Posted: March 24th, 2023
A language is a method of human communication which is either written or spoken. Many countries have their own national language because it is the most spoken in their country, ultimately creating a united country where people understand each other. However, the United States of America does not have an official language on a federal level, which seems vague because English is widely used either throughout the country, spoken, written or on signs. Some would say that because the United States does not have a dominating race; for instance, in Spain, whose majority of the population are Spanish people; therefore, Spanish is their national language. In addition, that United States is diverse and filled with different races, therefore, there is no one language spoken. Nevertheless, in the same argument, diversity is what makes different groups of people unite, and, in this case, it is by language. Therefore, the justification of this study is to provide a persuasive discussion why the English Language should be and should not be the official language of United States.
The major reason for English to be our legal language at a federal level would be to make the non-English speakers blend in with the rest of the population and unite. According to a source in Debatepedia, English as an official language would make it necessary for the government to provide information and services in English only and would not protect the right of non-English speakers to receive government information in their native language. This would make it mandatory for the non-English speakers to learn the English language, which makes it convenient for them and the majority of people who speak English to communicate. The source also talks about how 30 states had opted to make English their official language as of 2010. Although most states have English as the official language, the federal government should also do it. Even if English became the national language, it would not prevent immigrants or people of different nationalities from communicating in their own language, except in the government places.
An advantage of making English as the official language of the United States is giving people an opportunity and directing them towards success by using a common language that all people can understand. In his article, “Why English Should be the Official Language of US, ” Hughes indicates that “Every immigrant to the US who seeks naturalization as a citizen must prove proficiency in the English language.” Indeed, this shows that, for an immigrant to be successful and to mark an achievement in the United States by obtaining citizenship, he/she needs to be proficient in the English language, enabling them to vote. He also avers that the immigrant laws would be defied if this were not a requirement. Hughes also throws in an important point by saying that America has been accepting people of all kinds and that a common language would act as a the glue binding this diversity into unity, by which he means that for years English has already been uniting people of all kinds and languages. He also ensures that this law would not erode the use of any non-English language here in the states. Finally, Hughes concludes his argument by saying, “English is the language of common use, and the language of opportunity.” In fact, he indicates that English is the common language used in this country to unite the people and have a strong communication, and if one who does not know it learns it, he/she will catch up to everyone’s pace and achieve success.
If the English langiuage is made official, the federal government will save money invested in providing services in other languages, decrease communication problems/incidents, and encourage people to learn English to live a more sophisticated life in America. Talking about savings, America would save billions of dollars after having English officiated. Brandon Brice has said in his article in the Washington Times, “Why English should be the official language of the United States,” that the direct cost of translators and bilingual education alone ranges to billions of dollars. Even in elections, for example, in Los Angeles in 2002, $15 million was devoted to printing ballots in seven languages and hiring bilingual poll workers. In fact, Los Angeles County also hires over 400 full time court interpreters for $265 per day. Expanding upon the communication problems/incidents, Brice also stated that, “Many second generation immigrants who do not speak English find themselves negatively affected by limited employment opportunities,” which is true and may be the biggest problem of not understanding English.
Indeed, when a person can communicate in English by every means, it becomes an important aspect that most employment companies/businesses look for. Also stated in the previous source form, “Debatepedia”, that, for example, a non-English driver would not be able to read road-signs, which can be a safety hazard for the person and other people around him/her. There can be other potential harms, too, for non-English people, like the inability to understand governmental warnings about the weather or a threat. Ultimately, suppose English becomes the legal language federally. In that case, it will encourage people to learn and perfect the language, which would be a fundamental aspect towards their success and safe stay in the United States.
Some people believe that English should not be the official language of the United States. This is because the United States prides itself for its high rates of immigrants who stream in every day. How, then, should America be the great melting pot if they start forcing innocent people to speak and write in a language that is strange to them? One of the reasons why proponents of English to be made the official language of the United States is that they do not understand the difference between the main language and the official language (Ray 235). English is the main language of America. Making it the official language might affect the immigrants. Most of them might find themselves between bars just because they are unfamiliar with this foreign language, which would be very unfair and prejudiced. It is worth noting that language is a fundamental aspect of every culture. Therefore, making English as the official language would necessitate the American administration to enforce legal immigrants to learn the new language, which is a factor that would affect their culture.
Another reason as to why English should not be made the United States’ official language is that it would deny immigrants their freedom of speech (Del 135). Why do people of all nationalities and occupations come to this land in the first place? It is because of the bounteous prospects that the country has to offer. One of these things is the liberty and freedom of speech. Indeed, people of diverse nationalities come to settle in the U.S. to enjoy the nation’s social freedom and the political liberty it offers. Therefore, passing a bill on English as the nation’s official language would defeat the entire purpose of this nation. It would also render the works of our forefathers, the founders, and establishers of our constitution, indicating that we have a freedom of education and speech impractical and unrealistic (American Council of Learned Societies 1). The fact that English has never been the official language for more than two centuries that have passed should lay a platform for understanding why the status quo should remain. In fact, a multicultural engagement described by the many languages and cultural background that this country has are very beneficial and valuable as it not only fosters diversity but also helps individuals preserve their cultural identities (Fischer 78).
Despite the fact that learning English is beneficial at some point for immigrants, legislative measures are not necessary. When immigrants reach the United States of America from more than a hundred and sixty different countries, it is widely known that they must know how to read and write in English in order to function in this society (Dick 227). On overall, this is true, but one wonders why the government should dictate and enforce the language that people speaks, including the innocent immigrants. In fact, the government should not interfere with this area. Proponents argue that making English the official language benefits immigrants, as they can acculturate easily not only in the general society, but also in the United States’ systems of education, which makes them develop and fit within American society. True to say that affluence in the English language makes it easy for immigrants to acquire jobs and become productive members of the American society. However, many disagree with this school of thought. Although they need to find a way to survive, throwing them into a situation where they must learn a strange language is not justified. With time, they adapt to the new culture; for instance, as illustrated by the Spanish immigrants who cross the borders without knowing English and still get jobs, which promote their lives as compared to how they lived in their country of origin.
Another argument that surrounds the idea of making English the official language in America is that it can reduce government expenditure to a degree. This is because the government will save the money it could otherwise spend on making or translating copies of government documents into multiple languages that every citizen of the United States can understand. Generally, this appears to be a noble idea, but at a closer look, the argument is baseless and one-sided. It considers the insignificant returns compared to the huge amounts of money that non-English speaking immigrants will incur in their struggle to learn the new language. The question is, how much will it cost these immigrant citizens to seek translations? The United States’ government should exercise the good will, which can only happen when it does the legislation work (Baron, 67). Moreover, assisting the immigrants in learning English will not solve the problem of translating government documents into various languages, as even the native English speakers usually encounter problems in their attempt to understand the government forms. Ensuring that forms are available in different languages would go a long way in ensuring that they are understood and filled correctly.
Lastly, making English the official language in the United States would perpetuate stereotypes and accomplish nothing. The debate for having English as the national language has caused a division among the citizens of the United States by exposing the dissimilarities that exist between individuals, which was initially minimal or never existed. Although English-only laws do not explicitly endorse stereotypical attitudes, the debates and movements can cause a negative impact by making individuals look down upon by persons who speak other dialects other than English. Therefore, the individuals who hold this opinion might assume that immigrants who do not speak English are there illegally and should not be in America, making the English language have a detrimental trait (Schildkraut 457). Moreover, making English the national language would not magically make everyone living in the United States speak English. It would not even make other dialects cease from making appearances and would not stop remove various accents, such as marquee echoes and Para Espanola. Therefore, it is better to let people use the languages they best understand amongst themselves.
As is evident from the above discussion, one would expect is that America tops this list, but this is not the case. The United States of America has never had an official language since its founding. Proponents of English as the national language hold that it would empower immigrants, promote unity and national cohesion, and significantly reduce government expenditure. On the other hand, some individuals feel that making English the national language is a means of finding the basis for sending immigrants back to their countries of origin, leaving the opportunities the country offers to the Whites. Indeed, English as the official language would send an unambiguous message of unwelcome to non-English speaking nations and absolutely counter the melting pot notion that makes America so great.
American Council of Learned Societies. Report of the Committee on Linguistic and National Stocks in the Population of the United States. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1931. Washington, DC: American Historical Association. 1931. Print.
Baron, D. E. The English-only question: An official language for Americans?. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1990. Print.
Brice, Brandon. “Why English Should Be the Official Language of the United States.” Washington Times. The Washington Times, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
Debatepedia. “Debate: English as US Official Language.” – Debatepedia. Debatepedia, 17 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.
Del, Valle S. Language Rights and the Law in the United States: Finding Our Voices. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters, 2003. Print.
Dick, H P. “Language and Migration to the United States.” Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol 40 40 (2011) : 227-240.
Fischer, Wyman E, and Donald L. Barnes. Tackling the Issues: Critical Thinking About Social Issues. Portland, Me: J. Weston Walch, 2002. Print.
Hughes, John. “Why English Should Be Official Language of US.” Christian Science Monitor 14 Aug. 1996: 19. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
Ray, Saumyajit. “Politics over Official Language in the United States.”International Studies 44.3 (2007): 235 -252.
Schildkraut, D. J. “Official-English and the States: Influences on Declaring English the Official Language in the United States.” Political Research Quarterly 54.2 (2001): 445-457. Print.
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