April 30, 2012
Should English be the Official Language of the United States
The debate on whether the United States should make English the official language has been raging within the borders of the country for decades. Several bills have been presented to Congress over the years, but have stagnated due to the opposition on either side. Though there would certainly be drawbacks to introducing English as the official language of the United States, there would also be immeasurable benefit. Not only would an official language streamline government processes and reduce government spending, it would also aid the United States by unifying its’ people.
The term “e pluribus enum” means one nation out of many people (Schlafly, 2008). Speaking English does not mean that a person has to stop being Latin-American, African-American, Asian-American or any other dash American, it simply means all citizens of this country have a common language just as they all have being American in common. Instead, the people of this country live in constant segregation because no group is willing to put aside the pride in where they came from and take pride in where they are. Perhaps more people should identify themselves as American rather than making an attempt to differentiate themselves.
Supporters of the policy to make English the national language feel that previous generations of immigrants understood that learning English was the catalyst for social integration and economic mobility. It is also what aided immigrants from widely different origins to “melt” into Americans (Critin, Reingold, Walters, & Green, 1990). They also argue that both historical experience and common sense teach that linguistic diversity threatens political cohesion and stability. As written in U.S. News & World Report, “English-only advocates, whose ranks include recent immigrants and social liberals, believe that accommodating the more than 300 languages spoken in the United States undercuts incentives to learning English and, by association, to becoming American” (Headden, & Bernfeld, 1995, p. 38).
It is not that supporters of adopting a national language want to abolish all foreign languages and the heritage that comes with them (In fact, most supporters of adopting a national language encourage bilingualism.), but where is the line drawn on which languages the government should facilitate? It is hypocritical to have only Spanish, French and so on without including all the other languages. It is discriminatory to exclude even the smallest minority. If American citizens are going to allow money to be spent translating government documents into multiple languages, then what about the languages of all tax payers? Who decides which languages spoken are the better, or more important, to use? This is a substantial dilemma that, unless an official language is implemented, would be very difficult to solve. The huge cost to the nation is also an area for contention in the debate. The largest toll on the nation’s economy comes from multilingual education which costs the federal government upwards of $206 million dollars a year (Peart, 1996). At the time of printing, the costs were unknown, but in the 2002 King County primary election in Washington State, 3600 ballots were printed in Chinese. This was the first time a language other than English was available on ballots. Of those, only 24 were returned in the election, a mere .006% (Cornwall, 2002). According to the New York Times, in 1994 the IRS translated 500,000 income tax forms into Spanish. Of those, only 718 were returned (I.R.S. Will Distribute Tax Forms in Spanish, 1994). In this case, it was a paltry .001%. An article in The Washington Post talked about Canada’s dual language requirements costing the government an estimated $6.7 billion over the course of a decade, and a similar policy in the United States...