Wednesday, February 28, 2007

English official language?

Yesterday, I stumbled across an interesting article urging congress to pass a bill making English the official language in the United States.

I have no problem agreeing that English is the most common spoken language in the world. It is the language of commerce, it is the language of the internet. However, I do not think that making English the "official language" of the United States will actually solve any problems.

Last night, I mentioned the article to Melody, and she suggested that English should be a requirement for citizenship, which makes sense. I even agree that immigrants should learn English if they want to find a good job and adjust to American life. I do not think that English should be the official spoken language. As pointed out by Mr. Feulner in his article, most people do already speak English.

English IS currently the most common spoken language, but allow me to point something out: Long ago, Italian was the common tongue, then French. Both of those gave way to something else. Spanish is quickly growing more common. Chinese and Arabic are the two fastest growing languages in the world! That's not good for English.

It's even worse for the majority of Americans. Why? Because Americans are already behind in our language skills and abilities. Why? A number of reasons: 1) we're spoiled. Most people already speak English, so we see no need to learn English.

While I was in France, I can't even begin to tell you the number of Americans who went around crying out, enunciating painfully, "DOooooooo-YOUuuuuu-SPEeeeeeeAK-EeeeeNGLISH?" As though speaking slower and louder would make people understand them better. Want to know a secret? It doesn't. Occasionally, I felt bad for those obviously-misguided Americans, but after they were rude to myself, or to my Portuguese roommate (she spoke with an accent!), I left them to someone else. And inevitably, someone else did eventually help them. Poor souls.

The second reason is we feel other people should learn English. And I agree, immigrants to our country, and even visitors to our country, should be able to speak enough English to get by, and they should try to learn to speak it better.

The third reason Americans don't learn language is we "don't get them," so we don't try to learn them. However, those people I met in France, should have been able to say a simple, "Bonjour," "Merci," "Parlez-vous anglais," and "Excusez-moi," in French. It's called being polite. Just like visitors to our country should speak enough English to get by, we should speak enough Spanish/Chineses/Russian/Portuegese, etc. to get by. I can't even begin to tell you how happy the waiter (who spoke perfect English) was when my Father thanked him in his native French (when he, my Mother and my sister came to visit me). You cannot expect other people to come to your country and speak your language if you will not show them the same consideration.

As for immigrants, most probably speak English, and for those who do not, they probably want to learn. For anyone who has learned/tried to learn a language, it's not easy. It's even harder as an adult. The children of immigrants are in schools, learning to speak English, and oftentimes, they will have to translate for their parents. English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. So, yes, slow down a bit. We talk fast. Correct people politely. It's helpful, trust me.

1 comment:

Melody said...

Hey, you're supposed to post that American Idol thing on this one too, remember?

Besides, it's been this post for waaay too long.

You could post your coffee article...