Saturday, May 20, 2006

Non-English Speakers not welcome here

On Thursday by a vote of 63 to 34, the Senate tacked onto its immigration bill an amendment from Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma that declares English to be "the national language of the United States."

"Unless otherwise authorized or provided by law," the Inhofe amendment says, "no person has a right, entitlement or claim to have the government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English."

It appears to me to be saying that anyone who is dealing with the United States government, whether as an importer, exporter, visitor, tourist, guest worker, asylum seeker, immigrant, student doing a report, or whatever who does not speak English fluently can have no expectation that our government will make any effort to communicate with them. What sort of arrogant xenophobic nonsense is this?!?

To be consistent don’t you think we should also change our national motto, "E pluribus unum" to something in English? In keeping with the spirit of this amendment perhaps the meaning also should be changed to something like "We speak English here" or "Only English speakers welcome."

11 comments:

paladin said...

It's difficult to know how much of this is just partisan hyperbole and how much is fact.

When my new dryer came yesterday from Sears, the instructions were in English and espanol.

But I seriously disagree with those who want to frame this as "racist" or "nativist". Anyone who lives in this country and hopes to advance should learn English. Anyone who doesn't will become a member of the underclass. Check out France and it's Muslim population that won't/can't assimilate. Do we really want to be like France?

And besides, we don't want to become Canada either and have duelling languages with a divided population of French-speakers (Spanish-speakers here) and English-speakers.

We all need to think about this before we jump on the English Only Is Racist bandwagon

Dave Barrett said...

paladin,
Well, it was a business decision by Sears to provide instructions in English and Spanish. This amendment has nothing to do with such business decisions.

You are absolutely correct that people who are looking for a job in the United States who are not fluent English speakers are at a great disadvantage. That will continue to be true whether or not English is declared to be our national language. The inability of a non-English speakers to get any but the most menial jobs gives a great incentive to non-English speakers to learn English. It is very difficult for most people to learn a new language as a adult and it is that fact rather than any lack of incentive that keeps immigrants from learning English more quickly.

For 230 years this country has not had an official language and the government has always communicated in the languages that would best serve the needs of the groups to which it was providing services. Since most Americans speak English that means the government mostly communicates in English and that would continue to be true whether or not this amendment becomes law.

This amendment says that the government does not need to meet your needs if you are not an English speaker. I did not call it racist, but it is definitely xenophobic. As you and everyone else who support it clearly state it is a result of a fear of non-English speakers "taking over" or changing America in some undesirable way. Since all the immigrants are learning English as fast as they can this fear is not rational and obviously xenophobic.

paladin said...

Dave, how on earth is it possible for the government to meet the needs of all who do not speak English in this country? Do you know how many languages and dialects that would entail?

As for "fear" and "xenophopia". I've never seen any proof of this. What I have seen is the national Democrat leadership frame it this way in order to discredit those who believe a common language would help avoid the Tower of Babel that Canada and Europe are experiencing. It's the old "when did you stop beating your wife" ploy so that Dem opponents will be forced to prove they aren't "racists" nativists" "xenophobes" or afraid. Intelligent people don't fall for that----I'm surprised you took the bait.

Don't forget the other Democrat classics:

If you're for restrictions on abortion, you want to bring back coat-hanger back alley abortions.

If you want to reform Social Security, you want to make old people eat dog food.

If you're against affirmative action (which, BTW most blacks are), you are a racist.

If you criticise a Dems position on Iraq, you are questioning their patriotism.

The list goes on and on. This "if you are for English as a national language" you are afraid, racist, etc. trope is just the latest attempt by Democrats to stop or limit debate and score partisan points.

Pathetic.

Dave Barrett said...

paladin,
What the heck are you talking about?!? We already have a common language - English. Immigrants are learning it as fast as they can, but it takes time. Making things difficult for non-English speakers will not accomplish anything except to make us meaner as a society.
I am not making up the fear of other languages that lies behind this move to make English the offical language. You expressed it yourself.
You said we don't want to become a country divided by dueling languages like Canada. There is no chance of that. Immigrants have to learn English to get any but the most menial of jobs. All the children of immigrants learn English perfectly and speak it like natives if they were born here or came here before the age of 10. These fears of yours that Spanish will compete with English in this country are not reasonable fears -- they are irrational. Xenophobia is the name given to that irrational fear.

paladin said...

Again with the "fears" and the "xenophobia"!

Dave, we're just too far apart here and talking past each other----we're just gonna have to agree to disagree, and leave it at that.

havinfun said...

Dave, quit while you are getting beat - paladin's logic is too much for you. He is exactly right, why on earth are we not offering governmental services in Thai, Russian, Chinese, or any one of fifty (or more) languages? Talk about 'racist' - if we truely want to assist and be compassionate to all, we need to speak to all.

English is spoken in the US - speak it, or live in the dark (it has been this way for the past 200 years).

Huck Finn said...

The language issue is one that I understand. After living overseas, I can say first hand that I felt like (and probably looked like) a gorilla when I couldn't ask a simple question in a store or in a government office. I can also say that I tried very hard to learn the language and that not having a crutch of English speakers around motivated me and made it that much easier to learn. My daughter, after just one year in school as the only non-native speaker, became fluent in the language.

My beef is that we should not hold back non-English speakers by educating them in their native tongue. By teaching math and science in English, students learn the concepts of math and science with English nomenclature and context. Then, when it's time to take a test or compete in the American real world, they know how to communicate with Americans.

It's not racist to expect and encourage residents and citizens to learn English. It is racist to assume that people cannot learn the host nation's language.

Dave Barrett said...

huck finn,
What on earth are you talking about? Our schools are doing a fantastic job of teaching English to immigrant children. Every immigrant child under the age of 10 or so who enters our schools speaks English like a native after one or two years. Our schools have always and continue to assimilate immigrant children, making perfect little Americans out of them. So much so that a lot of immigrant children refuse to speak anything but English and are ashamed of their parents for their lack of English, unAmerican attitudes, etc. How could you have gotten the idea that our schools top priority when dealing with non-English speaking children is anything other than teaching them English?

It sounds as though you have been fed a bunch of disinformation.

Do don't watch Fox TV or Lou Dobbs by any chance?

highxlr8r said...

Dave is right. It isn't children that have a problem learning English, and in most cases they are taught only in English. it is the first generation immigrants who don't learn English as quickly, just like the Germans, the Italians, the Polish, the Russian, and every other group who has come over.

As for the amendment itself, there is a difference between having a common language, but when the situation requires it, having the government communicate in a more familiar tongue, and indicating that if you ever have a problem you better come to us with English because otherwise we aren't obligated to help.

Why not continue as we always have? We didn't need to make English the national language for the Italians, the Germans, the Polish, etc.

highxlr8r said...

And to address Paladin, I don'tthink the amendment is per se racist, although I think racists would support it. I simply think the amendment is useless and a waste of time.

Hunkston said...

A friend of mine who recently moved to England has been attempting to learn English and she is finding it quite difficult, she already speaks 2 languages (French and Spanish) and claims English is the hardest to learn. With all our silent letters and words with multiple meanings English is tough to understand. Inspired by my friend I decided to learn French as second language to help better myself!