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Should English be the official language of the United States?

i drkhturner
Category: Others
Date: 10/10/2013
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Did you know that the United States does not have an official language?  Every so often the question arises as to whether the US should adopt English as the official language of the country.  

posted by drkhturner | suggest edit

Yes

Should English be the official language of the United States?

No

Should English be the official language of the United States?

DEBATE

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arguments supporting the issue
arguments against the issue

The notion that the United States ought to recognize English as its official language does the entire country a disservice. In a nation famed for being a melting pot that welcomes all cultures in with relatively open arms, to say that English ought to be the official language is a slap in the face of a long history of welcoming in those who never spoke the language. When the New Census Bureau released a survey map of languages spoken throughout the United States, no less than 15 different languages were identified as being spoken more often than English in the home. Among these languages, Spanish and Chinese topped the list for most commonly spoken non-English language; and other languages such as Korean, Tagalong, and Vietnamese were among the six most popular non-English languages spoken at homes across the nation. Even now, interpreters are increasingly hired to speak for those who do not speak English. Paperwork in schools is often printed in Spanish and English for the benefit of students who may speak English better than their parents. We make small concessions every day for millions of people in this nation who do not speak English either as their first language or at all. Though the system can be chaotic and rife with its troubles, it works. Trying to force a singular language onto a population the size of the United States as being official would discredit the hard work done by those who have gotten by without ever having to speak English fluently. Even more importantly, this begs the question of, What would be accomplished by this? What does the United States stand to gain by having a language of Germanic and Anglo-Saxon origin, which frequently borrows words from other languages to bolster its use, as its official language? Its a bastard language forged in diversity and forcing it into the place as the United States official language would only prove the point such an act would stand against.http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/education/cb13-143.html

posted by emillerm | suggest edit

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We are multicultural at our core. For generations, the United States has welcomed immigrants with open arms, embracing various cultures, languages, and traditions. With every new citizen gained, America has grown to become a culturally diverse community. As citizens, we are granted unalienable rights to equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we look back to the documents our founding fathers created, both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution do not include mandates for an official language. Instead, citizens of the United States are granted constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression. If the United States mandates English to become an official language, we are limiting, narrowing and stifling our unalienable rights. According to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2013 the US welcomed roughly 1 million lawful permanent residents. The leading countries of birth of the new lawful residents were Mexico (14 percent), China (7.2 percent) and India (6.9 percent). The new American citizens have been welcomed to live, work, own property, and attend public schools. A nation that was built upon diversity and equality should not mandate an official language. If an official language were established, we would limit human rights and halt multiculturalism. Our children will grow up in a world that does not encourage them to respect, appreciate, and learn from other cultures. Rather than embrace ethnic diversity, our schools will encourage students to relinquish their ethnic identities and languages altogether. Additionally, language barriers will sprout between young children and their older, ethnic ancestors. Once a place of conversation, the home would be come a place of silence. An official language would lead to immense separation, rather than unity. Just because an individual has a unique first language, does not mean they are less American. http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_lpr_fr_2013.pdf

Posted by gmmarmo on 31/10/2014 at 01:49 PM

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The United States, at its core, is an experiment in letting the people decide, yes- and at the present moment, the overwhelming majority of Americans speak English as their primary language. While ProEnglish cites a survey in which 87% of Americans support the designation of officiality (https://www.proenglish.org/data/backgrounders), the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey indicates that 230 million Americans, out of about 290 million, spoke only English at home in 2011, with more than half of the remaining 60 million identifying as speaking English “very well” (https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acs-22.pdf). Clearly, most members of the nation speak English proficiently. But it is important to note that these statistics come from a society that does not have an official language; even without the power of legal enforcement and government oversight, “over 97% of the residents of this country speak the national language” (http://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/officialamerican). It also seems apparent that the children of immigrants are learning English at substantial rates, whether or not their parents do: “About nine-in-ten second-generation Hispanic and Asian-American immigrants are proficient English speakers, substantially more than the immigrant generations of these groups” (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/02/07/second-generation-americans). In other words, the ‘free market’ that is this nation’s mixture of spoken and written languages favors an English monopoly; substantial incentives already exist to encourage new residents and citizens to assimilate. Practical life in America seems to necessitate learning English. The only reason to narrow the available options from “over 300 languages,” according to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, to only one, is the fear that laissez-faire linguistics might swing in a different direction in the future (https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acs-22.pdf). A debunked myth purported that at one point in our nation’s history, German nearly became the official language, allegedly due to a concentrated population of German immigrants near then-capital Philadelphia, though the myth itself was likely perpetuated during World War II, riding the wave of anti-German sentiment (http://german.about.com/library/weekly/aa010820a.htm). Now the fear seems to be that Spanish is gradually overtaking English. But the question remains: so what? If the majority of the citizens of this nation in a hypothetical future speak Spanish more fluently and comfortably than they do English, the same argument will then be made that Spanish should be designated the official language. But just as Latin gave way to vernacular languages in Catholic churches when it became clear people weren’t learning Latin, any attempt to mandate something as fundamental as language will inevitably fail when that language is no longer representative of its society. John Adams, a celebrated Founding Father, called for the establishment of English as an official language, and his views were considered “a threat to individual liberty;” just as the government cannot establish a state religion, establishing a state language would impose one way of thinking- the view of the majority- over all others (http://www.strictlyspanish.com/whitepaper2.htm). Instead, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people must constantly serve and respond to the reality of its present society, not determine what that reality should be.

Posted by 2p3l2vpsx7g0lznq on 26/02/2014 at 07:33 PM

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I think English should be the U.S. national language because the highest achievers in the world are English-speaking Americans, and I think there is a correlation between the language and the achievements of the people who speak it. I imagine that if the majority of Americans started speaking another language, America would produce fewer exceptionally high achievers, such as Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet, and overall, especially economically, America would become less competitive. I think many people would be surprised to learn that English is not this country's national language since most Americans speak English. American culture embraces linguistic diversity to a great extent as evidenced by the wide variety of its multicultural communities. If English were this country's national language, I don't think it would alter the status quo. If I ever had to be rushed to the emergency room, I'm confident that my doctors and nurses would speak English fluently. In "Language Legislation and Language Abuse: American Language Policy through the 1990s," Dennis Barron writes, "the language policy discussion becomes more serious, and someone mentions the public safety myth: What if a person who can't speak English has to call the police or the rescue squad? What if firefighters can't read an address because it's in Greek or Korean?" Although this isn't my concern, I think it is a valid one and shouldn't be dismissed as a "public safety myth." My main reason for electing English as the national language, however, has to do with the achievements of the English-speaking people in this country. By not having a national language, the country is open to adopting whatever language is spoken by the majority. If German were to become the national language, it might not be so tragic because, according to many scholars, German is the best, or rather, most precise, scientific language in the world. It is no wonder, then, that such great scientists as Einstein and Freud were German. Today, the greatest medical advances and technology have been made by English-speaking Americans. I think the U.S. risks losing this culture of success, competition, and high achievement by using a language different from the one it citizens have used to attain so many triumphs.

Posted by Justin on 27/10/2013 at 06:21 PM

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America has been viewed as a refuge for some immigrants who come here in search of a better life. When people come here, they bring their culture and traditions. More importantly, they also bring their language. However, some people argue that this can potentially destroy the country’s cohesiveness. They believe that English keeps the country together. Their argument is that since English was the founding language of the United States, it should remain that way and become the country’s official language. Also, they tell us that the cost of having services translated can be avoided by forcing people to learn English. Additionally, they claim that However, I believe that these arguments are fear-based and unfounded. I believe that language is being used as a tool by those in power to deny the disenfranchised social mobility. Although America is primarily English speaking, defenders of the English Language would have us all believe that the very fabric of the country is under dire threat from foreigners. America will cease to function if we do not defend English as a national language. The fear mongering is not limited to having people believe that one day, California might secede and become Mexico again. English needs no defending. One strong example is the fact that it is the language most used on the internet (citation below). Additionally, most immigrants who come here are actually trying to learn English. In his piece in the book Language Ideologies: Critical Perspectives on the English Only Movement, Dennis Baron points out that millions of immigrants come here and actually want to learn English (14). In fact, many second generation children of immigrants are losing their ability to speak their heritage languages. In his speech to the senate, Edward Chen of the ACLU points out that printing government communications in other languages can actually be of use when trying to build cohesiveness in communities across the country. He gives us the example of Vietnamese fishermen who were overfishing in Minnesota because they were not aware of the local regulations. When signs informing them of local laws were printed in Vietnamese, they immediately understood and stopped overfishing. It is quite obvious in this case that improving communication with people who do not speak English will actually the country stronger and more cohesive. This ultimately leads me to wonder why people are so vehemently opposed to letting people speak other languages. In highlighting New Mexico in his speech, Mr. Chen speaks of how New Mexico was officially bilingual and its citizens enjoy increased voter turnout and participation in government. I have to wonder, could this be why some groups are so opposed to bilingualism? Consolidation of power? As evidenced by the website proenglish.org, the arguments seem more emotional rather than logical. They claim that government publication in other languages cost undue amounts of money. Mr. Chen shoots this idea down when he informs us that during 1990-1994, only .065 of government documents were printed in languages other than English. In all, most of the rhetoric against foreign language speakers is emotional rather than logical and most likely comes from a place of Xenophobia. America should always do its best to remain open-minded and welcome speakers of other languages. (Citatition for comment about language most used on Internet - http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_language/all)

Posted by gfeliz2 on 19/10/2013 at 01:37 PM

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