English as the Official Language: Necessity or Formality?

Topics: United States, English language, Official language Pages: 5 (1916 words) Published: December 13, 2006
Inglés Como La Lengua Oficial: ¿necesidad o formalidad?
English As The Official Language: necessity or formality?
America is a nation that, from its founding, has had a distinguishing quality that no other country in the world shares. This quality has been the willingness to accept people of all different cultures as citizens of the country without forcing them to change who they are. How often have you seen the translations on the backs of shampoo bottles and instruction manuals and become annoyed? Why is it easily forgotten that at one time, all Americans were immigrants and natively spoke a different language? Cultures depend on their languages and customs to define them. But to what degree do the words you use define the person you are? This is a vital question in the intensely debated issue of making English the official language of the United States. Is this movement to distinguish English as the official national language only symbolic, or is it necessary? (Hudson 1). In May of 2006, two amendments were proposed to a measure that had generated much controversy, declaring English as the official language of the United States of America (Ramos 1). The original bill was an immigrant reform bill that faintly declared English the official language of the United States ("Languages" 1). This law would not make it illegal to speak foreign languages, but would require all immigrants to learn English before becoming citizens and all government documents and transactions to be recorded in English ("English Only?" 1). The first amendment to this bill, proposed by Senator James Inhofe, formally declared English as the national language. The second amendment, proposed by Senator Ken Salazar, declared English as the "common and unifying language", instead of the "official national language." Ultimately, the original intentions of the bill did not change, and it passed with a vote of 58- 39 (Ramos 1). In the past, many endeavors have been made to achieve what this bill provides for, and each time controversy has been the companion. Numerous bills have been considered in Federal and State systems (Hudson 1). Those who support these proposals say this new bill steps in the right direction and will ultimately lead to eliminating the increasingly multilingual bureaucracy of the government of the United States (Ramos 1). Those in opposition to it, say the controversy this bill creates merely provides a distraction from the actual concern; providing language education to immigrants. The one idea both sides agree upon is that all immigrants should be taught English; the question is how to go about it (Bakker 1). Although the United States has never had an official language; English has always been the "de facto" national language ("Languages" 1). According to the 2000 census bureau, eighty-two percent of Americans, which prospectively becomes two hundred and fifteen million, speak English in their homes, eleven percent, twenty- eight million, of Americans speak Spanish, and seven percent, nineteen million, speak an assortment of other languages. Additionally, only eight percent of all Americans cannot speak English at all ("English Only?" 2). Whether or not these citizens can fluently speak English, they are generally willing to learn, and more importantly, still American, and Americans have rights. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont says, "In my experience, most new Americans want to learn our language and make efforts to do so as quickly as possible." (Leahy 1). Every citizen of the United States should learn to speak English as it provides a medium by which people of all different cultures can correspond, interact, and as a result live together peacefully; but they should not be forced to leave their heritage behind. This infringes on the rights of the non- English speaking Americans (Hudson 1). The public must recognize that each citizen deserves the right to celebrate their diversity. The government does not need to interfere with...

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