If you saw the Sunday Night NFL game between the "Vaqueros" and the "Osos", you may have noticed the NBC broadcast sprinkle many "for Latin audiences" promos; this included the scoreboard in Spanish from time to time. I chuckled at first. Some of you may know that I speak fluent Spanish, so listening to Spanish does not have the same visceral reaction to me. I just absorb it and move on. But today, while listening to Newt Gingrich on Fox News Sunday, he mentioned some of the "things most Americans want", and one of them was making English the official language of the United States.
Before I jump on this mud-puddle and piss any of you off, let me state my position.
1. English is already the international language of both diplomacy and business, and that may never change. It is an accepted standard that may come as close to a "World language" as anything in history. Its not going to go the way of the Dodo birds folks.
2. Anybody not smart enough to learn English, -whether they are here legally or not-, does so at his or her peril. To speak, read and write the language of the country you are in is the fastest way to economic success. Sure there is the aberration where someone of a limited knowledge of the local language can flourish, but we all can agree that the odds are heightened in that scenario. You want better odds of success?, there is no doubt about one of the factors. Learn English and the discipline you show in doing so will extrapolate to other areas of your life as well.
3. You honor the country that is hosting your opportunities for a better life by learning its native tongue. You think that ideal is a tad xenophobic? France, that bastion of culture and freedom, -where the language is elegant, the perfumes are heavenly and the frogs taste like chicken- requires (yes, requires) its citizens and migrants receiving social services a timeline for learning its beautiful language. In fact many countries do, you just don't hear it on the View or Oprah. If I ever do get to Costa Rica to retire (I really, really want to...) and had I not been born of a Latino family, I would make sure to learn Spanish. It is my respect to the land where I would live. Period.
4. Yes, it costs us money to not be an "English only" society. Think about this small example. A woman gets hit by a car, the ambulance comes in, the victim does not know English,... by the time a translator realized she is allergic to this or that, ... we have a lawsuit six months down the road. You can eliminate the health factor and fill in any other segment of society or situation. Not having the people of this country be able to communicate effectively and quickly costs the economy billions in unnecessary waste, bureaucracy, time and resources.
Having stated my opinion on the whole language thing, -and I think my views are pretty centrist and common-, what is the problem or antipathy with foreign languages here? I swear, this language phobia and clamor for an "English only" society is just baffling to me. Would it not be a good thing to learn say Chinese and Portuguese and be prepared for the upcoming economic influence of those two economic giants-in-waiting? Are we going to be blind to the globalization of everything just for the sake of nationalistic myopia? Look at Europe! The Swiss have to learn Italian, German and French to cater to their populace. The Spaniards know Portuguese, English and Basque. Most of the Brits have cursory knowledge of French, most Poles know Ukrainian and Russian....., it goes on and on. I am not raising the flag of Euro-Nations here, but I am simply saying that we look like a bunch of backwater yahoos in the eyes of the world by acting like English is the end all-be all. Besides, its not like we have a "lingua Franca" here. As the fine folks at Wiki have written:
English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers and Roman auxiliary troops from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the Northern Netherlands. Initially, Old English was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of England. One of these dialects, Late West Saxon, eventually came to dominate. The original Old English language was then influenced by two waves of invasion. The first was by language speakers of the Scandinavian branch of the Germanic family; they conquered and colonized parts of Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries. The second was the Normans in the 11th century, who spoke Old French and ultimately developed an English variety of this called Anglo-Norman. These two invasions caused English to become "mixed" to some degree (though it was never a truly mixed language in the strict linguistic sense of the word; mixed languages arise from the cohabitation of speakers of different languages, who develop a hybrid tongue for basic communication).
Get it? Our own language is a bastard of sorts,... why the hell are we acting like we have to defend some sort of vestige of purity here?...
Seriously people, let's get off this crap. Look at our history,... our Eastern seaboard we got from Mother England, the middle belly -or Louisiana Territory- came from France, and most of the Southwest was won in the Mexican-American war...., why are we acting like our socio-topographical lineage is fully Anglo? Shoot, if anything deserves "official" is the making of any of the dozens of native languages of our original American brethren the real official language. They were here before any of our sorry white, brown, black or red asses were here in the first place.....,The poor uneducated (or obtuse) persons who just want to mosey along without the language will be that way no matter the legislation or social engineering efforts to change their minds. My landscaper cannot speak a lick of English and owns his own home for crying out loud. People are resourceful enough and cannot be pushed to do something they really don't want to do. And so what if companies and marketers want to target Spanish-only folks? its a free market! I would target dogs, cats and snakes if I knew how the hell to get them to listen to me...
Memo to Newt Gingrich,... I love you babe. Seriously, I may not agree with you 100% on issues, but most of your books are on my desk, and for the most part I think you were really onto something back in '94, but please jump off this horse. Making English the "official" language,... what exactly will that do? How do we enforce it?... heck, do we want to enforce it? What slippery slope does that start? What's next, official religion? official color? official race? official fast food? You can make 2-ply toilet paper the official TP (no pun intended) of American derrieres everywhere, but that doesn't mean people still won't buy one-ply... (I know..., its a sophomoric example, but I could not help myself). Maybe the symbolism is what the end-game is here, and if so, then there are much better ways to do that, at least in my humble view. The World already is looking at us with a "Big Brother" eye and our policing every freaking corner of the Planet is not gaining us anything but disdain, .... let's not give them a reason to laugh at our paranoid asses as well.
Just to practice what I preach, I think I will take some Ebonics and Urdu classes, ..... just in case ...