English Language Drama In The US: Four Reasons NOT To Support English Only Resolutions

1. Language restrictions have historically been used to forcibly assimilate people and have resulted not only in the loss of cultural integrity for many but also for lingering hostilities.

This article points out that while it’s hard to argue against the benefit of a common language… “If we insist on alienating our neighbors to the south, through domestic policies that exclude diversity and encourage segregation and isolationism, what extreme patriots fear most will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

2. Most immigrants already see the value of learning English, want to learn, and do so, as do their children. They don’t need angry resolutions to tell them that. Find the article here.

3. Some countries exist peacefully and even successfully with multiple languages and furthermore, the US has in the past accommodated non-English speakers by publishing certain state laws in a language other than English:

German remained an influential language in Pennsylvania for quite some time, and in fact according to this article, Virginia state laws were at one time published in German to accommodate the German-speaking population. The author asks about current English only resolutions “Are we so insecure as a nation, as a people, that we will accept this racial and ethnic fear-mongering?”

I suppose I would add that the fact that the US is no longer a British colony speaks to the failure of the English language alone to unite people, much like the fact that the language that speakers referred to as the same in much of ex-Yugoslavia keep that country together.

4. These resolutions are usually based on inaccurate and negative stereotypes of today’s immigrants.

In My name is Jose and I’m an American, lawyer Jose Cardenas points out that most children of recent immigrants learn English on par with children of recent immigrants historically, and many second or third generation children of immigrants actually prefer to speak English. Making reference to a letter to the editor which prompted this article, the author clarified a distinction that the original letter failed to make (not all immigrants, even those who don’t speak English, are in the US illegally) and also added something else: “even most of the immigrants working here illegally get paychecks, and most of them, 75 percent by some estimates, pay payroll taxes.

He also notes that both documented and undocumented immigrants contribute to keeping the ailing Social Security system afloat; the “earnings suspense file”, made up of earnings reports with incorrect or false social security numbers reached $586 billion. In my view this puts quite an interesting spin on why it remains apparently so easy to work without proper authorization in the United States…perhaps relevant to TEFL only by comparison, as far as how easy or difficult it is for teachers in some countries to work without proper documentation.