More On English Only Legislation

oklahoma.jpg“…the state’s image is harmed when cultural differences are not embraced…There’s a message sent to those outside … that we’re intolerant, we’re colloquial and we want to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.”

“”We have absolutely nothing against English. It’s great if people speak English,” said… a former linguist at the University of Oklahoma and executive director of… “But it’s great if people speak English plus some other language of heritage.”

To… it says that if there’s an official language, your language is secondary and all other languages are secondary,”

Where did these quotes come from? You might be surprised.

They came from this article about native Americans in Oklahoma who are concerned that English only legislation will have a negative influence on the survival of their languages. While supporters of the legislation say that it won’t affect efforts for native Americans to teach or learn their traditional languages, many feel that it will still impede them.

Many English only supporters say that the laws will compel immigrants to assimilate, but dissenters point to some instances of English-only sentiment and legislation from the past:

“… assimilation is a charged word for many American Indians, whose ancestors were forced from their traditional lands and sent on the Trail of Tears in the 19th century.

English-only restrictions were imposed in Indian Territory to expunge tribal languages and culture, said Kirke Kickingbird, an Oklahoma City attorney and member of the Kiowa tribe.”

Is the situation for native Americans different than that of immigrants? Perhaps, but is that distinction important enough to justify the passage of such legislation – you probably already know that my opinion is “no”. I agree that while in theory there are certainly benefits for people in one country to share a language, in practice, there are a lot of downsides to this kind of legislation – not in the least the message it sends on different levels. I think the history and current situation of the US is unique enough to merit special consideration; I don’t think the English language is in any danger of obliteration and while practical reasons in many countries may mean that having an official language is reasonable…I think the sentiments quoted here make a lot of sense.