US needs an official language?

Do you support this legislation?

  • Yes

    Votes: 20 47.6%
  • No

    Votes: 15 35.7%
  • Indifferent

    Votes: 6 14.3%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 1 2.4%

  • Total voters
    42
  • #1
honestrosewater
Gold Member
2,132
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There's a new bill in the House, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:H.R.997: [Broken]:
To declare English as the official language of the United States, to establish a uniform English language rule for naturalization, and to avoid misconstructions of the English language texts of the laws of the United States, pursuant to Congress's powers to provide for the general welfare of the United States and to establish a uniform rule of naturalization under article I, section 8, of the Constitution.
Why does the US need an official language? And why have only one?

BTW, the bill is really short and easy (1-4 minutes).
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Smurf
369
3
This will harm the development of every language in the Country, including English.
 
  • #3
honestrosewater
Gold Member
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Why does anything they mention require English to be made the official language? Just give some money to ESOL programs.
My initial suspicion is that this will just be used to tell non-English-speakers that they're doing something wrong and aren't welcome here.
 
  • #4
hypatia
1,167
9
I don't think a need to be able to read and understand the constitution in english should be required. As long as they can express the content to a interpreter.
 
  • #5
Pengwuino
Gold Member
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Smurf said:
This will harm the development of every language in the Country, including English.

Incorrect. Other nations have official national languages without any detrimental effects.

Im glad this is being put out there. I've lived in the United States my entire life and my city has been gradually turning into Mexico Part II. This move will only help Americans.
 
  • #6
outsider
24
0
Pengwuino said:
Incorrect. Other nations have official national languages without any detrimental effects.

Im glad this is being put out there. I've lived in the United States my entire life and my city has been gradually turning into Mexico Part II. This move will only help Americans.
But english has been dominant... why make official something that is clearly the choice? If spanish was declared the official language, I think english would still be dominant... also, although english is declared the official language, this will not stop other cultures from communicating in their own language. So to do this is really pointless IMO.
 
  • #7
Smurf
369
3
Pengwuino said:
Incorrect. Other nations have official national languages without any detrimental effects.

Im glad this is being put out there. I've lived in the United States my entire life and my city has been gradually turning into Mexico Part II. This move will only help Americans.
This legislature won't stop spanish being integrated into your city. On top of that, why should they want to? I'm kind of offended that you think doing this will "help americans", there's nothing wrong with Spanish.
 
  • #8
The Smoking Man
47
0
Pengwuino said:
Incorrect. Other nations have official national languages without any detrimental effects.

Im glad this is being put out there. I've lived in the United States my entire life and my city has been gradually turning into Mexico Part II. This move will only help Americans.
Ask a Canadian what they think of TWO official languages!

Mind you most people think there is only one version of Chinese ... There are hundreds however Putonghua is the 'National Language' (Beijing Dialect or Mandarin)

The Philippines has one official language only spoken by the minority as a mother tongue... tagalog. Visayan or Bisaya is spoken by the majority 60% but missed out on the official status because the capital of Manila is Tagalog speaking. (There are hundreds more)

Often, the declaration of an 'official' language is detramental in internal politics.
 
  • #9
TRCSF
60
0
I think Spanish has a right to be an official US language just as much as French in Canada.

This bill strikes me as race baiting.
 
  • #10
Pengwuino
Gold Member
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outsider said:
But english has been dominant... why make official something that is clearly the choice? If spanish was declared the official language, I think english would still be dominant... also, although english is declared the official language, this will not stop other cultures from communicating in their own language. So to do this is really pointless IMO.

Its not that I care to know what people are telling eachother... im just rather sick of walking into a 7-11 or a supermarket and not knowing what hte hell half the products are because the packaging is written in spanish. Not english + spanish... just spanish. 100% spanish. And no, these are not mexican supermarkets or anything logical like that.

If I ever tried to kill myself with some McDonalds food more often, I could show you the cup written entirely in spanish.
 
  • #11
Pengwuino
Gold Member
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Smurf said:
This legislature won't stop spanish being integrated into your city. On top of that, why should they want to? I'm kind of offended that you think doing this will "help americans", there's nothing wrong with Spanish.

Ha, your offended. Good one smurf *gives you a hug*.... i like your style.

It shouldn't matter what a minority wants, it should be what the majority wants and at the very least, the majority doesnt want to walk into a city thinking they accidently left the country. I at least want to know what the hell im buying at the store. I want McDonalds workers to know english. This is like going to France and asking "hey what gives, why isnt everyone speaking english and why isnt everything written in english".
 
  • #12
arildno
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In Norway, we have 4 official languages.
If a citizen is over some matter in correspondence with some branch of the government, she has the right to get her answers back in the same official language as the one she wrote in.
All official documents should in principle be available in all 4 languages, although this is rarely the case with respect to the two Sami official languages.

I don't really see what's the problem of calling some of the languages in a country for official, and I'm surprised that english isn't the official language in the US.
 
  • #13
Smurf
369
3
Pengwuino said:
This is like going to France and asking "hey what gives, why isnt everyone speaking english and why isnt everything written in english".
:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: I take it you've never spent much time in France?
 
  • #14
Smurf
369
3
Pengwuino said:
im just rather sick of walking into a 7-11 or a supermarket and not knowing what hte hell half the products are because the packaging is written in spanish.
It shouldn't matter what a minority wants, it should be what the majority wants and at the very least, the majority doesnt want to walk into a city thinking they accidently left the country.
The problem with this is, if the majority truely cared about 7-11 products all being in spanish, they could easily get 7-11 to change their policy towards it, since 7-11 is trying to sell to the most people possible. So, is your example false, or is you're insistance that you are part of the majority false? Or are the basic laws of economics false? (i.e. something else is the problem?)
 
  • #15
Smurf
369
3
arildno said:
In Norway, we have 4 official languages.
If a citizen is over some matter in correspondence with some branch of the government, she has the right to get her answers back in the same official language as the one she wrote in.
All official documents should in principle be available in all 4 languages, although this is rarely the case with respect to the two Sami official languages.
In Canada you have the right to demand any government file/correspondant/anything be in French or English, anywhere, anytime, just by saying so. 22 minutes has made this a trademark joke of theirs.
 
  • #16
Smurf
369
3
Pengwuino said:
Ha, your offended. Good one smurf *gives you a hug*.... i like your style.
I didn't mean I was insulted, it just bothers me whenever someone implies that a language (or any cultural aspect) is inferior to theirs. It's so racist.
 
  • #17
honestrosewater
Gold Member
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Well, I at least am glad that it does matter what the minority wants.

Pengwuino, are you sure you're in the majority where you live? Do you expect the government to tell McDonalds that they must use English in their packaging?

The problems with calling one language official:
What's the point??
A quick search: [URL [Broken] high court finds English-only law unconstitutional[/url]
[URL [Broken] high court: English-only plan is unconstitutional[/url]
There was a battle over the English-only law in Alaska, but I can't find it now.
If you want to know what the potential pitfalls are, just look at this section:
Sec. 165. Rules of construction

`Nothing in this chapter shall be construed--

`(1) to prohibit a Member of Congress or any officer or agent of the Federal Government, while performing official functions, from communicating unofficially through any medium with another person in a language other than English (as long as official functions are performed in English);

`(2) to limit the preservation or use of Native Alaskan or Native American languages (as defined in the Native American Languages Act);

`(3) to disparage any language or to discourage any person from learning or using a language; or

`(4) to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States.
I'm not sure what saying this actually does, but it doesn't matter what they say if the law ends up having a discriminatory effect.
 
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  • #18
I'm not sure why they want to convert the population of America to a new language. Why not use one of the languages already in use? :biggrin: Like that funny one that has an affinity for 'z's and words like center, nite, color, favorite, honor etc. :rofl:

Apart from that seeing as how America is composed of immigrants from practically every nation of the world I do not see why there should be one official language unless the idea is to relegate others to some kind of second class, not really american, status.
 
  • #19
hitssquad
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honestrosewater said:
it doesn't matter what they say if the law ends up having a discriminatory effect.
Why would its discriminatory status be relevant?
 
  • #20
honestrosewater
Gold Member
2,132
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hitssquad said:
Why would its discriminatory status be relevant?
Oh, woops, I can't imagne how it would. I wasn't thinking of employment but that it would most likely impact protected groups (ethnicity, national origin).
___

Does it sound like voting counts as an official function?
"the term `official' refers to any function that (i) binds the Government, (ii) is required by law, or (iii) is otherwise subject to scrutiny by either the press or the public."
 
  • #21
loseyourname
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Count me as one of those who doesn't really see how having an official national language hurts anything, but I do think that Texas and California at least should be officially bilingual, as they were originally Spanish possessions, then part of Mexico, and even today have as many Spanish speakers as English speakers.
 
  • #22
russ_watters
Mentor
21,609
8,729
outsider said:
But english has been dominant... why make official something that is clearly the choice?
MONEY. We spend a lot of money on bilingual education, publications, government forms, signs, etc.

The government does some crazy things when it comes to "public accomodation" and avoidance of discrimination. If you are deaf, for example, and need a sign language interpreter to follow you around at school, the government will provide you with one. If you are somehow "differently abled" and your city has a government-run mass transit system, they are required to do pretty much whatever is necessary to accomodate you - and that includes sending a car to your house to pick you up and drive you to your destiniation.

Similarly, making Spanish an "official" language would require every class in public school to have a taught-in-Spanish equivalent.
 
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  • #23
SOS2008
Gold Member
31
1
I remember debating this when California had a prop in the 80s? -- I can't recall now if it was to make English the official language or Spanish the second language. Many states already have English as the official language.

This country is a melting pot and has always welcomed immigrants. I don't think Americans want this to change. However, originally when immigrants came through Ellis Island they would say the pledge of allegiance in English with tears of joy. The new immigrants should be able to preserve their culture, but they should view themselves as Americans. Speaking a common language is the first step to homogeneity and unity.

Because of many factors, such as technology (radio/TV stations, if you speak Spanish press 2, etc.) when they live in their ethnic areas they are becoming extremely isolated and can live with ease and never learn English. On the news the other evening, a mother was taking an English class because otherwise she couldn't help her children with their homework. Along this line is the issue of social advancement. Statistics show that those who learn English achieve a higher standard of living. Want to talk about discrimination and racism? Encourage these people to stay isolated and poor.

Even the majority of certain ethnic populations, such as Hispanic citizens are very concerned about the flood of immigrants crossing the border that is overwhelming every aspect of American society (and at a great cost to tax payers). I don't know if this particular legislation will achieve anything, but I do know that this topic has been being debated for years, and with recent population explosions from the south (encouraged by Mexican President Fox to take back the land the U.S. stole--I've been told I better learn Spanish--there is actually hostility in the mix now), terrorist cells (e.g., recent bombings in Britain), this is why we are seeing this issue reemerge as a hot topic.

I believe we need a common language and that citizens should be proud to be American, and the only exception for which tax dollars should be devoted to multiple languages is for emergency scenarios.
 
  • #24
outsider
24
0
Pengwuino said:
Ha, your offended. Good one smurf *gives you a hug*.... i like your style.

It shouldn't matter what a minority wants, it should be what the majority wants and at the very least, the majority doesnt want to walk into a city thinking they accidently left the country. I at least want to know what the hell im buying at the store. I want McDonalds workers to know english. This is like going to France and asking "hey what gives, why isnt everyone speaking english and why isnt everything written in english".
I think that what you are upset about is an issue with the corporations who make the packaging and hire the people... they are marketing to a specific demograph due to location... this is wrong too... but I don't know what would happen even if there was an official language... you could let them know that they are not speaking the official language and they have the freedom to tell you to "take a hike" in their language. What's a guy to do? I see your dilemma, but legislation will not change what people do in some cases.

who is going to force people to speak a language? who is going to teach to people who don't want to learn?

there will always be resistance... for those who seek to have greater success in life, let the statistics convince them to speak english... afterall, it is the international language :rolleyes:
 
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  • #25
outsider
24
0
SOS2008 said:
I believe we need a common language and that citizens should be proud to be American, and the only exception for which tax dollars should be devoted to multiple languages is for emergency scenarios.
agreed, but corporations have a say in this... when they cater to a market and ignore mine, I take a hint... and keep my money. America is free to let people make these choices and so it really isn't up to the law...

street signs can be bilingual in certain areas... but who is going to make jonny's deli change his signs from italian to english? It's his store and he wants to maintain a feeling of the old country... he doesn't want korean, chinese, japanese, or any asian races in his store... they can come, but he doesn't have to make them feel welcome because the store is really for true italians... how would legislation punish jonny?
 
  • #26
TRCSF
60
0
Pengwuino said:
Its not that I care to know what people are telling eachother... im just rather sick of walking into a 7-11 or a supermarket and not knowing what hte hell half the products are because the packaging is written in spanish. Not english + spanish... just spanish. 100% spanish. And no, these are not mexican supermarkets or anything logical like that.

If I ever tried to kill myself with some McDonalds food more often, I could show you the cup written entirely in spanish.


Well then the simple solution would be to learn spanish. I don't know about you, but most competent adults are able to figure out the contents of a package in the Mexican aisle of their supermarket based on the picture on the packaging and the minor spanish vocabulary that every American has, such as "taco."
 
  • #27
Moonbear
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I think I'll vote indifferent on this one. Pretty much all business in the US is done in English anyway. Whether or not some cater to speakers of other languages is their choice and would always remain their choice, even if English were made the "official" language. There are areas where Spanish is the predominant language, and that won't change by making English the official language, it would just mean that all signs, documents, etc. would have to include English (they could still have other languages on them, but there would be no law requiring it).

I think it's good to have a common language for communication. However, just as my experiences in Quebec were that there are varying degrees of English communication among native-French speakers even in a country in which English is one of the official languages, we can't expect that just because people are required to use English in official communication that it would lead to a sudden improvement in their writing skills or to erase their accents.

I think the costs would be a bit of a wash-out. On one hand, it could save money by not having to translate everything into 6 different languages. On the other hand, it could cost more money to ensure immigrants had access to English classes to learn the official language, or English speakers could demand higher wages than non-English speakers, even in areas where the predominant language isn't English.

I guess, overall, I'm indifferent because I don't think it would really change much about how things are currently done. Having an official language doesn't mean people have to stop using other languages, it just means if requested, they need to use the official language with those who prefer it. It means Pengwuino can walk into the corner Bodega and ask the clerk to conduct the transaction in English, but the clerk can continue to speak Spanish to all his/her Spanish-speaking customers.
 
  • #28
outsider
24
0
Moonbear said:
I think I'll vote indifferent on this one. Pretty much all business in the US is done in English anyway. Whether or not some cater to speakers of other languages is their choice and would always remain their choice, even if English were made the "official" language. There are areas where Spanish is the predominant language, and that won't change by making English the official language, it would just mean that all signs, documents, etc. would have to include English (they could still have other languages on them, but there would be no law requiring it).

(edit)...

I guess, overall, I'm indifferent because I don't think it would really change much about how things are currently done. Having an official language doesn't mean people have to stop using other languages, it just means if requested, they need to use the official language with those who prefer it. It means Pengwuino can walk into the corner Bodega and ask the clerk to conduct the transaction in English, but the clerk can continue to speak Spanish to all his/her Spanish-speaking customers.
It makes sense to any good business person to cater to as many customers as possible. In Hong Kong (previously a British Colony), there are stores that had english speaking and some that didn't. Some restaurants have menus exclusively in Chinese... however, this is a business decision... and if I went into one of these stores, I simply work with them to communicate as clearly, it was not their primary language.

I am also indifferent because I don't see the point... but if there are people passionate enough about it, so be it. Have it your way. o:)
 
  • #29
Moonbear
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Pengwuino said:
Im glad this is being put out there. I've lived in the United States my entire life and my city has been gradually turning into Mexico Part II.
Hmm...funny, since you live in CA, it was probably part of Mexico before it ever became part of the US. Perhaps the Spanish-speaking Mexicans have more of an argument against the English take-over of their former territory? :wink:

This move will only help Americans.
In what way? I've expressed that I don't think it will really help or hurt much. It might change a few things, but I think the positives and negatives will likely balance out. Or do you not consider immigrants from non-English speaking countries to be worthy of American citizenship? It's hard to see your statement being taken any other way. I wonder what your ancestry is? Have your ancestors all come from English speaking countries and never had to face the challenge of coming to a new country and needing to learn a new language? And if that's the case, why didn't they learn the language of those whose land they took over, why aren't we all speaking one of the Native American languages as the official language? This country was initially inhabited by the Native Americans, and then colonized by the British, French and Spanish. I see no reason why one of those should be exalted above all others as more "American." I wouldn't object to having French and Spanish added as official languages for historic reasons. I'd have a little trouble with including Native American languages simply because there are so many dialects and there are not enough members of the population who still speak these languages fluently enough to provide the necessary translators for all the businesses that would need them. That's a shame, because they really should receive recognition in this country, but just not practical.

Of course that is the way it has worked all over the world throughout time, that invaders enforce their language as the only official language in order to oppress the invaded. Perhaps that is the message you intended to convey, that non-English speakers should be oppressed and prevented from speaking their native language? You are aware that would not be the outcome of having an official language in the U.S., are you not?
 
  • #30
Moonbear
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outsider said:
It makes sense to any good business person to cater to as many customers as possible. In Hong Kong (previously a British Colony), there are stores that had english speaking and some that didn't. Some restaurants have menus exclusively in Chinese... however, this is a business decision... and if I went into one of these stores, I simply work with them to communicate as clearly, it was not their primary language.
Yes, that's currently how things stand, and I have no problem with it. If I go into a store and am for some reason entirely unable to communicate with the person working there, well, then they will lose my business and that's a risk they can choose to take. I can't say I've ever run into that problem anywhere in the U.S., even in neighborhoods that are primarily Hispanic or Chinese populations, with the exception of the occassional English-speaking clerk who is simply dumb as a doorknob. When I worked as a clerk in high school, I was even able to communicate with deaf customers without knowing any sign language.

I even traveled to Poland without knowing more than a few words in Polish. It was challenging to not speak the language at all, but somehow I always managed to complete the necessary transactions with a lot of pointing and liberal use of "thank you" in Polish to let them know I appreciated their patience with me. Though, my meals in restaurants tended to be surprises since I had no idea what I was ordering. :biggrin: As long as you don't mind the adventure, it can be done.
 
  • #31
honestrosewater
Gold Member
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The law doesn't apply to people's interactions with a clerk at 7-11. It does apply to citizens' interactions with their government.

This is not an illegal immigration bill, BTW.

Why were those courts wrong to find those state's English-only laws unconstitutional?

Protecting rights costs money? What a waste.

It might mean that the ballots for next year's election won't be available in any language other than English (Edit: Sorry, accomodations required for people with disabilities excepted). Would no one have a problem with that? Just tough luck for those who can't learn English well enough in the meantime. ??

A representative's communication with their constituents is official business. See this part:
`Nothing in this chapter shall be construed--

`(1) to prohibit a Member of Congress or any officer or agent of the Federal Government, while performing official functions, from communicating unofficially through any medium with another person in a language other than English (as long as official functions are performed in English)
Have a problem and want any official help from your representatives? Sure, that's your right. What? You don't speak English? Too bad. This is America, land of English-only speakers. Maybe you didn't see the sign:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the English-only golden door.

Yes, it upsets me. :grumpy:
 
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  • #32
honestrosewater
Gold Member
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Moonbear said:
I think I'll vote indifferent on this one. Pretty much all business in the US is done in English anyway. Whether or not some cater to speakers of other languages is their choice and would always remain their choice, even if English were made the "official" language.
No choice - English only.
`(a) Official Functions- The official functions of the Government of the United States shall be conducted in English.

`(b) Scope- For the purposes of this section, the term `United States' means the several States and the District of Columbia, and the term `official' refers to any function that (i) binds the Government, (ii) is required by law, or (iii) is otherwise subject to scrutiny by either the press or the public.

`(c) Practical Effect- This section shall apply to all laws, public proceedings, regulations, publications, orders, actions, programs, and policies,
Sure, any representative can explain in any language that all official business must be done in English.
 
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  • #33
loseyourname
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What are you concerned about with this 'representative' thing? That you'll write a letter to your senator in Swahili and he will no longer employ a translator? Are letters from constituents actually considered "official" business?

Also, are you sure this applies to ballots? It says above that it refers to the District of Columbia and all the states. Ballots are published by county governments - are they subject to this as well? If anything, this bill doesn't seem to give enough clarification.

Edit: If this law actually does restrict the printing of ballots to one language, it will be found unconstitutional and stricken from the books. There really isn't anything to worry about there.
 
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  • #34
outsider
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government interactions in english only makes sense... street signs and official documents... sure...

other areas beyond official business with the government are basically uncontrollable...
 
  • #35
moose
505
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Pengwuino said:
Incorrect. Other nations have official national languages without any detrimental effects.

Im glad this is being put out there. I've lived in the United States my entire life and my city has been gradually turning into Mexico Part II. This move will only help Americans.

So true. Because of me living in Arizona, I also feel the horrid effects of being Mexico Part III(gotta count off somehow, right?). I once saw a commercial where some people were at a restaurant talking to each other, they order their food, and one of them gets the wrong item, and says to his friend "these people should really learn the language before coming here to serve us, you know?" and his friend is all offended and stuff. WTF, in any other country than the US, a person who doesnt know their language simply wont get a job at a McDonalds, and it's not a bad thing at all. It means the person is underqualified.
 

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