This sentiment was established by the English Only movement, which began in 1981 when Senator Hayakawa sponsored a constitutional amendment to make English the official language of the United States. Variations on his proposal have been before Congress ever since; the Language of Government Act has been pending before the House and Senate since 1991.
Despite increasing interest in the concept of a monolingual nation, arguments for the adoption of a national language have been mostly anecdotal and have overwhelmingly been based on misconceptions about language.
The territory that the U.S. now embodies was home to several languages before the advent of European settlers. Each of these indigenous languages was a fully developed system of communication with rich structures and expressive power. The languages were indicative of myriad cultures and ways of life.
Unfortunately, most of the indigenous languages of the United States have become extinct or are severely threatened. All too often, their eradication was deliberate government policy. This is ostensible in the example of the Native Americans and their extermination from American society. Becoming proficient in the heritage language can assist young people struggling with ethnic ambivalence, or negative attitudes toward their own culture. It enables them not only to explore their roots and associate more closely with fellow speakers of the language, but also to overcome feelings of alienation with a sense of pride in their community. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the world, approximately 6000 languages are spoken, of which only about 600 are confidently expected to survive this century. As our languages experience attrition, our cultures will simply follow suit. Our society has been described as one that is dominated by a...