Voting on making English the official US language (Was: "Hm...")

Here is the list of the 38 senators voted aginst making english the offical language of america.

36 Democrats, 1 independent, and 1 republican

Akaka (D-HI)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Domenici (R-NM)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Kinda makes ya’ think, huh? I’ll chime back in a few…


Thx for the rename

:confused: Politics here???

Chit-Chat : Any off-topic discussion should happen here.

My $0.02 - If the DEMs ever regain control of Congress, could multi-lingual ballots be far behind?

So I vote: ***aucune de ce qui précède

  • keine vom oben genannten - nessun del suddetto - ninguno sobre - … - none of the above

Just throwing a bone out there and see a few things…

What exactly are the pros and cons of having English as our official language?

I can see the benefit being that signs, communications, publications, etc. would be standardized so that communication would be easier (in an ideal world).

But the truth is, not everyone in this country speaks English, and not everybody is going to learn how. Making English the official language could serve as yet another barrier which places newcomers to this country on a lower level than “the rest of us” (I don’t really know how to refer to the “old immigrants” - essentially people of European descent such as myself - because technically they are newcomers to this country too - the difference being that we have been here for just a few more generations). This language barrier would create an additional hardship to immigrants seeking employment.

Plus, I think that the more languages Americans experience, the more we can appreciate this country’s diversity. America is an extraordinary amalgamate of the best that cultures from around the world have to offer. Celebrating the differences - be it language, tradition, or culture - will allow us to draw upon the great things from each part of the world.

Language also opens worlds of opportunity in terms of careers - there is a great shortage of multi-lingual professionals in this country. Many jobs go unfilled each year because the job position requires proficiency in multiple languages. Take the engineering world, for instance - I’m thanking my lucky stars that I chose to take German in high school, because Germany is a very important contributer to the science and engineering fields. Also, countries such as Japan, China, and India are major players in the engineering world. If only I could have taken Japanese, Chinese, and Hindi too!

I think the emphasis on an offical language would be detrimental to America’s ability to be more aware of the world outside of the “Anglo-Saxon culture bubble”. Already, this country has shown great ignorance of the rest of the world (ie. being unaware of the consequences of military invasion), and we are in desperate need to show some awareness. We should all make the effort to be as multi-lingual as possible, so that both immigrants and natural born American citizens can have equal access to the things they have to offer each other.

What do you think?

the flip side is, why should we have to learn the language of those who are not legally here? i realize that some to most of the ‘immigrant’ population is leagally here, but the ones that came legally usually knew at least enough english to get by when they got here.

it seems to me that the illeagels are putting too much pressure on the legal system to let them off easier and easier as the years drag on…

my $.02

If any language becomes the official language of the United States, then what exactly does that mean?

will we then need a department of the official language, to publish dictionaries and other language manuals, to define the official meaning and syntax of the official language? If we dont, then what does english default to?! How could a non government agency define the official language of the government?

Will people have to take a certification test to meet some minimum standard of proficiency in the official language, to be an elected official, or a public servant (fire / police / nurse / teacher… post office mail sorter) ?

If you dont speak the official language will you then be responsible to hire your own interpreter when dealing with the US government?

Not only am I proud that both senators from New York and Washington voted against this, but I’m hopeful that they each made it clear that discussing this very notion is an absurd waste of time and money.

An official language means nothing. People will still speak Chinese or Russian when they want to. Nobody is going to abandon the language of their homeland because the gov’t will only listen if they speak English (which I’m sure won’t be the case). If, as most of us are assuming, it forced everybody to learn English, then it would close racial gaps. It would mean that I could go anywhere in the U.S. and talk to anybody. That would be a wonderful thing. Look at the tower of Babel, when everybody could speak the same language… progress was made, but when they all spoke different languages… nothing happened.

One last thought…

If I move the France, I’m going to learn French, and if I move to Germany, I’ll sure as heck learn German, so why should it be any different for people moving to the U.S.A.?

The problem with this renewed push for an official language in the U.S. is that in some influential circles, it’s not at all about the convenience of communication, and all about the marginalization of those who aren’t stereotypically American. You’ve only got to look at the commotion surrounding Mexican immigration, to see that under the guise of homeland security, a hell of a lot of the discussion isn’t directed at solving a particular facet of the problem in a magnanimous way (and let’s be honest—the largest economy in the world has no excuse for a lack of magnanimity), but rather at censuring them at every step, and generally treating them like dirt. That attitude isn’t far removed from the racism that plagued America not so long ago, yet for some reason, be it xenophobia, prejudice, or something else, the idea that recent immigrants (and especially illegal ones) ought to be positively crushed is rampant. Send them home, or funnel them through a transparent and just immigration system, but don’t hunt them like terrorists, and don’t legislate more ways to marginalize them, out of spite.

So when I see talk of an official language bill, and it’s sponsored by the very same representatives who proudly announce that they support every effort imaginable to crush the ‘alien invasion’, I wonder if their isn’t a causal link between the two things. The cynic in me thinks that this is all part of the effort to make America as inhospitable to unskilled foreigners as it can possibly be. For a populace descended mostly of colonists, immigrants and/or slaves, the utter distaste for the new crop of outsiders is startling.

I realize that this reasoning doesn’t necessarily apply to the average American, who might simply think it cost-effective to maintain one official channel of communication. But when a correlation exists between the xenophobic politicians and the pro-official-language politicians, I can’t help but think that this whole idea might be tarnished by their unwavering desire to maintain the demographic status quo.

Even if they had nothing but the best intentions in mind (maybe saving money, for example), I’d question the utility of such a program. After all, with government services the way they are today, how often is the primary language not English anyway? And since there will always be those people who are not fluent in the principal language, but who have to deal with important things in English, there’s always a place for government services to offer critical advice in other languages, rather than pedantically deny it, because the request wasn’t phrased in the right language. I’m not saying that everything has to be in every language, but immediate concerns transcend the desire for linguistic conformity—as an example, who would advocate for a terrorism tip-line to operate only in English, because it’s the official language? Whose head would roll, when the tip that was received in Spanish was ignored, and people died because of it? The same goes for taxes—if you want to collect tax, it’s only fair that you instruct people how to pay it in a way that they understand. Sure, they’re obliged to pay, whether you do it or not, but how much money will you lose to people who (because they don’t read English well) don’t complete a tax return? Can you prosecute them all, and better still, would you want to, given the costs and the potential for dreadful publicity?

Back here in Canada, we do have two official languages (English and French, of course). But if you come to the government, speaking mostly Arabic, they’ll at least try to help. Somehow, I don’t see an equivalent attitude being too prevalent in some portions of the U.S., these days. Maybe that’s my own prejudice talking, but on the other hand, the tone of the politics surrounding recent official-language efforts hasn’t been too reassuring.

The only possible logic I can see to this law came to me while reading Tristans post. In Canada they do have two official languages, and if you want to sell products in Canada you must use both on the labels.

So maybe this attempted official language law here is a pre-emptive ‘before its too late’ attempt to stop cities or states from imposing their own multi-lingual laws.

Imagine if the state of California decided that anyone who sells products in their state must label them, and provide users manuals in English and Spanish?

or that all schools must teach Spanish as a second language, or all teachers must be fluent in Spanish? …

This is the only thing that makes any sense at this point - not that the US government feels the need to establish an official language, but they sense some people may be on the verge of springing multi-lingual language requirements on the American public, business and local governments?

and this is a pre-emptive way to nip it in the bud? The state of California (for example) could not require state employess to be fluent in Spanish if the ‘official language’ of the United States is English.

The bill reads, “To declare English as the official language of the United States, to establish a uniform English language rule for naturalization, and to avoid misconstructions of the English language texts of the laws of the United States, pursuant to Congress’s powers to provide for the general welfare of the United States and to establish a uniform rule of naturalization under article I, section 8, of the Constitution.”

There’s nothing there about shampoo labels.

Read the full text here:

Having skimmed through that bill, I can see there have been attempts to preclude certain essential services from being rendered only in English. (See the proposed 4 U.S.C. §163©(1-7).) That much is a welcome departure from the rhetoric that’s been flying in the political arena.

Also, the naturalization requirements are apparently intended for citizens, and not mere resident aliens. That can’t really be construed as a roadblock against immigration.

So the bill seems to contrast sharply with the rhetoric. On one hand, the bill is pretty tame. On the other, the cries for Ameri-centric legislation are ever louder. Now that the issue is a little cloudier, I’d be interested in the specifics of the opposition to the bill.

The bill reads, "To declare English as the official language of the United States,

the comma at the end of this part of the sentance means this section stands on its own

the rest of the sentance is “and” “and” “and” … implying a list with the rest of the commas

“To declare English as the official language of the United States,” pretty much covers everything that happens in the US that the government may be involved with

education, state government, and trade regulations (labels on boxes).

Goto Canada - look at the signs, and the labels on all products - they are not only French in Quebec and English everywhere else. Its required by law.

Send them home, or funnel them through a transparent and just immigration system, but don’t hunt them like terrorists, and don’t legislate more ways to marginalize them, out of spite.

If it is illegal by our laws to come here through less than proper channels, then why shouldn’t we treat those who do come here through those channels like criminals? If they tried to skip over the “transparent and just” system, why should they be shoved back into it? I agree that marginalizing a LEGAL minority is nothing but racist, but If the minority’s very being here is breaking the law, then I don’t see why they shouldn’t be marginalized.

More on topic:

A national language would do nothing but help unify the people of the nation that adopted it. It would encourage those who were coming here to learn the language that everybody else speaks.

If other countries have absolutely no problem adopting English as their language, Then I don’t se why the U.S.A. does.

Oooo, man. Here we go. See, this is why I posted this. I know you all want to get your opinions out there - but comon now, as soon as someone sees different than you - you get in a huge uproar.

My view is that it should be English. My father came here and learned it. So can anyone else - just put fourth a little effort. Start adding one language - than who is to say it’s fair to add JUST that language? Here in the SE Michigan area - should arab be added to everything because of the city of Dearborn?

Just keep it the way it has been - English. YOU moved here, we didn’t displace you. IMHO you have to bend to the home team, not the home team bend for you…

We treat criminals like less than equal, do you have a problem with that?

A criminal is someone who breaks the law,

An illegal alien is a foreign national who resides in another country unlawfully,

You do the math.

Yes but, let me give an example, lets say I trespassed on a clearly marked trespassing zone, where the consequences are I get arrested and removed from said area. Now lets say life is clearly better in this enclosed area, and I also come to find out I can enter said area forever yet, I have to go through a lengthy process. If I choose to go in there without going through the correct process it is considered trespassing

Why isn’t coming into the country without going through immigration considered trespassing?

is there a difference?

Excellent post, Tristan!

  • Encouraging* immigrants to learn English is not exclusionary if done soley for the purpose of bettering communication. As someone here already said, most communication in this country is in English anyways, and it is still necessary for newcomers to this country to learn English in order to succeed.

Keeping this in mind, an official declaration of our language is really not needed. The fact that there is no need for such a law calls into question the motivation for introducing such a bill. Personally, I believe that the motivation is to treat non-native English speakers as second class citizens.

I agree that those who are criminals should be treated as such. The problem that I have is with the discrimination against those who, like Tristan said, are not stereotypically “American”. I feel that our immigration system intentionally makes it very difficult to acquire a legal status - not because of the fear of terrorists (the system has been in place since before 9/11) - but because they want to “keep out” those who they perceive as being a threat to the existing culture (the Anglo-Saxon bubble that I referred to in my first post). This has happened throughout American history - the “old” immigrants have always made it difficult for the “new” immigrants to establish their identities as Americans.

When people complain about immigrants (legal ones) taking “American” jobs, I feel frustrated because in my view, these people ARE just as American as I am! Why is it that people who don’t speak English are treated as something less than American?! This treatment is especially hypocritical coming from those who fit the “American” stereotype - people of European descent whose ancestors were immigrants once too! For example, my great grandfather came here from Italy speaking no English. But he worked hard making a living on a farm, had children, and in this way he established his family in this country. For a long period of time, Italians were discriminated against in this country and were viewed as “non-American”. But I, his descendant, am now considered by society to be an “American”. Why can’t we allow modern immigrants to establish themselves in the same way? Why can’t they be “Americans” too? Why can’t they shape American culture in the same way that the English, Italians, Irish, Polish, Germans, etc. did before them?

To me, “American” isn’t defined by ethnicity. You are an American if you have a desire to live in and contribute to this community. The deliberate attempt to strip people of their cultural identities does not contribute positively to the nation. The differences between cultures - and consequently those people’s perspectives - are the things which make this country great. Establishing an official language (when it is not needed) is simply symbolic of trying to standardize the definition of “American” and prevent minorities from making a positive change to this country.

So, with that said, the problem I have is not so much with the direct effects of the law would be - but instead the message of racial discrimination that this law would represent.