Prospectus

Our group’s subject is Single vs. Multiple National Languages. The members are Jennifer Clemons, Sarah Hirsch, Chris Kuberski, Craig Lindvahl & Kathy Martz. We will discuss the issue of national languages both in general and specifically. In regards to the United States we will examine whether or not English should be the official language, or whether there should be no official language at all (along the lines of thinking that to do otherwise would contradict our national claims of equality and opportunity). We will also more briefly review similar movements in other countries to forge a comprehension of how such ideas unfold similarly or differently to those in America.

In the United States, which will serve as the primary focus of our efforts, efforts on both sides are well entrenched. Organizations even offer specific sample amendments to assist legislators at the state and national levels as they work to draft language to address the issue.

National language arguments around the world vary in their focus. While some arguments are really debates framed around the issue of immigration, others focus more on the value placed on tradition and heritage (as is the case in Ireland and Fiji), and others focus on preparing young people to make their way in a global economy, and whether English is the best way to equip them (as is the case in Malaysia).

In regards to research we are using a thorough number of sources. These can be further grouped into 4 categories: History of Language Movements; English-Only Policy; EO is Detrimental/Multiple Languages/No Official Policy; and International Language Policies.

The history will of course summarize the people, reasons, ideas and events behind such movements in the first place. Arguments in favor of a national language will focus on the way such a policy would forge a more unified national culture and citizenry, maintain a sense of tradition and identity, and result in economic stability. Arguments against will discuss the prejudiced sentiments that often exist inherent in such a plan, the threat to cultural diversity, the foreign and immigrant populations that would not feel welcome, and the financial impact that would erupt if laborers who do not speak the language, but do much of the vital daily work in the nation, were no longer appreciated. We will also discuss the attitude that the very concept of a national language has no relevant bearing, at least ostensibly in a democracy or open society. Finally, we will examine, compare and contrast ways other countries handle the same matter.

In terms of where we as a group see the project going, we will start by taking notes and creating thorough lists for the four aspects, considering the legal, moral and intellectual weight of each. Especially key will be the task of playing Devil’s Advocate to better deduce why people support a particular side. Questions that we will consider include: While various groups may agree that English as an “American” language is appropriate, what are the various motivations that influence their feelings? Have they arrived at the same conclusion-English should be required of everyone-from the same set of interests? What of the groups who oppose English as a national language? Are they more or less uniform in their opposition? Are they as well organized and promoted as the groups they oppose?

Once research and analysis is complete, we will refine and review the data and offer our view of the most beneficial solution, both in general terms and for the United States in particular. We think any arguments or conflicts over certain details within our group would best be solved by simply adhering to the Constitution and other unstated goals for what America is, at least theoretically, supposed to offer its people and newcomers.

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