Monday, June 28, 2010

Official English? Why Bother!


The English-as-the-official-language movement just won’t go away. The Hill Country Observer of Cambridge, New York, reported that the town council of Jackson, New York (population: 1,700) recently made political hay by passing an ordinance declaring English the town’s official spoken and written language. Reporter Evan Lawrence writes in “Making a Statement, in Plain English” (June 2010) that the town’s ruling brought the American Civil Liberties Union bearing down on it to reverse the law, and everyone in the area seems to have an opinion on the matter.

No doubt, the issue is controversial. On one side stand those who believe that benevolent face of diversity brings with it a sinister aspect—a corruption of the primary language and an unfair bias toward Spanish, the nation’s second language, over other world languages. On the other side are those who believe that such a law is harshly discriminatory and unwelcoming toward visitors who communicate in a nonnative first language.

Those who support the English-first movement have overlooked an obvious fact: English already is the de facto first language—not only of Jackson, not only of New York, not only of the USA, not only of North America, but of planet Earth. English is the official language of the international marketplace. Wherever I go, I hear businesspeople say that if they want to get ahead in their company, they need to learn English. This is the reason that jobs are available to teach English overseas in virtually every non-English speaking country in the world.

As for America’s national bias toward Spanish, why not? More people on this side of the world speak Spanish than English as a first language. People from Spanish-speaking countries and territories are our neighbors—neighbors who work hard, admire the United States, and want for their family what English-speaking people do: success that can come far easier only by mastering English.

Why should Americans feel insecure about their language? To make it in the USA, people have no choice but to learn English. No law will change that reality.



Books by Philip Vassallo

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