Sunday, September 23, 2007

The case for a multi-lingual America? ...

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 ...


Brooke said...

I don't have a problem with Spanish per se; it is the "I WILL NOT learn the language of the land I have immigrated to" attitude that irks me.

I think this is more of a slap at the "reconquista" effort, which would be better done by securing the borders!

Basically, this is a political pacification of those who want to maintain our borders and secure them.

Robert said...

I agree with Brooke. It is symbolic in nature, and simply an avenue for most people to vent their frustration about spanish billboards and signs and atm machines and a million other things. it is about taxation, and how many state organizations are required to provide printed materials and translators in spanish to accomodate those who do not, will ot, or have not learned english.

That being said, it is also a reflection on our educational system and our society that people are too lazy or unwilling to learn a foreign language. Hell, most Americans aren't really literate in english, much less spanish.

Unintended consequences. You spoke of football being a farm system for the military. Well, when you try and creat a society where everyone is equal and no one can win, then it eliminates the motivation to be better than your peers. it also makes you lazy and unwilling to go above the minimum requirements for anything.

TRUTH-PAIN said...

It irks me to no end, as part of my rant squarely addresses. I think it is both insulting and full of lunacy for someone not to see the inherent benefits of learning English. To be honest, I really could care less, were it not for the fact that it costs the nation billions of dollars in wasted resources to service persons who just won't learn the language. It is a wide topic for sure; and the border issues are definitely intertwined with this,...
Thanks for the opinion...

TRUTH-PAIN said...

As always your comments add to my rants.
You last point is valid,... one cannot create an atmosphere of false level playing fields and expect the motivation for wealth earning to remain the same,... Economics are -in most cases- a zero sum equation. If it were that easy, then why did the CCCP implode?....

Debbie said...

Ditto Brook on Spanish. I have no problem with people speaking several languages. Just learn English please.

It's Monday night and football is on. Our Tennessee Titans are playing and actually might WIN a game. Miracles do happen! ha

Thanks for the kind words at Right Truth. Much appreciated. I try not to be a wing nut for anybody. I always have an open mind and am willing to admit when I'm wrong about something.


I notice you are into music. Hubby is playing in a band just organized 3 months ago. Last weekend they opened for the Van Dells and this Saturday night they open for Confederate Railroad.

He plays the meanest bass guitar you've ever heard and could play professional full time if he didn't have a good day job, heh.

They play rock-n-roll, blues, jazz, country, whatever. They just love to play.

TRUTH-PAIN said...

Welcome to Casa de Truth-Pain,... I appreciate the comments and welcoming words to your place as well.
Ebonics?... yeah, I have a sense of humor that comes out at the worst possible moments ... :)
Bass Player your hubby is?... so am I. I have a few 5-stings,... and sing lead from time to time. Now I dedicate my musical musings to my Sonar program on my PC.... no more bars for me.... My job is too important to be late in the mornings, Ha!

Debbie said...

They don't play in bars. Only family oriented and charity events. This coming weekend is charity for the Carl Perkins Child Abuse Center.

Don't be a stranger at Right Truth.

Robert said...

Confedeate Railroad? Awesome band...Would love to hear your husbands if he is ever in Birmingham.

WomanHonorThyself said...

gracias por este post..ha!

TRUTH-PAIN said...

I wont be..., I was just perusing through your blog and was amazed at the ton of bloggers you have there.... you've been busy!!!

Remind me to try to send you an MP3 of my last band..... so you can laugh for a few hours... :)

Por nada,! Es un placer escribir mis opiniones para un publico tan cordial e inteligente!

TRUTH-PAIN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you for commenting on my blog, and I'm really glad I popped on over here to see you.

Great blog! I like most of the comments above, think that they are doing themselves an injustice by not learning the language. I truly can't imagine going to France and not knowing a word of French.

And you are so spot on comment #4.
I was on a call for a motor vehicle accident and he did not speak a word of English. It was really hard to try and assess his injuries when you can't understand what he was saying. Luckily for him, he had no major injuries, but if he did, we would have had no way of knowing. That's either being lazy or ignorant, but either way it could have killed him.

I hope you don't mind if I add you to my fav's!

TRUTH-PAIN said...


Welcome to the House of Pain!
Your comments are appreciated and yes, feel free to add me to any list worth the company :)

Your example of the accident is just one of the hundreds we both can come up with that buttress the argument of learning English,... no doubt about it.

I will be coming over frequently. Us Jersey-ites have to hang together... Cheers!!

Paul Champagne said...

Interesting post, I really don't have a problem with people speaking Spanish either.

I have lived in Europe (about 7 years total) and it always amazes me that most Europeans have at least a rudimentary knowledge of English. They can credit their education systems for that (though a lot of credit is probably due our film industry ... they hate voice-overs as much as we do).

I have a working knowledge of French and German and can get by in Portugese and Polish, but I have always refused to learn Spanish. I guess it is because so many Spanish speakers don't learn English. I can understand Spanish (when I speak with my mother-in-law, she speaks to me in Spanish and I reply in English ... she is embarrased by her poor English).

The resentment felt by many Americans to hearing other languages being spoken in our country is understandable. It is probably the same resentment that the French feel when American tourists go to Paris and demand that the Parisians speak English (the term "ugly American" surely applys in this case).

There is also a touch of racism in the English only crowd ... this doesn't apply to all of them (or even the majority of them), but I can tell that some people don't want to see the "browning of America"

Well, so much for my rambling ... I think I may have even confused myself.

TRUTH-PAIN said...


Thank you for visiting my blog. I thoroughly enjoyed perusing through yours the other day,... some of the postings had a tinge of Sarcasm..... something I know nothing about.... (Ha!)

I read through your comments, and one thing stuck out at me,... what you call the "Browning of America"... A concept that is as real as anything else yet I have not read too many postings or opinions on the socio-political changes that event will bring.

Hmm..., I may have to post on that topic,... you definitely have a point there....

Again, Mi casa es tu Casa.... Cheers!

Renegade Eye said...

I think the issue is a smokescreen. Some politicians need the color line, when they run for office.

American Interests said...

bonne entrée, bonne entrata, entrada boa, καλή είσοδος ...

I speak Italian but english is my "lingua preferita".

Brooke summed up my position perfectly.

Take care TP and thanks for your remarks at AI (Non American networks...), I have replied to your comments.

The Eyes Of An Angel said...

I’ll tell ya want gets me, when a foreign speaking person opens a store and all the Signage is written in that foreign language.
I guess they don’t want any business from English speaking people, how the hell are we supposed to know what kind of store it is, or what it is that they are selling?

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of you folks here. I'm getting more than a little pissed off at people who come to this country and don't even try to learn the language. One of the dumbest ideas we had here lower our standards to suit everyone else.
We do everything in the world to make it easy for them to exist in there own language so why should they even bother? Ie, the ATM’s, the Telephone, The TV, and it goes on and on........
I happen to believe rather strongly that people who live in America should have a command of the English language. We don’t have to do everything to please them!

benning said...

The problem lies, not in the chauvinistic "English Only" fringe, but in the fact that the lawmakers demand that we hand our money over so that we can do everything in every language possible. By designating English as this nation's "official" language we can put a stop to paying for ballots printed in Urdu, Mongolian, or a host of other languages. This affects only the government that gleefully orders us to spend our money - they have none - so that foreigners can vote, be educated on our dime, and a host of other un-funded mandates that get tossed at us.

For me, it ain't about "English Only" which is silly. It's about the Feds dealing with "We The People" in our own tongue, which is English.

Schools never used to have a kind of parallel system of education that catered to other languages. And the kids learned to speak english. If the "voter" doesn't understand the language which describes the nation, how in the hell can they vote with any intelligence?

No, I support English as the "official" language of the country, the language in which our deals with our people. If some dough-head wants to print balots or voter guides in Lithuanian, he can do it with is own money and stop stealing mine for the purpose.

And who truly benefits from all the federally-mandated language confusion? Only the Race Pimps and Ethnic Warlords. The Left.

Don't forget that the language is an integral part of how we think.

TRUTH-PAIN said...

There is truth to what you say,... every politician tries to use the divisive elements of culture, race or language into their electoral "math"...

Welcome to the house that Pain Built! Your comments here are always welcomed and add to a cadre of intelligencia.

You mentioned Brooke (as have many)... there is a reason she is on my upper right-hand list there... the lady is sharp and can say in 5 words what takes me 98.
I appreciate your welcome and reply to my comments at your Blog,... you will see me there often.

Eyes of an Angel,
I laughed when I read you comment as I have felt that way many a times,... but then my "Libertarian" genetics kick-in and I think to myself,... that's what liberties are for,... to do as you will and want as long as you don't forcibly interfere with the rights of others to do the same.
... In cases like that, I simply do not contribute to their financial cofers,....

Welcome to the House of Pain,... I hope to host your comments more often.

Welcome to my humble home. Your comments are noted and appreciated.

I think there is an element of marketing that crosses political or nationalistic lines. Allow me a brief example. Say I own a corner conveniece store in a mixed neighborhood. Although I may be of the mind that English should be the language of commerce and the land etc., as a Business owner I will damn sure put up signs in every language that I think will help me make the extra buck, it at the ATM, the coffee machine or even the restroom. I think these may be mutually exclusive arguments to some degree.

TRUTH-PAIN said...

Welcome back! I had not seen you in awhile.

Your comments brought something to the table that I had not considered,... in that making the langual "officia" may trigger a mandate for all official government material to be printed only in English. Interesting...although I am still extrapolating all the consequential events stemming from such legislation,... just from a fiscal point-of-view,... it makes sense to me.
This is one of those things that I have to re-calibrate myself and ask... am I arguing this from a philosophical? political? Moral? Legal? or emotional point of view? ... Not to deviate from you comment, but If you ask me to reply via each of those prisms my answers would probably change somewhat....... or would it?....

As always, your comments make me go on a tangent to another stream of thinking,... and that is what we live for in this medium, no?...

benning said...

I thought it was for the chocolate-chip cookies, but maybe that's my belly whining again.

Paul Champagne said...

The consequenses of the "browning of America" are simple ... nothing.

Immigrants will absorb the American culture and be indistinguishable from native born Americans in one generation ... they will just have darker skin.

Always On Watch said...

I'm with Benning in that I resent the taxpayer monies spent to make so many materials available to non-English speakers. IMO, many here in America have no incentive to learn English.

This, from a Spanish major, who never thought she'd need Spanish to communicate with so many people here in America.

QuakerDave said...

We agree on this. It's about an appeal to xenophobia.

Scary, n'est pa? That we agree, that is?

TRUTH-PAIN said...

I prefer Oatmeal / Raisin myself...

Paul C,
I may have to censure your comments here,.... they make too much damn sense.... (JK)

Ditto,... I am all for learning a language on our own merits,... but have a problem with taxpayers paying for a lackadaical segment of the population that will not learn the language.

Don't let it be known that we agree too much,... you may loose half your demographics over at Quaker House,... :)