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language debates in other countries

There are, and have been, various debates about language carried on around the globe.  The debate, while focused on language, often reveals deeper feelings about issues of culture, race, nationalism, or heritage.

In Fiji, the national language debate centers on the status on the three official languages:  English, Fiji, and Hindi.  Until 1997, English was the official language, but the new constitution gave equal status to Fiji and Hindi.

The controversy surrounds whether or not Fiji and Hindi should be required subjects in school.  Former Education Minister Taufa Vakatale argues that Hindi should be available, but priority should be given to Fijian. “If the Indians in the country lost their language, there is a whole continent of people in India who would still have the language,” she said. “In the whole world only 330,000 people know how to speak in Fijian and if it is lost, there is nowhere it can be revived from, that is why the Fijian language is very important to preserve.” 

In a study introduced in 2005, the Rewa Provincial Council found that 26% of the indigenous first and second graders were not able to speak their own language. (1)

In Mauritius, there is a debate between those who speak French, and those who prefer to speak Creole.  Here is an informal exchange of views on the subject: 

http://members5.boardhost.com/mauritius/msg/1186368426.html

 

In the Philippines, the debate over whether to deliver public school instruction in English, rather than Tagalog, focuses on the preparation of students for participation in a global economy. 

President Gloria Arroyo issued an executive order in 2004 that requires English as the medium of instruction for English, Math and Science from the third grade, and for all subjects at the secondary level.  (2) 

Manuel L. Quezon III, a columnist and editorial writer for The Philippine Daily Inquirer :

“I was in the University of the Philippines when the transition from teaching in English to teaching in Filipino took place, during the presidency of Jose Abueva. For people like myself, it was difficult. But I still tell everyone with whom I discuss the language question that a most remarkable transformation took place. There was a remarkable increase not only in recitation but also in class participation.

If people are in school to learn, then the language that enables real learning to take place is best.” (3)

The nationalist approach finds itself in conflict with the arguments of those who deal in academia.  From a blogpost found on Philippine Commentary (4)

“The main point I think is that English is an integral and inseparable and most substantial part of the Filipino cultural heritage–ineradicably a part of our intellectual, educational, and historical patrimony. Its rejection and treatment as “foreign” is a twisted form of the self-loathing that some people wish us all to practice as “nationalism.” What they actually are propagating is a romantic kind of aboriginalism that masks a more modern and leftist agenda…Nearly 100 percent of all major scientific papers are published in English, even by non-native English speakers, not only in Computer Science, but in Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, and the rest of the hard sciences. English is unavoidably the lingua Anglica of the world in this historical epoch, even if it irks the Filipino nationalists and their ideologies of resentment.” (4)

 

 

(1)          National Language debate in Fiji: Facts, discussion forum, and encyclopedia article.  Web. 24 July 2009 <http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/National_language_debate_in_Fiji&gt;.

(2)          Palatino, Mong. “The English Language debate in the Philippines.” Global Voices. 14 June 2007. Web. 27 July 2009. http://globalvoicesonline.org/2007/06/17/the-english-language-debate-in-the-philippines/.

(3)          Quezon III, Manuel L. “Practical Languages.” Practical Languages. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 Nov. 2006. Web. 27 July 2009. <http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20061113-32168/Practical_languages&gt;.

(4)          http://philippinecommentary.blogspot.com/2007/05/michael-tans-arithmetic-with-roman.html

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.

Introduction

Only about half the countries in the world have declared a national language, but the debate over language, both in terms of national language and official language, is carried on around the globe. The focus of the debate varies, the language at the center of the debate varies, and the issues that propel the debate vary. Whether in Malaysia, the Philippines, Belarus, Fiji, or Ireland, or the United States, language is part of the identity felt by culture and nation, and official status carries with it a reflection on status that sparks great emotion within the debate.

James Crawford, who is founder and president of the Institute for Language and Education Policy (a nonprofit organization that promotes research-based advocacy for English and heritage-language learners), provides a brief synopsis of both sides of the debate in his book, Language Loyalties:

“For supporters, the case is obvious: English has always been our common language, a means of resolving conflicts in a nation of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Reaffirming the preeminence of English means reaffirming a unifying force in American life. Moreover, English is an essential tool of social mobility and economic advancement. The English Language Amendment would “send a message” to immigrants, encouraging them to join in rather than remain apart, and to government, cautioning against policies which could retard English acquisition.

“For opponents, Official English is synonymous with English Only: a mean-spirited attempt to coerce Anglo-conformity by terminating essential services in other languages. The amendment poses a threat to civil rights, educational opportunities and free speech, even in the private sector. It is an insult to the heritage of cultural minorities, including groups whose roots in this country go deeper than English speakers–Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and American Indians. Worst of all, the English-Only movement serves to justify racist and nativist biases under the cover of American patriotism (Crawford, 1992, p. 2-3). [1]

In testimony offered before the House Subcommittee on Education Reform on July 26, 2006, Crawford also argued that “Language has been far less central to American identity than to, say, French or Greek or Russian identity. From its infancy the United States was conceived as a nation that newcomers could join, whatever their ethnic background, (Except in a few shameful cases, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) simply by swearing loyalty to the democratic principles on which it was founded. To be sure, there have been ugly episodes of language-based discrimination, such as the English Only school policies that once targeted Native Americans and Mexican Americans. Unlike many other countries, however, we have seldom passed laws to repress or restrict minority tongues. Language has usually been taken for granted here – as a practical rather than a symbolic issue – despite the diversity that has historically prevailed.”

While the United States has no official language, 96% of the population speaks English “well” or “very well”. [2] There are nearly 340 language spoken or signed by those living in Americans, but the debate that centers itself on language has placed English squarely in its sights.

It’s notable that English first groups debunk the myth that the founding fathers believed that English should be the national language.

Thomas E. Woods, Jr., a conservative author, contends that the founding fathers were not generally in favor of large-scale immigration. He writes:

“George Washington contended in a 1794 letter to John Adams that there was no particular need for the U.S. to encourage immigration, “except of useful mechanics and some particular descriptions of men or professions.” He continued: “The policy or advantage of its taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for by so doing, they retain the language, habits, and principles (good or bad) which they bring with them.”[3]

Woods argues that the question of immigration and language wasn’t an issue with the founding fathers because the question wasn’t raised.

On their website,English Foundtion, an advocate for an English first nation, supports the notion that language was not an issue for the founding fathers:

“Why didn’t the founders make English the official language? It simply may not have occurred to them. This is not as far-fetched as it may sound… All fifty-five delegates to the Constitutional Convention spoke English. They took it for granted English was the language of this country. Since the overwhelming majority of the American population spoke English, the founders may not have thought it necessary to declare in law what existed in fact.”[4]

The U.S. English Foundation also addresses what they call the myth that German nearly became the national language:

“Just six years after the Constitution took effect, Congress deliberately rejected a request to publish copies of federal laws in German. (From this incident arose the myth that, by one vote, German failed to become our national language.) Two years later, Congress rejected a similar request. The debates cited the cost of printing in multiple languages and the confusion that might result from problems in translation–concerns as valid today as two hundred years ago.”[5]

Author Carol L. Schmid argues that language often serves as the entrée for a larger debate:

“Language alone has rarely been the major source of conflict in American society; instead, it has been the proxy for other conditions that have challenged the power relations of the dominant group (s).” [6]

Immigration, of course, is at the heart of the debate about language in the United States. Immigration patterns, however, have drastically changed in the last century or so, and the new patterns have contributed to the intensity of the debate.

In 1914, President Theodore Roosevelt stated, “We have room for but one language in this country, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.” [7]
In 1900 (and the fifty or more years that preceded it), 96% of those immigrating to the U. S were from Europe. By 1960, 53% of the immigrants were from Europe, 25% from Latin America and Mexico, and 6% from Asia. In 1998, only 15% of the immigrants came from Europe, while 47% came from Mexico and Latin America, and 31% from Asia. By the end of the twentieth century, more than 90% of those who immigrated to the United States came from non-European countries.[8]

Among the important factors that helped change the pattern of immigration was the 1965 abolishment of the national origin quota system. Family reunification was now the key factor, replacing the country of origin as a key criterion for entry to the U.S. Because of this fundamental change in policy, Spanish speaking immigrants increased far more quickly than any other group, and this helped create the focus of English first advocates on Spanish speakers.

In May of 2006, the United States Senate added a proposal to the Senate immigration bill designating English as the national language, [9] and in the 2007 presidential primary debates in 2007, the question of English as a national language was tied to the issue of immigration reform. [10]

 

1. Crawford, J. (1992). Language Loyalties: A source book on the Official English controversy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

2. a 1 2 3 Summary Tables on Language Use and English Ability: 2000 (PHC-T-20), U.S. Census Bureau, retrieved on 2009-07-19

3.  http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=21626. Posted 2007-07-20, retrieved on 2009-07-07

4.  http://www.usefoundation.org/view/17, retrieved 2009-07-07

5.  http://www.usefoundation.org/view/17, retrieved 2009-07-07

6.  Schmid, C. (2001). Language Loyalties:Conflict, Identity, and Cultural Pluralism in Comparative Perspective. London: Oxford Press.

7. Roosevelt, Theodore, Works (Memorial ed., 1926), vol. XXIV, p. 554 (New York: Charles Scribner’s 11 Sons).

8. Schmid, C. (2001). Language Loyalties:Conflict, Identity, and Cultural Pluralism in Comparative Perspective. London: Oxford Press.

9. Hulse, C. (2006, May 10). Senate Votes to Set English as National Language. New York Times. Retrieved July 07, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/19/washington/19immig.html?_r=1

10. Navarrette, R. (2007, June 06). A Needless debate on language [Editorial]. San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved July 07, 2009, from http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070606/news_lz1e6navarret.html

History of English as a National Language

English Only Movement in the U.S.

The English only movement has been a topic of concern in the United States since colonization. As European expansion forced many indigenous Americans to move westward, the establishment of schools that focused on “Europeanization” occurred, which included teaching students only in English. As a result, many indigenous American students were forced to change their birth names to English names, use English instead of their native language and overall assimilate to American society, which became the primary English only form of legislation or movement. In addition to indigenous American languages, the united states purchase of Louisiana and the Mexican-American war introduced more French and Spanish speakers. From 1803 to 1896, there had been movements and enactments to enforce English among the French speaking populations of Louisiana, the native indigenous speakers and Spanish speakers in the west and Puerto Rico[1]. Throughout the course of American history, language laws were passed and movements were created, as it seems according to what was occurring during periods of political turmoil in the country. For example, English only shifted to specifically prohibit the use of the German language during World War I [2].
 
The contemporary English only movements’ purpose is to enforce the official use of English in the United States government and political environments by establishing English at the official language of the United States. The majority of the population speaks English, but the United States actually doesn’t have an official language[3]. There have been several movements that hope to force the United States to pass laws and legislations that requires the English be used in schools, businesses and other essential aspects of everyday life. But with many schools beginning to expand English as a Second Language program, the increase of immigration, the current United States economy and the emerging global/ international relationships that many businesses and political spheres share with the world, pushing to make English an official language perhaps is not on the to do list of the United States government.
Contemporary English only movements began around the 1980’s with the first being approved in Florida which was called the “anti-bilingual ordinance”. Virginia actually declared English as the official language of the state[4]. The largest contemporary English Only Movement began in 1983, and was led by a right wing organization named U.S. English. The organization was founded on the principles of preserving the English language as it could become endangered in the face of increasing immigration and increasing immigrants who do not speak English. More so, there was a concern that many immigrants were not being encouraged to learn English since there existed interpreter services, bilingual education, and multilingualism in other aspects of our lives. At present, there are 23 English only states that have been established as a result of the U.S. English organization[5].
 
  The number of actual English only states is disputed, numbers range from 23 to 30, including such states as California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, South Dakota and Wyoming, to name a few[6]. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, English only laws vary across states and are applied in a variety of ways. Some states only declare English as the official language of the states, whereas other states limit bilingual assistance in education and employment programs, prohibits multilingual ballots and in some instances enforces English only in emergency situations and courtrooms, which would prohibit the use of a translator in these instances[7].
The U.S. English’s philosophy is not only to promote the conservation of the English language, but to encourage law agencies, government and other local community agencies to enforce the use of the English language and to prohibit means of accommodating non English speakers. The organization itself has received harsh criticism, referring to its propaganda as racist and anti immigrant, and also referring to the founder of the organization as the founder and former chairman of FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), an anti immigration organization[8]. Dr. Tanton, the organizations former chairman ahs also been tied to organizations such as Center for immigration Studies, Californians for Population Stabilization and Americans for Border Control[9], which suggest and supports theories surrounding his anti immigration position. His further statement in a memo in 1986 caused a pub of negative publicity, when he inadvertently referred to increasing immigration as the Hispanic take over, and suggested that Latinos were “simply more fertile” and that whites should not hand over power to them[10]. He was forced to resign as a result of the negative controversy surrounding the organization, which claims not to embrace anti immigration and racism, but to encourage immigrants to learn English to better adapt to the lifestyle in the United States.
 
 The lobbying of U.S English succeeded in pushing more than 25 states to declare English as an official language. The effect of the movement raises many questions about the millions of people of the United States who are not English speakers and how the states that have larger populations of non English speakers respond. Ironically, both California and Florida are states that have significantly high populations of non-English speakers and enclaves, particularly those of Little Havana and Little Haiti in Miami, of citizens who only speak an language other than English.
 
 The evidence is clear that the nation is multilingual, it has been since the country was founded. As the country encountered waves of immigration, the laws and legislations concerning immigration and language continuously sparked, but specifically when in 2003, when the United States census reported that Latino/a (Hispanics) outnumbered African Americans, making them the largest minority group in the country[11].

According to Jeffery Passel, The number of Latinos could reach 60 million by 2020, said Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Urban Institute, a public policy center in Washington. He says, “If current trends continue…Hispanics could account for 15.5% of the population in 2010 and 18% in 2020,”. The change from English to Bilingualism to Spanish is underway and is evident as Harry Pachon suggest that big corporations are selling goods whose nutritional value and ingredients are in English and Spanish even politicians are learning Spanish slogans and phrases to appeal to the Latino/a demographic.

 When examining the contemporary English only movement and other movements like it that promote the interest of preserving the English language and making it the official language of the united states, it is crucial to examine the underlining reasons of their quest to push English only laws. Is it to preserve the English language, American culture and unify American citizens by eradicating what so commonly divides many of us, or is it to alienate immigrants, target specific ethnic groups, encourage assimilation and actually to segregate English speakers from non English speakers?

 

 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-only_movement, retrieved 07-17-2009

2. Martin, James J (1988). An American Adventure in Book burning in the Style of 1918. Ralph Myles Publisher. 3.http://www.proenglish.org/resources/legislation.html, retrieved 07-17-1009

4.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-only_movement, retrieved 07-17-2009

5.http://www.massenglishplus.org/content/Language_Rights/English-Only_Movement/EngOnly.html , English only movement FAQ File, Mass. English Plus. Retrieved 07-16-2009

6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-only_movement, retrieved 07-17-2009

 

 7.http://www.lectlaw.com, The American Civil Liberties Union, New York. Retrieved 07-16-2009

8.http://www.massenglishplus.org/content/Language_Rights/English-Only_Movement/EngOnly.html , English only movement FAQ File, Mass. English Plus. Retrieved 07-16-2009

9.http://www.massenglishplus.org/content/Language_Rights/English-Only_Movement/EngOnly.html , English only movement FAQ File, Mass. English Plus. Retrieved 07-16-2009

10.http://www.massenglishplus.org/content/Language_Rights/English-Only_Movement/EngOnly.html , English only movement FAQ File, Mass. English Plus. Retrieved 07-16-2009

11. Alonso-Zaldivar, Ricardo (2003, June 19). Latino’s Now Top Minority. Los Angeles Times.
 

 

 

 

Pros and Cons for English as a National Language

As with any idea or belief, having English adopted as a national language is not without controversy.  There are compelling reasons why an individual may be for or against this idea.  The movement to add an amendment to the Constitution making English the national language has been brought up before Congress for many years.

H.J. Res. 16 (107th Congress) was brought up before the House of Representatives: The English language shall be the official language of the United States. As the official language, the English language shall be used for all public acts including every order, resolution, vote, or election, and for all records and judicial proceedings of the Government of the United States and the governments of the several States.

Also introduced in the 107th Congress was this text from H.R. 3333: The Government of the United States shall preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the United States of America. Unless specifically stated in applicable law, no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the Government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English. If exceptions are made, that does not create a legal entitlement to additional services in that language or any language other than English.

Precedence against a national language was set in 1780 when it was agreed that to have one would be undemocratic.  The ACLU finds that a national language would be unconstitutional and would violate an individual’s right to due process. Congress voted against a national language by a very narrow margin and this issue is expected to arise in 2010.

Proponents for a national language cite the money spent in the areas of education and translation.  Passing the amendment would protect school districts from lawsuits from families who feel a school is not doing enough to teach a child to speak English, and would eliminate the expense of bilingual education.  On a national level, money would be saved on translation and printing of public materials. 

In 2006, James Crawford, director of the Institute for Language and Education Policy (ILEP), spoke before the House Means and Ways Committee against English as a national language.  The view of ILEP is that a national language is unnecessary because the English language is already spoken by the vast majority of the U. S. population, punitive because it would threaten the rights and welfare  of people  who inhabit this country including citizens who are not quite proficient in English, and pointless because it offers no practical assistance and takes away public programs that offer assistance to those trying to learn the language.  Adopting a national language could also be divisive and exacerbates tension between ethnic and minority groups, inconsistent with American values, and self-defeating in an era of globalization where language resources should be developed, not suppressed.  

The organization “Pro English” based out of Arlington, VA feels that having English as a national language, “to promote the use of English to allow communication, understanding, and empathy between different groups of people who share a common citizenship and territory,” would be positive for the relationships between cultures in the United States. It is also felt that a national language is symbolic from the stance that people new to the country have to understand there are responsibilities as well as benefits in living the in the United States.

If a national language was put into law, immigrants would feel pressured to abandon their native language in exchange for English in their homes.  When a language is abandoned, so is part of the speaker’s culture.  Because of globalization, languages are becoming extinct because they are not being used.  Some languages do not have direct translations, so in order for a family to share their history they must share in their native language.  If the language is lost, so is a part of history.

Proponents for a national language counter that belief by saying that making English the official language does not mean other languages cannot be used in day to day private life.  It also doesn’t mean that in emergency circumstances translation would not be provided.  The melting pot of America would work better if we shared a common language, uniting citizens with immigrants.  “Common sense tells us that teaching English would also benefit the United States so that services could be provided in English only.” (Crawford, Official English Testimony)

http://www.proenglish.org/notenglishonly.html

retrieved:  7/12/2009, Say Pro English, Not English Only

http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_lang.html

retrieved: 7/14/09,  U.S. Constitution Online

http://users.rcn.com/crawj/Crawford_Official_English_testimony.pdf

retrieved: 7/13/09,   OFFICIAL ENGLISH LEGISLATION: BAD FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, BAD FOR AMERICA’S INTERESTS, AND EVEN BAD FOR ENGLISH, Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Education Reform

 

 

Conclusion

            As will be elaborated upon later, when this group started we had a variety of opinions on the topic, some for, some against, some in the middle. We thoroughly researched material to address each of the major sides, as well as on how the matter is handled in other nations.

            There are deep feelings not just on language, but on issues such as culture and history. Some ask whether the focus for schoolchildren should be on practical economic or on preservation matters. While English would be useful in a global economy, especially the fields of Math and Science and other areas of academia, there is still the issue of losing one’s culture and history.

            While approximately half the world’s nations have official languages, that also means that about half of them do not. Arguments in favor of an established language include that it boosts commonality and a united mindset, as well as social mobility and economic advancement. It can also invite foreigners in with examples of how they can achieve in a new country.

            Conversely, those against such a movement view it as a threat to rights, and argue it insults minorities and justified racism and prejudice. America should be open to all those loyal to democratic principles, not a form of speech. There are nearly 340 languages spoken in the U.S., and the Founders saw no need to establish a language both because of an anti-immigrant sentiment and because it was undemocratic. This has happened since colonization, when Europeans forced their own culture upon the indigenous peoples they found. War and migration brought more French into the American fold. President Theodore Roosevelt believed new immigrants should speak English and absorb as much American culture as they could. As shifts occurred that abolished quota systems in favor of keeping families together, this brought far more Spanish-speaking Mexican families into America.

          Often the movement has little to do with language since it can be the “proxy for other conditions” such as xenophobia. Further, laws often suddenly change during periods of turmoil, notably the anti-German sentiment during World War I. Presently the English-only cry comes mainly from right wing politicians who do not want to accept that America’s ethnic landscape is changing. It would be fairly impractical to establish such a law, since, while this is a multilingual nation, most people in America speak English anyway.

          Now, though, after all of this study and education our group is thoroughly against an official, national English-only policy in America on practical, financial, social and other grounds.

           Our brief individual final comments are below:

          Jennifer Clemons

           Before doing the research for this project, I was against making English the official language of the United States. I feel that going that particular route would discourage immigration and immigration access to goods and services and that it would eventually lead to increased discrimination against immigrants. I don’t believe that English only organizations have the best interests of immigrants at the center of their policy changes, but rather I believe that their overall purpose is to force assimilation and to “anglicize” immigrants. Also, eventually English Only laws will eliminate bilingual education, interpretation aids and other services that immigrants rely on. Without these services we not only fail immigrants, but we fail our country as they are an integral component to our community.  If organizations truly wish to incorporate immigrants into American mainstream society then other measurements must be worked towards, not simply by making English an official languages and restricting services to non English speakers.

          Chris Kuberski

           I was already opposed to the establishment of a national language. While I think people living in America should speak English in order to function in larger society, it would be detrimental to make it official or the law. Many natural Americans cannot speak correctly, so their prejudice is invalid. Also, there are studies proving that one’s brain functions in a more versatile way if a person speaks more than one language. It would cost an astronomical amount of money to train teachers, print materials and grade assessments for ESL learners (especially compared to what it would cost to paint & print signs and other documents in two or three languages). Finally, I think it would send a negative message to newcomers that their language (and by extension their entire culture and heritage) are less-valuable in comparison to America’s. Such laws often seem like veiled xenophobia more than anything else, and history has shown that nations will prosper much more in the long run if they assimilate and meld cultures, rather than completely exclude certain ones.

           Craig Lindvahl

           When we began this project, I was aware of the debate that has taken place regarding English as our national language.  I hadn’t thought of it in the legal terms that an “official” language entails, nor was I aware of the number of other countries in which language is at the center of debate.

          I was intrigued by the ways that declaring an official language and citizenship are intertwined, the ways that citizenship can be defined (or made exclusionary) by language.  In our early research, I was struck by the passion of the argument that we should be an “English first” country.  I found some of the arguments compelling-that English was spoken by 96% of U.S. residents, that English is the “language of opportunity”, and that if we were to travel to another country, we would consider it correct to learn the language of that country.

          As we discussed and researched and shared, however, I came to the conclusion that declaring English as a national, or official, language, would serve only to divide and exclude people.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a superfluous debate-English is already the national language, the “unofficial” official language.  To further the debate is to create divisions where none are necessary.

          It has been a fascinating project, and the most important thing I’ll take away from our research and discussions is that language is often at the center of debate around the world, but the true issue rarely has to do with language.

           Kathy Martz

           Before I began this inquiry, I fully believed there should be a national language.  In fact, I was surprised just a few years ago to find out there was no national language.  As I began to research the pros and cons, I couldn’t find any solid evidence that a national language was necessary.  There was no benefit, that didn’t take away the rights of the immigrant sector of our society.  I did see negatives in the idea.  Immigrants would lose some of the support that makes their transition in a new country easier.  I also felt that by campaigning for a national language could cause dissention between English speakers and non-native speakers.  There also seemed to be many undefined areas especially in the area of education and emergency and health services etc.

           Sarah Hirsch

           Before researching this project, I hadn’t thought very deeply about the idea of having a national language.  I only thought about it in terms of having a national language declared in America. Now that I have had some time to think about the topic, I have come to the conclusion that the declaration of a national language is an inherently non-democratic thing to do.  Of the countries that I looked at, there was no correlation between national languages and democratic structures in government and society.  In fact, some of the most authoritarian societies I came across had several national languages.  It seems to me that a country with no declared official or national languages will tend to be more democratic in nature.