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Old 11-20-2008, 03:28 PM
 
Location: NYC area
3,486 posts, read 4,937,867 times
Reputation: 3848

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I am against having an official language. I think we are slowly getting bugged down in symbolism, and this is very alarming to me. This country won its independence, defended it, and flourished in its early days without an official language, official religion, or official culture (in fact, for a while, without a flag or a national anthem). Contrary to popular opinion, those are not the things that hold a country together. Legislating culture is one of the first indications of a declining society -- so I'd say we have to refrain from it for as long as we can.

I am also against having any "national languages". Partly, it's because of the reasons outlined above -- that we don't want to give so much importance to symbolism. Additionally, having several national languages seems to confer greater legitimacy on some groups than on others. This may work in a European country that is made up of what used to be separate medieval principalities where different languages were always spoken -- in Switzerland, for instance, speakers of Italian, German and French are indigenous, and making those languages "national" has nothing to do with being "civilized" and everything to do with how modern Switzerland's nationhood was negotiated in the first place. However, in a country of immigrants, like the US, adopting such a practice would have the effect of deeming certain ethnic groups less integrated than others merely on the basis of ethnicity. (By the way, for those who reflexively praise Europe for anything and everything it does, it would be a good idea to realize that the policy of having several "national languages" is actually exclusionary -- and thus symbolically discriminatory.) Also, having several national languages would create an administrative burden that I believe is unnecessary. Finally, while I don't believe we should spontaneously switch to Navajo or something, granting one or more European languages the official status of a "national language" would be an insult to Native Americans -- though of course, it would just be a drop in the bucket.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rathagos View Post
It wouldn't "outlaw" other languages, but make definitely make it easier so I don't have to spin a box 3 or 4 times to find the English writing on it in America!!
Assuming you are talking about consumer products manufactured by private companies, this actually means you WOULD outlaw other languages. Apart from the teensy-weensy little fact that this would violate the First Amendment, it would hurt business: after all, when companies inscribe their packaging in foreign language, it's because they target a specific market, and preventing them from doing so interferes with their marketing strategy. It would also hurt consumers: some of those boxes are initially destined for export elsewhere, but distributors get them on the cheap; make such packaging illegal, and kiss the discounts good-bye.

Finally, I wish native-born Americans were a little more sensitive to what it takes to integrate in another country. Speaking as a first-generation immigrant (legal, okay?), I have to say that immigrants need businesses and products in their native language to help them adapt here. Immigration takes a TREMENDOUS psychological toll on people. When I recall my life before immigrating, I feel like all those things happened to someone else or something I read in a book; I feel as if I did not exist before the age 13; and it's even harder for people who immigrate as adults. It's not easy -- I suppose not unlike living with retrograde amnesia. Even if you speak English and your family does too -- having access to cafes with menus in your language, and waiters who speak it, and stores, sales people, products, newspapers -- all that eases the shock of the transition. You guys take our integration for granted, so I would have you know it's no walk in the park. If you won't print voting ballots in 25 languages -- fine. But leave private companies that choose to do business in other languages alone. For many people, they are life savers.
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Old 11-20-2008, 03:29 PM
 
Location: NC
10,005 posts, read 8,715,891 times
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I am one of the people who favors option 3, not bothering with an official language. Everyone knows English is the language spoken in America. Just look at highway signs, watch television, read US websites, and look at our education system they are all overwhelmingly English. It would be a waste of our time and tax money to legislate the blatently obvious.
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Old 11-20-2008, 11:43 PM
 
31,385 posts, read 31,046,755 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rathagos View Post
I would be all for English being the official language. It wouldn't "outlaw" other languages, but make definitely make it easier so I don't have to spin a box 3 or 4 times to find the English writing on it in America!!
That's a good thing since there are lot of towns, cities and states that would have to be renamed.
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Old 11-21-2008, 06:44 AM
 
Location: Dutchess County NY
43 posts, read 76,327 times
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Default not sure

What is wrong with making English the official language ?

I see no reason why I or any other native born person should cater to immigrants, legal or illegal, and be expected to know their language. They are guests here much as yu would have guests in your home. When here, they should abide by our rules and not theirs.

I work in emergency services and am tired of having callers DEMAND to have a Spanish speaker put on the phone. We used to apologize to the caller but not anymore. If you do not speak the prevalent language, you endanger yourself and your family members. Perhaps a move to a national language would force these people to do something for themselves. Catering to the nonEnglish speakers is not helping them to assimilate
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Old 11-21-2008, 07:44 AM
 
Location: NYC area
3,486 posts, read 4,937,867 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WHITEWOLF508 View Post
What is wrong with making English the official language ?
I've outlined the reasons above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WHITEWOLF508 View Post
I see no reason why I or any other native born person should cater to immigrants, legal or illegal, and be expected to know their language. They are guests here much as yu would have guests in your home. When here, they should abide by our rules and not theirs.
Agreed -- but my comment was not about native-born persons being forced to cater to immigrants, but about individuals and companies that cater to immigrants (and really, tourists also) by choice and for legitimate business reasons. As for being expected to know their language -- oh please, do lighten up. Isn't it what Americans routinely expect in non-English-speaking countries?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WHITEWOLF508 View Post
If you do not speak the prevalent language, you endanger yourself and your family members.
Unless of course that Spanish speaker happens to be a good Samaritan trying to save the life of an English speaker he found lying unconscious on the street. In any event, this only proves that private businesses should be allowed to function in other languages. Eastern European Jews in New York formed their own ambulance company in the 1930's (though for reasons other than language), other groups should be permitted to do the same. You should also understand that older people cannot learn a foreign language. My grandmother, who came to the US in her seventies, has not collected a penny in public funds and is the most passionate flag-waving American you'll ever meet -- but she is unable to learn English due to her age. I find it curious that those Americans who actually do know foreign languages understand what is involved in learning one -- it is the monolinguals who tend to consider the issue in black and white.
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Old 11-21-2008, 08:04 AM
 
Location: West Texas
2,441 posts, read 5,244,704 times
Reputation: 3090
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redisca View Post
Finally, I wish native-born Americans were a little more sensitive to what it takes to integrate in another country. Speaking as a first-generation immigrant (legal, okay?), I have to say that immigrants need businesses and products in their native language to help them adapt here. Immigration takes a TREMENDOUS psychological toll on people. When I recall my life before immigrating, I feel like all those things happened to someone else or something I read in a book; I feel as if I did not exist before the age 13; and it's even harder for people who immigrate as adults. It's not easy -- I suppose not unlike living with retrograde amnesia. Even if you speak English and your family does too -- having access to cafes with menus in your language, and waiters who speak it, and stores, sales people, products, newspapers -- all that eases the shock of the transition. You guys take our integration for granted, so I would have you know it's no walk in the park. If you won't print voting ballots in 25 languages -- fine. But leave private companies that choose to do business in other languages alone. For many people, they are life savers.
I'm honestly hearing a lot of "blah... blah... blah..." and no substance. If we became any more sensitive as a society, we'll start crying for no reason.

Your point about menus, papers, waiter, etc. ... suck it up. We're the only country where we almost DEMAND that people speak another language to accomodate people coming in. Welcome to America. Learn the language!! Anyone stupid enough to think they are going to come (immigrate) here and not be expected to learn English should be out of the gene pool anyway.

I've been to almost 30 countries. And aside from those that speak predominantly English (especially as the worldwide recognized business language), they don't cater to Americans. You either speak their language, or point. Plain and simple.

And speaking English IS good for their health. Nothing like going to a hospital with a severe pain... the attendant asks where does it hurt... and the answer is in a language not understood.
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Old 11-21-2008, 08:09 AM
 
Location: Cumberland Co., TN
20,014 posts, read 20,504,984 times
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I support English as the official language. I think an official language would help unify the county and it would only make sense that language be English because it is the dominant language and has been since the USA became a soverign nation. I assume this legislation would only apply to government intities and private business would continue to cater to particular ethnic groups and do business in whatever language they chose.

I sympathize with legal immigrants making the transition, but the burden of communication should be on their shoulders. No one said it would be easy.
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Old 11-21-2008, 08:33 AM
 
Location: Sneads Ferry NC/Randolph NJ/Cape Coral FL
12,925 posts, read 24,048,548 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2mares View Post
I support English as the official language. I think an official language would help unify the county and it would only make sense that language be English because it is the dominant language and has been since the USA became a soverign nation. I assume this legislation would only apply to government intities and private business would continue to cater to particular ethnic groups and do business in whatever language they chose.

I sympathize with legal immigrants making the transition, but the burden of communication should be on their shoulders. No one said it would be easy.
I agree, as for the bolded part there are immigrants here from just about all 4 corners of the world, we only seem to cater to the Spanish speaking ones as far as things printed in 2 languages,etc etc press 1 for English press 2 for Spanish.... what about people who don't speak English or Spanish??? My observation is they try & learn English as fast as they can..hmmmm something to ponder
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Old 11-21-2008, 08:36 AM
 
8,180 posts, read 11,032,296 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Redisca View Post
I've outlined the reasons above.

Agreed -- but my comment was not about native-born persons being forced to cater to immigrants, but about individuals and companies that cater to immigrants (and really, tourists also) by choice and for legitimate business reasons. As for being expected to know their language -- oh please, do lighten up. Isn't it what Americans routinely expect in non-English-speaking countries?

Unless of course that Spanish speaker happens to be a good Samaritan trying to save the life of an English speaker he found lying unconscious on the street. In any event, this only proves that private businesses should be allowed to function in other languages. Eastern European Jews in New York formed their own ambulance company in the 1930's (though for reasons other than language), other groups should be permitted to do the same. You should also understand that older people cannot learn a foreign language. My grandmother, who came to the US in her seventies, has not collected a penny in public funds and is the most passionate flag-waving American you'll ever meet -- but she is unable to learn English due to her age. I find it curious that those Americans who actually do know foreign languages understand what is involved in learning one -- it is the monolinguals who tend to consider the issue in black and white.

I think whitewolf508 does have a point in the necessity of having a common language. This summer I was at a state park when I saw a little girl - maybe 2-3 years old - walking completely nude down a fairly busy road. She could not speak English, and the people around could not speak English when I asked did anyone know who this little girl belonged to (nobody was paying her any mind)...it was only after I took the girls hand to lead her out of the street and take her to parks officer did people suddenly find the girls mother. Imagine if I was not a mom myself but a pedophile? Or if someone had hit the girl with their car? It is imperative to be able to communicate with one another and it does not denote fascism to want to legislate the commonality.

That said, you are right that there will be people who are unable to learn a new language. The elderly is a great example. My great grandmother never learned English (although everyone suspected she knew way more then she let on), but my grandfather and his sisters were fluent in English. And this at a time when there were no ESL classes, and certainly not multi lingual government forms and beurocracies. I do have empathy on the difficulties of learning a new language. I also admire those that do - regardless of how heavy an accent they may have. I also would encourage more immigrants to keep their language alive for future generations in the hope of bi/tri lingualism. But English must be a part of it.

As to the continuation of the 'Ugly American' stereotype....yeah, I am sure that there are people out there wearing fanny packs, black socks with brown sandals and speaking inappropriately loudly in English all the time. But there are also those that attempt to speak the native langauge, too. And don't forget.....visiting a country as a tourist is a lot different then immigrating to one. If I were to visit France, or China I would have an English/French (Mandarin) dictionary with me. I would not doubt garble the language, but I would try for the time I was there. As would most people. On the other hand, were I to immigrate to another country that did not speak English I would learn the new language as quickly as possible and to the best of my ability....understanding that my children would be fluent, I would be less so and my parents probably not at all.

There is nothing sinister about wanting a common language, and encourging it among immigrants. It is to their benefit as well as societies as a whole. Nothing brown shirt about it.
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Old 11-21-2008, 09:54 AM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
7,091 posts, read 10,486,058 times
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I don't think having an official language would outlaw any others, it just makes sure you don't need an interpreter for every language spoken to do every day business. For complicated things like the law and medical procedures, you still would need a person to interpret.

I am first generation immigrant born in America, my parents know English and I wouldn't even consider going to line in a country without knowing what the hell people are saying. More then one language is great, but each person must know at least one of the same languages to communicate...having an official language makes sure that happens.

I wish my parents made sure I learned more languages, I'm too busy at the moment to really spend a good amount of time at it now. Unless I am visiting a country, then I really work at it because I know I'll need it.
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