Should English be the official language of the U.S.? | The Tylt
Should English be the official language of the U.S.?
Advocates for designating English as the official language of the United States say the law would encourage immigrants to assimilate into American culture. Having a uniform, shared language would ensure all American citizens can communicate with one another and prevent groups from becoming isolated and separated from one another.
Making English the official language would encourage new migrants to learn the language of the country they have adopted as theirs. The end goal is to unite the American people, while improving the lives of immigrants and native-born inhabitants.
A single language would also increase government efficiency. Catering to all the languages spoken in America costs a lot of money, and it's local governments, not the federal government, shouldering the cost. Designating English as the official language would save taxpayers money in many ways.
There would be savings; official English would save billions in federal spending. The direct cost of translators and bilingual education alone are billions, and many of these costs are born by local governments. In Los Angeles in 2002, $15 million, or 15 percent of the election budget, was devoted to printing ballots in seven languages and hiring bilingual poll workers. Los Angeles county hires over 400 full-time court interpreters at a cost of $265 per day. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed into law Executive Order 13166, which forces health care providers who accept Medicare and Medicaid payments to hire interpreters for any patient who requires one, at the providers’ own expense.
But opponents say movements that push for English to be declared as the official language are rooted in a fear of immigration and change. For starters, the problem of immigrants refusing to learn the language simply does not exist.
From a communication perspective, these types of one-language policies aren’t even necessary in the United States. Immigrant groups tend to linguistically assimilate within a single generation, as was the case with Germans, Italians, Poles, and Greeks in the early 20th century. The same can be said for Hispanic Americans: a 2007 Pew study found that English fluency jumps 65% between first and second generations.
Critics also say there is an ulterior motive for making English the official language—xenophobia. The argument is continually raised to stoke fears that American values and ideals are under attack by immigrants. It's just another way to make people dislike immigrants.
As recent comments by GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump indicate, good, old-fashioned, anti-immigrant nativism is alive and well—the same kind of rhetoric used by turn-of-the-century xenophobes to discriminate against immigrants from Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe.
Forcing people to speak a single language is fundamentally un-American. The biggest proponent of a uniform single language is the Chinese Communist Party, which has used a single-language policy to control minorities and enforce standards on Chinese society.
But what proponents of the English-only movement probably don’t realize is that their closest ideological comrades are also some of their most despised: zealots of the Chinese communist party. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is home to nearly 300 individual living languages. And it is also home to one of the strictest monolingual language policies in the world.