Dennis at December 9, 2005 7:10 PM
Comment #100718

Ron,

Why incourage them. Require them too. Especially if they want to work here.

Because our country doesn’t have an official language. It was designed that way, so that the people, not the government, would be able to choose how they spoke. Remember, when our country was founded, we had a LOT of ethnic diversity — moreso even than we have today.

I prefer the middle ground. We don’t require anyone to learn English, but we also don’t break our backs making everything Spanish-friendly. Allow each community to operate in the language of its citizenry. Run the Federal Government in the language of the majority. Leave the responsibility for translation, when necessary, in the hands of the individual.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 9, 2005 7:18 PM
Comment #100720

mildewedandsmoldering, my reason for posting about this is that it is become an issue again. Not just the claims of bias from those who are using another language as basically a primary one but from those who propose it should be English only and are taking steps in some areas to force this.

With a more libertarian type background, I don’t believe the government has the right to tell a mother if she does not learn to speak English she could lose custody of her child. I don’t believe a 16 year old should be threatened with suspension for speaking Spanish to a fellow student in the hall of his school.

So I posted this to get the ideas/viewpoints of those here on WatchBlog because I was interested in what the opinions here were on that topic. Several of the independents here are Libertarian or Libertarianish, as well as various other political representations. I was interested in their views as well as those from the Democrat and the Republican side of the board as well.

To me, the way we at least make an attempt at a solution is to first see where we are coming from. I might be the only one who feels a certain way, it doesn’t mean I’m necessarily wrong but there is alot of insight to be found and sometimes a common ground we all believe in. So far as an example it would appear everyone agrees that punishing people for not speaking English is not appropriate.

I’m not sure exactly what you are suggesting we do to eliminate communication. Even if spoken word was replaced by written word there would still be language barriers to that as well.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 9, 2005 7:35 PM
Comment #100724

Who ever suggested that written word was the answer. In fact your response serves as an excellent example on why written word as an alternative to spoken is in fact a bad idea. Not only did you read into my post some assertion about what I think is right or wrong but you missed my point entirely.

My point is that the physical proccess of speaking is a burden on the species. No matter what the variation (language).

Globalization is upon us. Embrace it. Your forefathers did. There is no time like the present to evolve. There are only barriers until there aren’t anymore. I believe in the limitless posssiblity of the human species.

Are there any other independents out there that are sick of being touted as a libertarian?

Posted by: mildewedandsmoldering at December 9, 2005 8:00 PM
Comment #100727

It is wrong and expensive to cater to languages other than English. Those who do not know the language can always take a young friend or family member with them to vote,etc. If traffic signs were in Spanish why not French so that Canadian tourists and immigrants would know to stop? There are many Canadians who do not speak the English that well.

Germans, Dutch, Italians and many other groups have thronged in various areas of America. All of them vote, study,shop drive,etc in English.
Immigrants need to get a grip on English to move up in America. But Americans should not and indeed must not be required or FIRED for not speaking Spanish as in Dallas Texas Indep. School District.
Their DISD Head Person is LOCO in the hEAD!

I would LOVE to tell this person this to their FACE. LOCO…CRAZY…LIBERALISM

Kind of like an ad all in CHINESE for WOMEN TO BE FIREFIGHTERS. Maybe you want someone who can barely lift a basset hound to save it in the event of a FIRE but I want a stapping person who is big enough to get my HUMAN body out of harm’s way if I’m overcome by smoke.
Liberalism is a mental disorder as evidenced by its bizzare crazy thought and ideas.

Posted by: NewYorkie at December 9, 2005 8:31 PM
Comment #100734

Is there anyone out there that is carrying a conversation about the FUTURE of human communication and not the present of it?

Posted by: mildewedandsmoldering at December 9, 2005 8:47 PM
Comment #100737

mildewedandsmothering, that’s why I asked for clarification, since I was not clear on what you meant. Written and verbal communication appears to be the two most often used methods.

NewYorkie? I’m sorry but I don’t believe stating that liberalism is a mental disorder is helpful nor relevant to this discussion. Having worked in the mental health field there does not seem to be one political category that experiences more mental disorders.

As to your other comments? I agree that’s part of this is determining what is necessary from a “General Welfare” status as pointed out initially by Dave and a balance. Yet it is ironic that other countries as Dennis pointed out seem to have larger numbers of people fluent in more than one language. While I seem to not be fully getting mildewedandsmolderings point, I do agree gobalization is upon us and unless we are somehow planning on making English the “world” language it does put us at a disadvantage.

:-)

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 9, 2005 9:08 PM
Comment #100759

Then there is the psychological aspect. Children’s brains are wired for learning language. Post-pubescent brains are wired for analysis and use of language logic.

As language educators know, children learn language far more rapidly and readily than do adults. And many adults are not capable of full new language acquisition for any number of psychological and learning capacity reasons.

So, the expectation that post pubescent people learn well a new language is one that shall for very concrete reasons, be disappointed. Is it fair to punish those whose inability to learn a new language stands in their way regardless of their will or desire? Is it fair to punish a paraplegic for not running when asked to?

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 9, 2005 11:00 PM
Comment #100783

I don’t object to immigrants speaking their original languages in public or in private. What I object to is government agencies being required by law to interact with them in languages other than English, and for us taxpayers to pay for it. I would also object to private enterprise being required by law to interact in any language other than English. India has several primary languages. Guess which one they use as a common language? English. A country must have one primary official language as a unifying factor, particular like America, which has multiple races and ethnicities. Besides, the immigrants came here voluntarily. Therefore, I suggest the greater burden is not upon America to adjust to the immigrant, but to the immigrant to adjust to America.

Posted by: Carl Loerbs at December 10, 2005 1:29 AM
Comment #100788

I just had an amusing idea.

Let’s grab huge chunks of “bridge to nowhere” type pork out of the Federal budget and divert our taxes to a genuinely productive purpose: a NASA-level, not-for-profit national project to create a listening/speaking UNIVERSAL TRANSLATOR. Perhaps based on quantum computing? Something wristwatch or badge size, that we can sell or pass out at cost to everyone. Worldwide. The result could be huge research and productivity increases. (Not to mention a reduction of language squabbling, eh?)

Posted by: Tovan at December 10, 2005 1:55 AM
Comment #100795

Good article, Lisa. I’ve been living in Singapore for the last few years and they have four (4) official languages, but the administrative language is English.

What that means is, all the signs are in four different languages, but if you want to be successful in business or pay a traffic fine, you need to speak and read English.

It seems to work. (Just FYI, the four official languages are English, Mandarin, Tamil, and Malay)

Posted by: American Pundit at December 10, 2005 2:54 AM
Comment #100896

I think that there is a problem here in defining what an official language is or means.

First of all, I think that the US should have a single official language. This is a language that everyone should be ABLE to communicate in. I don’t care what that language is in (I can speak engilsh, spanish, some german, some chineese) but everyone should be able to understand it.

I do *NOT* think that the government should force anyone to use that language. People should be able to speak french, chineese, klingon, etc. It doesn’t matter, as long as they can UNDERSTAND and communicate if they need to in a common tongue.

Especially in a country that is built upon the idea of a collection of individuals from all countries and societies. With the number of different languages available, we need to be able to communicate, as americans, with each other if we need to.

Does everyone see the difference between the two points clearly now?

For example, what Quebec did recently, making it illegal to use english in public, is moronic. BUT, so it expecting people who live together in the same community not to have to be able to communicate with each other. I live in an area of town that is increasingly more spanish. Now, I can speak and understand most spanish, but if my neighbor and I needed to talk about something and I didn’t, how would we communicate? How many different languages should governmental forms be in and how much will that cost us? How many layers of touch buttons should someone have to push to get through to an 911 operator that speaks their language?

The fact is that we need to find common ground with each other more than we need to focus on the differences between each other. We need a common united language that we all CAN speak if we NEED to. However, we do NOT need laws telling us we HAVE to use that language at any time.

Posted by: Rhinehold at December 10, 2005 12:08 PM
Comment #100902

Personally, I think that an individual must be able to speak the official language of the country he or she is residing in. Within that framework, there are pockets of ethnic communities in most major metropolitan areas and if those folks choose to speak to each other in their own native tongue I have no problem with that.

Many years ago I was in Cologne (I think the correct name is KOLN) Germany staying at a small hotel. There were people there from all over the world. I had a discussion with the managers and they told me that they speak seven languages. When I asked why they said otherwise it would be difficult to stay in business. The example they gave was right to the point. They said that from the spot of the hotel for a few hundred miles in every direction, many languages were spoken. They had to be able to communicate in all of them to cater to their clientele.

They went on to say that in America, from coast to coast there is only one language. Sure there are southern drawls, slang, etc. but everybody can understand everybody else.

Teaching an old dog new tricks is often difficult so the older non-english speaking folks need some lattitude but, they can be taught.

I am not sure but is being able to speak english not a criteria for citizenship?

Posted by: steve smith at December 10, 2005 12:21 PM
Comment #100904

Damn, I agree with you Rhinehold. How often does that happen? The last time I can remember is when you agreed with Senator Clinton that President Bush should have milestones for defining victory in Iraq. :)

Posted by: American Pundit at December 10, 2005 12:22 PM
Comment #100917

Lisa,

Now, I have written about the divisions between us as far as “different” languages. The difference between Spanish, German, etc.

I barely touched on the differences in our own language.

I talked about Ebonics, which is a recognized subset of English. Of course, American is a subset of English. But what about all the other languages that are subsets of English?

If you don’t have the movie “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, then rent it. It is not really about aliens visiting us. It is about how we speak to each other and the various forms of communication we use.

For example (using the movie as a basis), the languages spoken are:

1.) English.
2.) French.
3.) Hindu.
4.) American.
5.) “Air Traffic Controller” speak.
6.) “Military” speak.
7.) “Cartographer” speak.

Etc., etc., etc. And no one can deny that Air Traffic Controllers and the Military have their own little “vocabulary”. Same with computer geeks, politicians, electricians and the list goes on and on. What they may say to each other may mean something totally different in mainstream English. For instance, the word “RAM” would mean one thing to a goat herder, another to a computer geek and somethig totally different to a Dodge truck owner.

So rent the movie and count the number of English subsets you notice. The number of times you notices someone using their own “vocabulary”.

With all the different languages and subsets of languages out there, it’s truly a wonder that we can speak to each other at all.

Posted by: Jim T at December 10, 2005 12:58 PM
Comment #100949

Jim T:

Air traffic controllers use “Phraseology” It uses and vocabulary can be found in FAA Handbook 7110.65. which every ATC Facility under US control must have at least one copy. Updates are published every 118 days.Worldwide English is the Official Language of Air traffic control, however if the pilot only speaks “pig latin” you will have to use whatever language you can so to make sure he understands your instructions and the Controler knows what his intentions are.

As Always,
Wayne

Posted by: wayne at December 10, 2005 2:37 PM
Comment #100953

Wayne,

See what I mean?

Air Traffic Controllers even got their own language BOOK!!! Updated every 118 days!!!

Of course, you’re outdone by the computer geeks!

They have several THOUSAND web sites dedicated to deciphering “geek speak” which is updated and completely changed every 3 or 4 NANOSECONDS!!!

:-)

Posted by: Jim T at December 10, 2005 2:49 PM
Comment #101024

Ron Brown,

If they want to live here they need to learn OUR language. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.
So, do you think we should all be speaking Lakota, Salish, or one of the other native american languages? After all, they were here first.

Posted by: ElliottBay at December 10, 2005 8:18 PM
Comment #101026

ElliotBay,

Actually, if you want to use that arguement we should speak the language of the people the Clovis culture killed into near extinction (before intermingling them a bit into their race) when they got here.

Since we don’t have any record of that language it would be hard, however :(

Posted by: Rhinehold at December 10, 2005 8:34 PM
Comment #101032

English is the most useful language in the history of the world. It is spread to every continent and country. We are lucky it is our native language and we do nobody any favors by pretending they would be better off without English. People all over the world struggle to get their kids to learn English. It is really ironic that the only place the primacy of English is in doubt are in places like the US, UK and Canada.

Posted by: Jack at December 10, 2005 9:07 PM
Comment #101035

ElliottBay
I do speak the native American language. Anyone born here is Native American. And the language spoken here is English.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 10, 2005 9:22 PM
Comment #101140

1 - While visiting a cousin, they had an international exchange student staying with them. He was from Germany, so (of course) he spoke German. He also spoke exceptional English… and French and Spanish. That’s who our kids will compete against in the international stage. With no exposure to any other language but English, our children are way behind the curv.

2 - One of my employees moved to Ecuador 4 years ago. He still works for us fulltime. Wow, what a conversation started with just about any client or potential-client. The fact that we can offer up our company (of 5 employees) with one of them in Ecuador… it really presents my company in the best possible light.

3 - I only speak English. it’s a problem right now. It will impede business in the near future.

Exposure to multiple languages is going to be a job requirement in the near future, and I do NOT want my kids facing that as a limitation. I think America should flaunt the diversity we have - not hide it away in a closet.

Posted by: tony at December 11, 2005 8:28 AM
Comment #101229

I don’t have a problem with schools teaching English to American citizens (nor tax dollars to pay for it).

What I don’t approve of is having to pay for illegal aliens that burden our schools, hospitals, law enforcement, border patrol, and health care, welfare, and insurance systems, and bring disease and crime with them. Some even vote in our elections using fake identification. And, they all drive around without insurance.
_______________________________________
[] On 13-Nov-2005, Brian Jackson, a Dallas policeman was shot and killed by an illegal alien, Juan Lizcano. Lizcano had become drunk and went to the home of his ex-girfriend to threaten her. As the police pursued Lizcano after he fled the woman’s home, he shot Officer Jackson, who died later in the hospital. Officer Jackson was remembered by his fellow police as someone who loved his job and always went the extra mile.
[] Then, there is Jorge Hernandez, aka Jorge Soto, who killed Min Soon Chang, an 18-year-old college freshman, in a terrible head-on wreck while Hernandez was driving drunk. He had been arrested 3 previous times for drunk driving in 3 other states, and he had been deported to Mexico 17 times! Don’t you wonder why illegal aliens aren’t deported instantly after being arrested for drunk driving?
[] Debbie Thomas, who was the mother of three, was killed in a head-on collision on Christmas Eve 2003 when her car was struck by a car being driven in the wrong direction by illegal alien, Narciso Garcia-Jimenez. He later escaped from his hospital bed and is still at large. The car he drove had no inspection sticker and was registered to another person. When Debbie’s mom learned that her daughter’s killer survived and escaped after being treated at the hospital, she said she felt “angry, bitter and sad, all at once.”
_______________________________________
Those are all crimes that should have never happened. Those are crimes allowed by government. What good is a national defense if criminals are able to cross our borders any time they please (every day)?

Bush (recently, when his poll numbers were in the toilet) said he would add more persons to patrol borders, but still refuses to prosecute those that illegally employ illegal aliens. So, that’s useless.
And, he’s a lot of gall to call the Minute Men vigilantes. He should tell it to the family of the Dallas policeman murdered by an illegal alien.

Bush and the federal government is full of hypocrites. They now want to give guest working passes to illegal aliens. That’s a slap in the face of the millions that annually played by the rules and immigrated legally.

Congress is bought-and-paid-for by corporations that employ illegal aliens, and bought-and-paid-for politicians don’t want to make their big-money-donor puppeteers angry.

_____________________________________________
So, rather than do what many do and simply bitch about the problem, I will also propose a doable solution that isn’t that expensive and uses resources we already have:

We have 2.6 million active, guard, and reserve troops. We could station a measely 1% (26,000) troops along our 6500 miles of land boarders (that’s about an average of one troop every third 1320 feet). We could place stations every 10 miles (650 stations). It would not cost that much, because it would use a lot of troops and resources we already have. These stations could utilize equipment they already have, such as night-vision, humvees, helicopters, radar, electronic surveillence, etc. It’s doable, so the excuses to not do it are false. By the way…measure the cost against the crimes listed above, and the fact that Al-Qaeda has already been discovered to be crossing out borders.
__________________
This is a serious problem, and shouldn’t continue to be ignored by government.

This is just another of many serious problems facing the nation that can never be resolved without first making a fundamental change to create more responsible and accountable government.

Posted by: d.a.n at December 11, 2005 1:36 PM
Comment #101281

To clarify on the issue of languages taught in public schools (what I meant by teaching English to American citizens):
__________________________________
[] The official language in public schools in the U.S. is English. Therefore, it should be the primary language taught in public schools. That does not mean that governments should be forced to provide anything that is mult-lingual. They can if they want to, but it shouldn’t be a requirement by law.
[] People going to public schools in the U.S. should be required to learn the language of this nation (English).
[] bilingual classes for those needing to learn English can be provided if possible, but that does not mean government is obligated to provide bilingual education for every language that exists. But, some children of legal immigrants may have been born into households that don’t speak English. Thus, some students may need bilingual help to learn English. Some people may need to take responsibility for that themselves. Parents, if possible, should help make it easier for their children to learn the national language.
[] Requiring other languages in public schools is a slippery slope. Soon, all immigrants may soon demand their language be one of the mandatory languages. Other languages should be electives.
_____
However, the way things are going now, it wouldn’t surprise me if we soon have public schools that don’t require any English, and teach in languages other than English. Especially since we’re allowing illegal aliens to cross our near wide-open borders by the tens of millions.

Posted by: d.a.n at December 11, 2005 5:57 PM
Comment #101295

I don’t think this is an issue that can be solved by government intervention, at least not on the federal level.

IMO, how much outside assistance should be offered depends on the needs of those who do not speak American English and the compensations they themselves can make. Where I live, there is a growing Hispanic population and we have many organizations (both government and non-government) that offer bi-lingual staff. That to me is great, but… Offering all government paperwork in multiple languages, let alone road signs, ect. is going too far. Reasonable accomodations are one thing, but the paper work that’s been mentioned is only the tip of the iceberg of what the federal government spews out. If all that had to be available in the multitude of “native” languages spoken, we’d be swamped with it. Not to mention, that then we’d have to have a multitude of bi-lingual paperwork processors for all that.

All citizens and future citizens of this country should be encouraged (and given assistance in doing so) in learning the predominant language of our nation, which is currently English. It hasn’t always been English and it may not be English in the future, but right now it is English. Requiring them to do so…not so much. Facillitating them in not doing so…not so much.

As the mother of two non-verbal children, I can, with a bit of creativity, imagine how difficult it might be for non-English speaking individuals to interact with their surroundings. Meeting all your needs and some of your wants would be an enormous task. IMO, to solve that problem, teaching them English is the best option. Making it easier for them to access someone who can teach them English would go a long way towards this. Removing one of the strong incentives by over-compensating would be a mistake, but so would saying that no compensation is allowed. It really depends on what stage of immigration a person is at, and whether they have a support network to compensate for their inability to speak English.

Posted by: Stephanie at December 11, 2005 7:05 PM
Comment #101352

In a few more years, the Latinos will outnumber Whites and Spanish can become the primary language.

I love Democracy.

Posted by: Aldous at December 12, 2005 12:18 AM
Comment #101361

In a few more years, when “Latinos outnumber Whites”, then we can concern ourselves with speaking spanish. while i would agree that it is important for americans to learn spanish (or any other language), if for no other reason than to expand our minds, i would certainly expect the same of foreigners; i do not agree with accommodating what is still a minority of our population by spending tax dollars translating every aspect of our society.

those who do not speak english should be expected to *learn* when they come to an english speaking country (whether it’s our official language or not - the majority of people speak it).

now, if a business or any other private entity wants to go bilingual, hey, this is America, that’s their right. nor do i endorse punitive actions against those who can’t speak english, so long as they break no laws as a result of their ignorance.

yet, to kowtow to every foreigner that comes here and can’t be bothered to learn our language is to commit ourselves to an endless and impracticable (not to mention very expensive) farce.

for the federal government to sanction such an action would be entirely unconscionable. now if any given state decides to do this because their population has grown to encompass such an amount of any given foreign speaking minority as to make it necessary - that is why we have a federalist system of government. god love america.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 12, 2005 2:14 AM
Comment #101386

The Spanish-speaking populace is a minority only when measured on a grand scale. There are neighborhoods, towns, perhaps counties, and before long states in this country where Spanish is the predominant language, not English. Should those places be required to support a minority English-speaking population with translated road signs, government documents, etc.?

And exactly how small of a minority are we ‘safe’ to ingore? It’s easy to tell a 2%, 5%, or even 10% minority that they need to conform to the majority standard. But what about a 40%, 45%, or 49.999% minority. At what point are there ‘enough’ Spanish-speaking people in this country that we can’t just write them off as nonconformists?

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 12, 2005 8:07 AM
Comment #101460

The problem is a result of illegal immigration.
The states that are impacted by it are mostly border states (Texas, New Mexico, Arizon, California). But, government opposes secure borders because of copocrisy that demands cheap labor. That’s why citizens, such as the Minute Men, have been forced to do the job that the State and Nation are supposed to do. So the laws are ignored, and tax payers, as always, continue to get crapped on. But, maybe they should be crapped on if they continue to never do anything about it? Once again, everything always boils down to laziness. And it lasts until being lazy becomes more painful than securing the borders.
But, government won’t do it, or a lot of other things, until voters force government to stop ignoring the voters.

Like so many issues we debate here, it is all futile until we peacefully force government to be responsible, because they will never reform themselves, and they will simply grow more and more corrupt as time goes on.

So, how long has this problem existed?
And, how long has government ignored it?

Posted by: d.a.n at December 12, 2005 12:18 PM
Comment #101509

d.a.n,

How dependent is our economy on cheap immigrant labor? If we “secure the borders”, what impact will that have on our economy? Until we can answer those questions, we need to tread carefully. Let’s make sure we’re not causing more harm than good.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 12, 2005 1:53 PM
Comment #101668

Dan, my husband’s family is Puerto Rican. None of them were illegal immigrants.

While illegal immigration is an issue, I have to state that large numbers of the Spanish speaking population in the US are here legally and are citizens.

Mexican is the ethnic category of 58 percent of the nation’s 35.3 million Latinos. The number of Mexicans increased by 7.1 million during the decade, accounting for a majority of the 12.9 million increase in the total Hispanic population.

Another 3.4 million Latinos were Puerto Rican, 1.2 million were Cuban
and 10.0 million were of other Hispanic origins. Among other Hispanics in
2000, 1.7 million were Central American, 1.4 million were South American,
0.8 million were Dominican and 6.1 million were of other Hispanic origins.

Census


Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 12, 2005 7:21 PM
Comment #101738

we are not ‘safe to ignore’ any size minority. minorities get a say, that’s america. they do not get the *final* say. that’s democracy.

when a ‘minority’ comprises 49.99% of a given population, they are only a ‘minority’ by the formality of the definition - and if that’s if the other 51.01% is homogenous(not consisting of a number of *other* minorities) - because if they aren’t, then even at 49.99% this theoretical ‘minority’ would actually constitute a *majority*.

in point of fact, they will be able to achieve a great deal of their goals long before they reach such a number. at that point, they can do it for themselves, out of their own taxes, in whatever state they inhabit. this does not require the entire country to capitulate to the needs of a minute section thereof.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 12, 2005 11:48 PM
Comment #101840
at that point, they can do it for themselves, out of their own taxes, in whatever state they inhabit.

So are you suggesting that only Spanish-speaking people should bare the burden of paying for Spanish translations? If so, are you willing to concede that only English-speaking people should pay for the English documents in the first place? And how exactly would that work logistically? Would there be a “Spanish Tax” for anyone who speak Spanish?

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 13, 2005 7:18 AM
Comment #101841
when a ‘minority’ comprises 49.99% of a given population, they are only a ‘minority’ by the formality of the definition - and if that’s if the other 51.01% is homogenous(not consisting of a number of *other* minorities) - because if they aren’t, then even at 49.99% this theoretical ‘minority’ would actually constitute a *majority*.

Technically, that would be a plurality, not a majority.

But you still didn’t answer my question. You keep talking about “a minute section” of the populace, and “kowtow(ing) to every foreigner that comes here”. How large does a minority have to be before they constitute more than a “minute section” of our population? In your opinion, Diogenes, how large would the Spanish-speaking populace have to be to justify the Federal Government providing Spanish translations?

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 13, 2005 7:27 AM
Comment #101929

While our country does not have an “official” language, you may not become a naturalized citizen without being able to read, write and speak basic english.

Posted by: steve smith at December 13, 2005 11:52 AM
Comment #101958

Lisa,
I should have stated this clearly earlier.
I support legal immigation, and millions immigrate legally to the U.S. every year.

Are you recommending we just let anyone come and go anytime they want? Do you realize how massive, sudden, and disasttrous that would be. There are many practical, pragmatic, wise reasons for controlled immigration. Especially, when government forces tax payers to provide education, medical, welfare, etc. to illegal aliens.

Rob Cottrell,
The overall impact of illegal immigration is negative. Especially for those that are victims of crimes perpetrated by illegal aliens, such as the Dallas policeman murdered in Dallas 13-Nov-2005, and numerous victims of drunk drivers without drivers licenses, nor insurance. It also burdens our schools, hospitals, healthcare, law enforcement, border control, and insurance systems.

I don’t harbor hatred for immigrants (legal or illegal). I simply don’t like illegal immigration.

You would not want strangers coming into your home and making themselves at home would you?
I see no difference. The U.S. is not for the public use of the rest of the world.

But, this is all a separate issue from the topic of the thread. As for language itself, I don’t see why schools couldn’t provide some bilingual teaching. Many already do. However, it shouldn’t be required. The tax payers shouldn’t be forced ot bear the burden to teach English for people speaking numerous other languages. That burden could grow out of control as the number of languages increases, and it will create resentments, leading tax payers to blame immigrants in general. It is fortunate if some public schools elect to spend tax dollars for bilingual education for the most widely spoken foreign languages, but it shouldn’t be a requirement by law. Some immigrants may need to bear some responsibility for learning English. As for illegal aliens, there should be no requirement for tax payers to bear the burden. But, the tax payers are bearing the burden, because government won’t enforce the law or secure the borders. So, it doesn’t matter what I think.

But, perhaps it is fair play eh?
We displaced the North American Indians.
We took Texas be force from Mexico.
Now, we are beig displaced by Mexico.

Any nation, without enforced border security, will suffer the consequences of uncontrolled, sudden, and massive immigration. I believe that any sovereign nation has the right to control the level of immigration. The U.S. has laws for that purpose, but they are ignored for cheap labor. Government doesn’t care if it burdens the tax payers. Politicians only care about growing the population, taxes, and growth, with the slight hope that it will minimize the growing likelihood of an economic disaster due to decades of fiscal irresponsibility.

Posted by: d.a.n at December 13, 2005 12:39 PM
Comment #101987

“Technically, that would be a plurality, not a majority.”

ok, you caught me…with semantics. the point stands.

“So are you suggesting that only Spanish-speaking people should bare the burden of paying for Spanish translations?”

I’m suggesting that when the population is large enough to warrant translations, that it use *its own* tax dollars to fund them.

“If so, are you willing to concede that only English-speaking people should pay for the English documents in the first place?”

Forgive me, but this argument seems a bit absurd. No one pays for documents to be written in *English*, its simply that the documents need to be written, and so are therefore written in the language of those who are writing them. This seems pretty obvious.

“Would there be a “Spanish Tax” for anyone who speak Spanish?”

No, you are entirely misconstruing my meaning, though perhaps this is on purpose? The taxes are already in place. When a state or locality finds that the majority of its residents speak spanish, then it will naturally begin to change over its documents (and road signs, text books, etc.). I think the main part of my argument which has eluded you…

“In your opinion, Diogenes, how large would the Spanish-speaking populace have to be to justify the Federal Government providing Spanish translations?”

…is that it is not the role nor the right of the Federal Government to *ever* justify providing Spanish translations. If this service is required, then the State or local government must provide it. At the point where the majority of our population speaks spanish, we won’t *need* translations because the documents will be written in spanish the *first* time. Comprende? We don’t have an official language, so I see absolutely no reason to endorse an official *second* language.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 13, 2005 1:16 PM
Comment #102035

It doesn’t really matter what any of us think or want.

With bought-and-paid-for elitists in government, and the multi-national corporations that control them, English will soon be replaced by numerous other languages. History is strewn with such examples. It’s the result of careless, unmitigated, uncontrolled immigration. No nation can retain its culture or sovereignty anymore.

Perhaps, as in Utopia, that’s the way it ought to be? Why don’t we just abandon all immigration restrictions (oh, we already have, I guess), and let all foreigners can use our schools, hospitals, welfare, drive about without insurance or the ability to read road signs.

Yesterday, I saw a hispanic woman driving next to me. We both approached a stop sign. I stopped, and she sailed right through it. I thought, hmmmm, perhaps she just didn’t notice it. Then, she sailed right through the next stop sign too. She wasn’t in any big hurry or anything. We then approached a third stop sign. She sailed right through it too. She apparently just didn’t know what STOP meant. The we reached a stop light. Interestingly, she stopped at the red light though. Fotunately, she wasn’t colorblind too.
There are countless such examples. This horror plays out everyday in the U.S., because illegal aliens don’t understand our traffic systems, or drive drunk, etc.:
[] Consider Jorge Hernandez, aka Jorge Soto, who killed Min Soon Chang, an 18-year-old college freshman, in a terrible head-on wreck while Hernandez was driving drunk. He had been arrested 3 previous times for drunk driving in 3 other states, and he had been deported to Mexico 17 times!
[] Debbie Thomas, who was the mother of three, was killed in a head-on collision on Christmas Eve 2003 when her car was struck by a car being driven in the wrong direction by illegal alien, Narciso Garcia-Jimenez. He later escaped from his hospital bed after being treated, and is still at large. The car he drove had no inspection sticker and was registered to another person.

This is not a criticism of any race, gender, language, etc. It is simply the real problems with illegal aliens. They don’t understand and/or care about our laws. There is no net benefit worth the burden of illegal immigration.

A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies found that 7.9 million people moved to the United States in the past five years, the highest five-year period of immigration on record. The report released Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies also found that Arizona has one of the nation’s largest disparities in terms of educational levels between its native-born and immigrant populations, with poorly educated immigrants languishing.

Arizona, which has an overall population of more than 5.8 million, has been the busiest illegal entry point on the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=44229

Posted by: d.a.n at December 13, 2005 2:36 PM
Comment #102045
…is that it is not the role nor the right of the Federal Government to *ever* justify providing Spanish translations. If this service is required, then the State or local government must provide it. At the point where the majority of our population speaks spanish, we won’t *need* translations because the documents will be written in spanish the *first* time. Comprende? We don’t have an official language, so I see absolutely no reason to endorse an official *second* language.

So, when the populations of Spanish-speaking and English-speaking people grow close to being equal, are you suggesting that the Federal government produce documents in both languages at random, and it’ll be entirely up to the States to provide any needed translations? That doesn’t make sense.

I agree fully that the States should be responsible for any needed translations of STATE documents. But I REALLY don’t think we want the States in the business of providing translations of Federal material.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 13, 2005 2:59 PM
Comment #102064

Especially when no one can understand it even when it is written in English.

Posted by: d.a.n at December 13, 2005 3:23 PM
Comment #102226

Rob,

you speak as though we will wake up one day and *all of a sudden* 50% of the population will speak *only* spanish. if this were to happen, then we would have bigger problems (i think) than what language to write our federal documents in.

it does look as though eventually over a fairly extended period of time, we may all be speaking spanish. more likely, however, is that we will all be speaking a spanglish mix. in either case, it will work itself out. no need for the federal government to do anything - they do far more than they should already. the states on the other hand…

it sounds as though we don’t really disagree on that much. i will concede that if there is a sudden immigration rush (legal or illegal), then the federal government will (regrettably) have to do something. until that time, i think the states need to fill their constitutional roles, lest we become the United *State* of America.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 13, 2005 11:17 PM
Comment #102251

Rob,

“I agree fully that the States should be responsible for any needed translations of STATE documents. But I REALLY don’t think we want the States in the business of providing translations of Federal material.”

That distinction seems rather ridiculous to me. Do you know how many state employees FILL OUT federal documents, irregardless of what language they are in? Are schools federal institutions or state instutions? They’re funded by both and have to meet the demands of both. They have paperwork generated by both that they must fill out.

The cost of the documents themselves is pittance compared to the cost of hiring enough translators to ensure that the documents are communicable to ALL government employees that will need to be able to understand them. How many different people do you think process the information on a single piece of government paperwork? I don’t know, but I’ve seen some of my own and my children’s government paperwork and know it’s had to be processed through more than a dozen layers of people who needed data from it. I don’t want to have to pay for the translators necessary to process the same information in a dozen other languages as well.

I have a question for you. Why is it Spanish is so important to you? In time the Asian immigrant population in this country will undoubtably surge beyond those who speak Spanish. Unfortunately, they have many more languages, which are NOT dialect variations, that will take an enormous effort to translate. But, why not? We have to be fair, right? What about starting with all the people who speak Hmong? Yes, I know their population is much smaller, but they’ve been a lot more oppressed and are in much greater need of assistance, considering many of those who don’t speak any English have no idea what their rights or responsibilities are and spend much time hiding away in their small apartments, besides many of them were of substantial use to this country, which is how they got here in the first place. Why is it that the Spanish speakers hold so much of your sympathy? Is it because you’re prejudice against people from Asia? Don’t you care about the Hmong?

Posted by: Stephanie at December 14, 2005 1:08 AM
Comment #102310

d.a.n.,

I live in Spain. Here we speak, er, well, Spanish, of course.

We have “stop” signs here. They say “STOP”. I don’t mean the Spanish tranlation of “Stop”. I mean “STOP”, the English word, you know.

In addition, in Europe we use an internationally uniform set of traffic signs, which anyone, regardless of their native language, can understand. I believe they use this system in most of the rest of the world, including Latin America. We don’t have signs that say “Yield”. We have graphic representations that mean “Yield”.

I don’t think you use this system in the US. Maybe it’s time you did, considering how many immigrants you take in each year. You would all be safer.

The one sign you do use in the US is though, you guessed it, the “STOP” sign. I doubt this woman, obviously a lousy driver did not know this sign.

Maybe it’s time for you to rethink some of your preconceived ideas, I don’t know.

Posted by: German at December 14, 2005 10:05 AM
Comment #102318

Stephanie,

The ONLY reason I used Spanish as an example was because it is the 2nd most common “first language” in the country. The same argument would hold true for people speaking Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, French, Greek, Latin, Pig Latin, Klingon, or any other language.

As for the distinction between Federal and State documentation, it’s not ridiculous. From a Constitutional persective, we don’t have ONE government — we have 51 governments (50 state, and 1 federal). So our choices are:

1) have the Federal government translate EVERYTHING, including state/county/city documents;

2) have the State governments translate EVERYTHING, including federal documents;

3) place the ENTIRE burden upon the non-English speaking individual; or

4) share the burden between them.

I’m all for sharing the burden — I just want to see it done in the most cost-effective manner possible. That’s why I don’t like the idea of the States paying to translate Federal documents. If you have five states with high populations of Russians, for example, you pay for five translations instead of one.

The big motivating factor for me is that government should be run in the language of the people. If the vast majority speak English, then it’s fine to run the government in that language. But as significant minorities appear, we should recognise and support them.

What I DON’T want to see is a situation where, say, a Mexican immigrant goes to court in Texas, and everyone involved (the judge, the lawyer, the jury, etc.) speaks Spanish fluently, but the law requires that the trial be conducted in a language that the defendant doesn’t speak.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 14, 2005 10:20 AM
Comment #102371

German,
I admit it is strange indeed. Here in the U.S., there are large numbers of immigrants that can’t read at all, which is very likely the case in this instance. I can not understand how this person could miss three stop signs in a row. The bad thing is, it was only a few blocks from an elementary school. Very dangerous. And, the bad part is, when illegal aliens are involved in accidents, they often flee the scene of the accident for fear of being deported, and they have no insurance either. Or, as reported above, they get treated at the hospital, and then escape from the hospital.

You say I should rethink my preconceived notions?
I try to be open minded. Are you saying the U.S. should not even try to secure its borders? We should let anyone come and go as they please? I simply do not think the U.S. is for the public use of illegal aliens. What’s wrong with that preconceived notion? Any nation that allows massive and sudden immigration (legal and illegal) to the level that our government has, the worse the problem is, since tax payers are forced to provide health care, welfare, and education to them. What’s fair about that? That’s one of many reasons why these systems are in trouble. Just exactly what are you trying to say. What is one notion, in particular are you talking about? You used plural, notions. What notions are you talking about?

Posted by: d.a.n at December 14, 2005 12:52 PM
Comment #102520

I know quite a few people who are from Mexico as well as a few Puerto Ricans who don’t feel illegal immigration is a positive. They feel since they came to this country the “right” way everyone should. There is also the concern that they are treated as “illegals” and looked down on when some of them are naturally born US citizens.

I don’t disagree with you Dan that illegal immigration is an important issue. Personally I’ve always felt the way to deal with it was to seriously penalize those who hire illegal immigrants. If there were no jobs? Less incentive to illegally come here.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 14, 2005 8:22 PM
Comment #102543

Lisa Renee,
You are absolutely correct.
Enforcing existing laws is all that is required.
But, government is corrupt, and won’t do it.
Even george bush calls the Minute Men vigilantes.
Corpocrisy and bush’s hypocrisy is all too clear.
Also, state governments are to blame too.
It’s all about cheap labor for corrupt corporations, and screwing the tax payers, as usual. Corrupt government allows it, and voters tolerate it. The majority of voters are asking for secure borders, but governments ignore it.
And, secure borders really would not be that difficult. We could easily stop illegal trespassers from crossing our national borders using resources we already have. The rights of foreigners that illegally trespass do not trump the rights of a sovereign nation to secure their own border. The U.S. is not for the public use of the rest of the world no more than your home is for the public use by anyone that isn’t invited. We must enforce the existing laws and prosecute those that illegally employ illegal trespassers. Illegal aliens are burdening our educations systems, healthcare systems, law enforcement systems, insurance systems, driving about without automobile insurance, and bringing disease and crime with them. In November 2005, a Dallas policeman was shot and killed by an illegal alien (these are crimes that should have never occurred).

The military can and should secure the borders and coasts, because national security and defense is the basic purpose of the military. Securing our borders, the right of any sovereign nation, is not isolationism or xenophobia. It is simply national security and defense. The military could easily secure the borders with resources we already have (about 1% of all 2.6 million militiary, reserve, and guard troops). We could simply position a small portion of troops along the borders where they could be more effective toward the goal of national security and defense. The U.S./Canada border (about 4500 miles) and the U.S./Mexico border (about 2000 miles) could both (about 6500 miles) be secured with 650 posts (about 10 miles apart; denser in some areas than others), with 40 soldiers per post, which would only require a total 26,000 soldiers (about 1 soldier per 1320 feet). A biometrics IDentification system, patrols, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, remote cameras, radar, laser, sonar, thermal, seismic, and other sensors and technology could greatly enhance the ability to secure the borders alsa, and the Coast Guard could patrol the coast lines. What good is a massive armed forces (2.6 million active military, Guard, and Reserves) if we don’t even use a small percentage (less than 1%) of the troops to protect our nation’s borders? See? It’s not as far fetched as some want you to believe it is.

Posted by: d.a.n at December 14, 2005 9:43 PM
Comment #102644

d.a.n.,

I completely agree with you on the immigration issue. I just don’t think you can blame everything on the immigrants. It’s a question of numbers and public policy, not the fact that this or that person drives recklessly. That’s the preconceived notion. I have to fight prejudices every day myself

I know the American problem only superficially, and we have the same one here. Just an example: in Madrid, the city where I live, there are some 1.2 million immigrants out of a total population of 6 m (20%). Most of them have come in the last 5 years or so. So we have a huge problem here, too. This flood must be curbed. There is no question about that. And I guess the problem is similar in the US:

- We have universal health care coverage here. Immigrants (illegal or otherwise) just have to register with the Health authorities and they’re automatically entitled to receive free treatment. You may imagine the pressure our system is under because of 25% more patients all of a sudden. As we cannot tolerate having anyone uninsured, the obvious solution is to try to curb immigration.
- In Madrid (sorry for referring constantly to my own experience), these people make on average some EUR 780 a month. That means our poverty rate has gone up 25%. Do we want a society like that? I don’t. Additionally, the availability of cheap labour depresses the average wages for native or earlier-come workers. I fear our poverty rate has grown noticeably because of that.
- Immigrants here are 65% Latin Americans so we don’t have a language barrier with most of them, although the cultural ones are there. Immigrants are mostly latino, poor, uneducated and come from very different backgrounds from our own. It’s inevitable that, even if they speak the language, they will form a distinct, sizeable minority. That, combined with low incomes, will create ghettos. I don’t want ghettos in my city or my country.
- And there’s the racism. No matter your own stance about other races and cultures. Racism will exist as long as diverse ethnic groups do. And I you’re white and poor, it’s very easy to blame the outsiders for your low wage. That spells social troubles. Furthermore, I fear immigrants will be discriminated against for a long, long time, and they won’t be happy about that. France has had this huge migratory inflow 20 years ago and look where it has led them. I have no doubt that what has happened there will happen here, too.

Governments everywhere lack the political will or courage to tackle this problem. But it’s very real, and very serious.

As for the language thing, I don’t think your federal or state governments should translate ANYTHING into any language. Your language is English. Immigrants should learn their hosts’ language and speak whichever language they choose in their everyday life.

Posted by: d.a.n. at December 15, 2005 7:16 AM
Comment #102733

The last post was mine not d.a.n.’s… sorry. I dunno what I did!

Posted by: German at December 15, 2005 9:52 AM
Comment #102926

Rob Cottrell,

Starting from the bottom up:

“What I DON’T want to see is a situation where, say, a Mexican immigrant goes to court in Texas, and everyone involved (the judge, the lawyer, the jury, etc.) speaks Spanish fluently, but the law requires that the trial be conducted in a language that the defendant doesn’t speak.”

I agree that would be an unfortunate and ridiculous (though not completely unplausible) situation. However “everyone” is a LOT of people. It’s not just the people immediately involved in the trial who have to understand Spanish for that to work out the way you’re suggesting. Anyone who would have to reference that later, be it another attorney looking for prescendence or an appeals court judge, that didn’t understand Spanish would need to have all the transcripts translated so they could understand the material.

What I don’t want to see happen is having an American government for us and an American government for them. Separate but equal hasn’t exactly worked in the history of this nation, and by encouraging the language barriers to be maintained and/or increased by enabling those language barriers is going to create exactly that. Trusting one’s fellows isn’t a human strong suit most of the time, and when you’re talking about encouraging debilitating barriers that prevents communication and interaction, it becomes more so. It is my opinion that strengthening the language barrier will only create a bigger obstacle for non-English speaking citizens to overcome in order to gain acceptance by English speaking citizens, who currently hold the reins of the best opportunities in this country. We’d see more segregation, which would limit opportunities for all citizens.

If the goal is to be more inclusive, I think a better way to handle this issue would be to start with the children. We should educate our children earlier and more thoroughly in common languages that are within our own borders. Immerse them more in the languages (here at home, with no need to send them to foreign countries, though that would remain an option for its own sake), because if a language is that prevalent in any given area the opportunity would exist.

Then, encourage bi-lingual individuals to help acclimate non-English speaking LEGAL immigrants into our culture by helping them with the English documents they need to fill out for all levels of American government, find and succeed at English classes, accessing housing and other living needs and basically assisting them in whatever way they need to successfully participate in our society. Paperwork, of which, is only a small, though time-consuming part of it.

Here’s a question: What good does it do the non-English speaking citizens or legal immigrants of this country to encourage their seperation from mainstream society? Sure, they might be able to get food stamps because the paper work is in Spanish, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to get as much food with that. If they can only buy their groceries at a Spanish-speaking store, which has a smaller group of customers, then they’ll pay more for the same food items than their English-speaking counter-parts who can go to a store that can buy in greater bulk and sell for less. The Spanish-only person is not going to have the same job opportunities as their English-speaking counter-part either. They’ll be limited to Spanish speaking employers (of which there are much less of, at least in my area) or employers who don’t really need to communicate with their employees, which are low-paying jobs.

I could go on, but my point is I don’t see how enabling them by making it easier not to learn the majority language is actually helping them. It makes it easier for them to segregate themselves from the rest of society, sure, but is that something we as a nation want to encourage?

“The big motivating factor for me is that government should be run in the language of the people. If the vast majority speak English, then it’s fine to run the government in that language. But as significant minorities appear, we should recognise and support them.”

I agree. However, what I believe we should do to recognize and support them is different. The vast majority of citizens in this country speak English and will for several generations to come, no matter how we change the laws. I don’t take this to mean that those legal immigrants or citizens who don’t speak English don’t need or deserve support. I take this to mean that for those who don’t speak English the best thing we can do to help them SUCCEED is by giving them the tools and resources they need to learn English. Free of charge regardless of their economic situation. Arrange it so that attending such classes cannot be considered a strike against them by their employers, whether work is missed or not (much like medical leave or military service, which I grant doesn’t work perfectly either). Have these classes on-going and progressive. If a person only wants to learn the basics, that’s fine. If it takes them ten years to learn the basics, that’s fine too. If they want to learn English well enough to go to college here, even better. Make it happen.

Also, give them the personal assistance necessary to integrate into society while they are learning English. Help them find and procure an apartment that is NOT in the barrio, in order to avoid that stigmatism. Help them find a job with advancement potential. Help them go grocery shopping or enroll in general education classes. Whatever they need; help them.

Again, this assistance is for LEGAL immigrants and citizens. Illegal immigrants should be excluded, and encouraged to go home and come back legally so that America can truly be their home. Uncontrolled immigration, corrupt corporations searching for cheap labor aside, is bad for this country and is bad for the illegal immigrants. While their lives may be somewhat improved from how they lived in their country of origin, they’ll never have access to the opportunities of America and giving them that access without requiring them to enter the country legally will only harm those who were ethical enough to come here legally. What’s the point of having legal status if the opportunities are the same? Why should American taxpayers pay for illegal immigrants to break the law?

“I’m all for sharing the burden — I just want to see it done in the most cost-effective manner possible. That’s why I don’t like the idea of the States paying to translate Federal documents.”

I’m all for sharing the burden, too. I just don’t think translating documents is cost-effective or has enough long-term benefits to justify the expense. I think, that if being integrated into this society and accessing the benefits of being a member of this country is their priority, then we have the obligation to teach them English and they have the obligation to learn. If that isn’t their priority, then why are they here?

“As for the distinction between Federal and State documentation, it’s not ridiculous. From a Constitutional persective, we don’t have ONE government — we have 51 governments (50 state, and 1 federal).”

That’s the problem. You’re limiting your perspective. We have a LOT more than 51 governments in this nation. Federal, state, county and city governments are all inter-dependent. Federal employees write and process federal paperwork, but it is often state, county or city government organizations (that receive grants from the federal government) that have the person to person contact with the individuals who need the paperwork filled out in the first place. Most Americans cannot fill out a significant amount of the government paperwork without receiving person to person assistance. Translating these documents are not going to enable non-English speaking individuals to fill the paperwork out on their own, it’s simply going to create even more layers of bureaucracy before the paperwork can be processed, which is going to make it even more difficulte, NOT easier, for them to access government services.

I don’t know what socioeconomic background you come from, but I’m poor. I’ve filled out a LOT of government paperwork. I’m also smart, so I can do most of it on my own. But, I’ve seen people, both English speaking and non-English speaking people, trying to wade through the same paperwork. It’s actually easier for the non-Enlish speaking people, with access to a translator, to do it than the English speaking person trying to wade through it on their own who doesn’t really understand bureaucratese, because they get that person to person assistance. However, whether it’s a federal program or a state program or a county program, it is almost ALWAYS a county employee who provides that person to person assistance whether the applicant speaks English or not. The Social Security office is the only exception that comes to mind; they’re all federal employess, which is why they need duplicates of everything you’ve already provided to the state and/or county employees.

The other thing you’re assuming, with this bid to translate government paperwork, is that the people you’re trying to reach will necessarily be literate in their native language, which isn’t always true. So then, the people who are helping them, would not only have to be able to speak the lanuage fluently, but also be able to write and read it fluently as well, or else they wouldn’t be able to help the person who needs assistance.

“The ONLY reason I used Spanish as an example was because it is the 2nd most common “first language” in the country. The same argument would hold true for people speaking Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, French, Greek, Latin, Pig Latin, Klingon, or any other language.”

What you’re suggesting would be an ENORMOUS task for one language…translating the government paperwork to the all the “first” languages that exist in this country, and then processing all that paperwork would be nearly impossible. We would lose so much money and so much time…it’s difficult to even imagine how destructive that would be to our nation.

Posted by: Stephanie at December 15, 2005 7:43 PM
Comment #103090

Stephanie,

Anyone who would have to reference that later, be it another attorney looking for prescendence or an appeals court judge, that didn’t understand Spanish would need to have all the transcripts translated so they could understand the material.

That’s exactly where translation belongs. The court should be held in the language of the PEOPLE (in this case Spanish), and then translated to the language of the GOVERNMENT (in this case English) for documentation purposes.

What I don’t want to see happen is having an American government for us and an American government for them. Separate but equal hasn’t exactly worked in the history of this nation, and by encouraging the language barriers to be maintained and/or increased by enabling those language barriers is going to create exactly that.

That’s a very good point, and it’s the main reason why I don’t support this sort of thing for SMALL minorities. But we’re on track now to eventually have a very LARGE Spanish-speaking minority that we really can’t expect to shift en masse to English. If/when that happens, we’ll need to learn to function as a bi-lingual society.

Again, I’m not suggesting that we translate everything into every language that is spoken here. Heck, I’m not sure we have a minority population large enough to warrant Federal translations to ANY language (even Spanish). I’m simply saying that it’s the government’s responsibility to work in the language of the people, and not to impose language upon them.

When the population of any locality (town, city, county, state, etc.) nears a balance between two languages (say, Spanish and English), the government there needs to adapt to that balance by becoming multi-lingual. In many towns and counties, that’s already happened. Once a few Counties adopt a 2nd language, the State needs to consider adopting it as well. Once a few States adopt it, it makes sense for the Federal government to do so.

That’s the problem. You’re limiting your perspective. We have a LOT more than 51 governments in this nation. Federal, state, county and city governments are all inter-dependent.

That’s why I said “from a Constitutional perspective”. Constitutionally speaking, county and city governments are merely extentions of the State government. All city governments get their authority from their State constitutions.

I didn’t mean to ignore city/county governments by any means. I just didn’t have time to count them all. ;-)

What you’re suggesting would be an ENORMOUS task for one language…translating the government paperwork to the all the “first” languages that exist in this country, and then processing all that paperwork would be nearly impossible. We would lose so much money and so much time…it’s difficult to even imagine how destructive that would be to our nation.

Again, I’m not suggesting translating everything into “all the ‘first’ languages that exist in this country”. That would be prohibitively expensive. I’m just suggesting that each locality’s government needs to support the people of that locality, IN THEIR LANGUAGE.

For example, if a town in Indiana was 95% German-speaking, it would make sense for town council meetings, street signs, etc. to be in German. The 5% English-speaking minority wouldn’t be enough to warrant English support. Now, if this made the county 60% German-speaking and 40% English-speaking, then the county would need to support both languages (bilingual police officers, courts held in both languages, etc.) If there were a few other counties like this in the State, then it might warrant the State to provide German-translated State documents, but still hold courts, legislatures, etc. in English. The Federal government, though, wouldn’t have sufficient need to warrant any German translations at their level.

So, in this example, the German-speaking individual could operate completely within his own language in his town and county, and to a limited extent while interacting with the State. For further State or Federal interactions, he would require assistance, which would most likely be provided at the Town or County level.

Specifically, what part of this example do you disagree with?

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 16, 2005 8:07 AM
Comment #103140

I have been researching immigration, citizenship and, related issues. Some of the facts are interesting.

Illegal Immigration is just that - ILLEGAL
However, if a child is born to an illegal immigrant in the US, that child is a citizen of the US. (I wonder if the illegal immigrant could or would be deported and the child remain?)

Any child born in the US is a citizen with one exception - A child born of a foreign diplomat is not a US citizen.

Foreigners can be sponsored for green cards and/or permanent US residency by relatives who are citizens.

There are a number of requirements for Naturalization. Among them are being able to read, write, speak and understand english. There is a test to validate this.

So, you can be a citizen who is born here to illegal immigrants and do not speak english and you can be a naturalized citizen who must undergo a series of requirements which includes being able to speak english.

You can be here legally with either a green card or permanent residency status and not have to speak english.

There is much, much more but I now understand the reason for disagreement on us having to accomodate a number of languages.

Posted by: steve smith at December 16, 2005 11:21 AM
Comment #103629

Rob Cottrell,

“That’s exactly where translation belongs. The court should be held in the language of the PEOPLE (in this case Spanish), and then translated to the language of the GOVERNMENT (in this case English) for documentation purposes.”

Okay, I’ll grant you that one. That makes sense. And makes reasonable cents, too! :-)

“But we’re on track now to eventually have a very LARGE Spanish-speaking minority that we really can’t expect to shift en masse to English.”

Why not? Unless you know something I don’t (are we opening our borders to a flood of legal, Hispanic immigrants in the near future?), the size of the population is determined, in part, by the fact that Hispanic families are having more children than non-Hispanic families. These children will attend public schools, where they will learn English. I don’t see any good reason to change that, since most of the opportunities available in this country are also “in English”. Also, the larger the population of people who NEED to learn English the greater the resources that should be made available to TEACH them English. Assuming these are legal, tax-paying immigrants, then the funds to teach them English shouldn’t be a problem. The bi-lingual individuals necessary to teach them English shouldn’t be a problem. So, where’s the problem?

“I’m simply saying that it’s the government’s responsibility to work in the language of the people, and not to impose language upon them.”

Impose is a very strong word. The English language should not be imposed on anyone (i.e., the judge who told that woman she had to learn English to regain custody of her child was definitely in the wrong). You don’t HAVE to learn English. Then again, you don’t HAVE to receive financial aide. You don’t HAVE to drive a vehicle. You don’t even HAVE to pay taxes. Are there consequences for not doing so? Certainly, but that’s all part of living in a civilized society (is there such a thing as a non-civilized society?). It is a choice to come to this country and to live in this country. It is a responsibility to function within the established structure of this country. While certain accomodations are called for, why should we as a society adapt our nation for those who are not willing to adapt to us? Why does the government, and thus the society, have that obligation?

“I just didn’t have time to count them all. ;-)”

I think by the time you did, the results would have changed!

“I’m just suggesting that each locality’s government needs to support the people of that locality, IN THEIR LANGUAGE.”

But, to what end? What results are you looking for? It seems this would make it easier for them to live here in the short-term, but it wouldn’t make it easier for them (and their children) to SUCCEED here in the long-term. What would you be trying to accomplish?

“Specifically, what part of this example do you disagree with?”

Nothing and everything. On the surface, it seems reasonable and appropriate. To do less would be unethical (though ethics are subjective and thus, opinions may differ on this matter) and discriminatory. However…it’s segregation, which is also unethical and discriminatory, except that this segregation would most likely be voluntary (which, imo, doesn’t make it better, but again that’s subjective).

*sigh*

I’ll take a step away from the language issue, and explain my point of view from another, less controversial, perspective. Here in Wisconsin, we have a small but stable Amish community. This community is segregated from our society by their own choice. There are many pros and cons to this, and the pros are triumphant because it is their choice and those who do wish to leave are allowed to do so (at least, by those on the outside), though the same is often not true in the reverse, i.e. people from the outside are not exactly welcome to join the Amish community.

Now, the biggest downside, imo, is the de-humanizing nature of some of the interactions between the majority and the minority. Often things do go smoothly and people do realize that the Amish are a people who choose to live differently than “the rest of us” and that is a valid choice. There is business back and forth and positive interactions on many levels. This is great; these are some of the pros. However, there is a smaller percentage of the majority who don’t understand or appreciate the value of the Amish community; instead, for them, visiting the Amish community is done with the same mentality as visiting the circus or the zoo. The Amish aren’t people to such individuals, but roadside attractions which have no value beyond their oddity.

Now, perhaps I’m being too sensative, and should just brush it off as an unfortunate trait of human nature that must simply be endured. Afterall, the Amish individuals believe this price is worth what they gain by segregating themselves. Or, perhaps, I’m being naive that I actually expect people to be mature enough to realize that people are people, and deserve to be treated as people. If this is naive, I will cling to my naivity because this pisses me off!!! There is absolutely no good reason, imo, for people to treat each other that way.

Now, going back to the language issue, I must say that I see a distinction between the Amish and your German community. I understand why the Amish individuals segregate themselves from the mainstream and their reasons for doing so are strong enough to “make up” for the fact that the segregation makes interactions difficult and sometimes de-humanizing and also limits their ability to succeed in the surrounding communities (their “language barrier” would be computers). They do it for specific reasons that are concious and purposeful. Which leads me to ask, why are the Germans segregating themselves?

Historically speaking, America has had this habit of forcing newcomers to segregate (often for two or three generations) before true integration occurs. This was done, not so much because the newcomers came here wanting to be segregated, but because those who were already established didn’t accept the newcomers and forced them into subjugated communities by restricting their access to profitable jobs and to decent housing. It took time for that to change (usually involving a flood of immigrants from a different nation, i.e. those Germans aren’t so bad, I mean, look at the IRISH!).

In your German community scenario, we would expect that this isn’t the case, that these individuals choose to congregate together and choose to speak German, because of the statistical improbability of contemporary German immigrants all flooding to the same community without a predetermined intention of doing so, considering that German immigrants are generally accepted easily and are not often scorned by the American mainstream. They, perhaps, are trying to create a Little Germany within American borders, to what end I couldn’t imagine, but… I don’t have a problem with it on that face, though a few decades ago that would have been a BIG problem for political reasons. If that is their wish, there really isn’t any good reason not to facillitate them, at least on a local level.

However, since the parallel is made concerning our conversation of Spanish speaking immigrants… The assumption that the segregation is wholly voluntary falls on its face. Everywhere I’ve gone (I’ve never been west of the Rockies), Hispanic individuals were put down for prejudicial reasons. Few people I’ve met and personally talked to hate Hispanic people more than one of my uncles who lives in Texas, where the Hispanic population is considerable. The words he uses to describe them literally make me blush…and fume.

Now, the only person I’ve personally talked to who was worse was the man who, when we moved into a rural community in southern Minnesota, told us in no uncertain terms that we weren’t allowed to rent our “spare” house out to ‘spics. To describe my level of naivity (even though I was in high school), I actually had to ask my brother what “‘spic” meant. The answer, of course, pissed me off. What made the situation truly devastating was hearing my own father agree wholeheartedly with those ridiculous terms.

In that area, that sort of intolerance was common place. Segregation was in full force. They had their area and everyone else stayed out of it as much as possible. While there were outlying communities that had a high Hispanic population, it was NOT voluntary. The Hispanic individuals did not live in those run-down, poorly funded communities by choice, but because they were not allowed to live in the “nice” communities, except in the “barrios,” which were as run-down and poorly funded as the outlying communties where “their” population was the highest.

Here in my area of Wisconsin, it’s not like that. While there is some segregation, it’s not nearly as stringently enforced (and when it is there are the proper legal reprecussions) as it was in that area of Minnesota. Hispanics own and manage successful businesses, some of which do market only to Spanish speaking individuals which is great, though not as profitable as those who market to individuals who speak either language fluently. The atmosphere here is different. Integration is common and encouraged. Cultural heritage is shared on a community level. It’s a much better place for interaction and integration.

Now, the difference between these two communities are many, but in relation to our discussion is the language barrier. In the Minnesota communities, there were few places teaching English as a second language and there were few compensations available (like translators) for those who didn’t speak English. Whether that was because of the intolerance, or the intolerance was because of the communication barrier, or because of a third factor (such as the significant portion of illegal immigrants in that area), I don’t know. However, I think that would be an important thing to determine before we pour money into further segregating those communities by language and enabling the language barrier to continue for generations, despite it’s natural tendency to subside when children learn English in school (admittedly a too-slow process for our fast-paced society).

In Wisconsin, however, I know that there are more places to learn English as a second language. There are also translators available to meet immediate needs. The integration process is embraced, encouraged and facillitated; and, more importantly, the Hispanic population thrives in a way that they did not in the Minnesota community. The differences are dramatic. That’s not to say that intolerance isn’t a problem here, but in comparing it to the Minnesota community it’s not nearly as bad here. Progress still needs to be made, but it’s unfortunately sometimes a slow process.

My question is this, would encouraging and facillitating the language barrier, by making some communities bi-lingual or non-English speaking, help the people in those communities have a higher quality of life over the LONG-term, or merely over the short-term? I don’t believe it would. I believe it would put them in a position where it is even more difficult for them to get out of the impoverished, government-dependent lifestyles, because they’re not learning the language that most of the opportunities that are available in this country are spoken in, English. And nor would their children be learning that language, and the situation would perpetuate itself even more so than it does now.

I believe there HAS to be a good way to help newcomers to this country. Unfortunately, motivating people to find it and utilize it is difficult. However, by dismissing the benefits of integrating newcomers, and just giving in to the fact that they “can’t” learn English, limits the historical tendency of their children to have better opportunities than they do, because their children would have integrated into our society by NOT being segregated.

If it is inevitable that we have perpetual bi-lingual communities, we will embrace it, however; t’was a time before any of us were born when this sort of thing (communities and areas of communities segregated by language and nationality) was common place and within a few generations the common language of all the different nationalities was English. I mean, historically speaking, the English language won, which is why we all speak it now. Were it not for a common language (and our ancestors did choose English) I wouldn’t exist, because my ancestors spoke so many different languages it isn’t even funny. That’s typically American, that inter-breeding (not to say it doesn’t happen elsewhere, or that is always happens here, but it something I strongly associate with America, as in the “melting pot”) happens after the language barriers have been overcome. And we DO see this now with Hispanics marrying and having children with non-Hispanics.

Now, imo, the melting pot analogy is a good thing for this country. I grant readily enough that people still hold prejudice to “new” nationalities (which, to me seems ridiculous, since America’s pretty much seen it all by now, but that’s not the point), but with each generation it does tend to improve. If you went around talking about them filthy Irishmen today, people would look at you like you were nuts. However, a century or two ago, that mentality was common place. They integrated into our society and prejudice against that nationality is muted or eliminated now. The same can be said for the Germans, the Poles and numerous other nationalities. The unfortunate thing is that Hispanics still face that, despite having been our neighbors this whole time. The why of it is beyond my understanding, but I find it very hard to believe that it is because they want to be segregated and marginalized, or because they just can’t learn English. There HAS to be other factors, and I believe those factors are those that need to be addressed more thoroughly and appropriately.

In conclusion, when segregation is done by choice, special consideration should be made, but when it is forced on a group of people, the approach from the government, imo, should not be to facillitate the segregation, but to encourage (and enforce non-discrimination laws) healthy interaction so integration can be possible. IF the Hispanic communities exist, because the Hispanic individuals wish to congregate for their own benefit (versus needing to do so as a The West Side Story style survival tactic) then, America can and should embrace that. If, however, they do so, because they’ve been discouraged or forcibly prevented from doing otherwise, then we as a society need to look at the underlying reasons why and solve the real problem, which isn’t that these people can’t/won’t learn English, but that these people are illegally and unethically being forced to the fringes of our society, which won’t be solved by facillitating the language barriers.

Posted by: Stephanie at December 18, 2005 12:11 AM
Comment #104181

Stephanie,

You’ve made some very good points. There is one thing I think you’re missing, though — the effect of CULTURE. The reason these people have always congregated together is because they seek their own culture.

One of the greatest benefits of coming to America has always been that you can bring your culture (and, if necessary, language) with you. We have communities in this country that came from Irish backgrounds, German backgrounds, Italian backgrounds, Greek, Jewish, French, Spanish, English, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, etc. Most came willingly, and brought their cultures with them.

The first immigrants from each culture brought their native tongues as well. As long-distance communication was slow back then, and everything they needed was within a short distance from home, they could settle into self-sufficient communities, complete with their own language and culture. Over the next few generations, though, the children learned to speak English, spread out throughout the country, and “melted” into the “pot”, as it were.

In some places, though, this “melting” hasn’t been as successful. Specifically, these are places that still have a strong flow of first-gen immigrants. Consider the various “Chinatowns” as an example.

The point is that training the American-born generations in English has almost always been more successful than teaching their parents and grandparents a new language. In the past, the older folks could stay in their communities very conveniently, and not have to worry as much about learning English. Learning a new language as an adult (especially an older adult) is a very difficult thing to do, and in most cases wasn’t worth it.

Today, however, such isolationism is much more difficult. You can go anywhere in this country in under a day. Entertainment, travel, tourism, and business are all handled on national scales. The luxury of isolated culture doesn’t exist anymore. You have to give up a LOT to segregate yourself.

The unfortunate thing is that Hispanics still face that, despite having been our neighbors this whole time. The why of it is beyond my understanding, but I find it very hard to believe that it is because they want to be segregated and marginalized, or because they just can’t learn English. There HAS to be other factors, and I believe those factors are those that need to be addressed more thoroughly and appropriately.

The reason Hispanics haven’t “melted” in the way that the Germans, Irish, etc. did is BECAUSE they are our neighbors. Because there is a constant influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants (legal or not), there is a constant demand for Spanish-speaking services. This means that even children born in the U.S. can get by in these communities without having to learn English. And, because communication today allows continued contact with their home country (through phone, internet, etc.), learning Spanish is still very important to these younger generations.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do what we can to teach them English. By all means, let’s incorporate them into our language pool as quickly as possible. But unless we make some major changes to policies on border patrol, immigration, residency, communication, etc., the problem will not go away from education alone. And, in the meantime, we have an ever-growing Spanish-speaking population that needs to be able to function in our society.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at December 19, 2005 10:50 AM
Comment #104272

“When the population of any locality (town, city, county, state, etc.) nears a balance between two languages (say, Spanish and English), the government there needs to adapt to that balance by becoming multi-lingual… “

hear, hear. now, i think, we are on the same page.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 19, 2005 2:27 PM
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