Objecting to an English-only America

chris.paulus

After reading forum upon forum on the Internet proudly exclaiming that only English should be spoken in the United States, I’ve realized that there is cause for concern about the perspective of the American populous beyond these vigilant American walls. Our insistence on speaking English in America can be easily dissected by viewing it through a discipline often ignored: linguistics.

The fact that so many people are obsessed with this issue is a continuing example of how ignorant people are in the United States. We are completely blind to the idea of multilingualism, yet just about every other nation is open to the idea.

“Multilingualism is the norm around the world,” said David Boe, an English professor at NMU. According to CIA World Factbook, Switzerland has four official languages. South Africa has eleven. Canada is bilingual. The two countries in which English is predominantly spoken, Britain and the United States, don’t even have it as their official language. English, which to other countries is a foreign language, is at the top of education in many countries. According to Jan Svartvik, author of “English: One Tongue, Many Voices,” English is.the most commonly taught foreign language all over the world. We are becoming increasingly dependent on foreign goods, yet we’re arrogant enough to believe that it’s not practical to become a multilingual nation like the rest of the world.

Besides, when have we ever taken seriously the idea of putting respect for language at the forefront? The priority list of the average American doesn’t always include speaking English properly. I’m tired of texts and e-mails that say “wat r u up 2,” and “your wrong.” I’m tired of people doing “bad” on tests and not speaking “good” English. People constantly tell me they “seen” someone at the store. Every day I see grammar and spelling errors on Facebook. Companies also have odd ways of representing the language well: McDonald’s has a “Drive-Thru” — left and right they continue to name themselves things like “U Save Autos” and “Homes 4 U.” We claim that we can’t understand immigrants trying to speak English, but I say that I can’t understand Americans trying to speak English. How is it that we can demand that new immigrants speak our language when students attending higher, formal education, or companies such as McDonald’s, can’t even provide at least a decent example of how the language ought to be spoken? Not surprisingly, the grammar police are coincidentally off duty when it comes to culture bashing and intolerance.

Observing these hypocrisies, it is my contention that these noble patriots aren’t really out to respect and preserve the language of a culture. Rather, the animosity towards foreign language is a reflection of the uneasiness associated with cultural acceptance. It is understandable that we are uncomfortable with hearing a predominant new language in our country, but it is an ignorant, not to mention a fruitless response to try to push it away simply because we’re uncomfortable. Most of us realize this and we’re embarrassed about it, so we, consciously or unconsciously, conveniently hide our true nativist agenda behind propaganda, non-existent laws, and logic that ignores boundaries of culture, diversity, and circumstance. Our true agenda is part of a greater goal of carving up language a little nicer to make the world seem safer to ignorant Americans. Profanity makes us uncomfortable, so we ask the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modulate radio waves and censor out obscene language on television.

Words such as “cripple,” “poor” and “midget” make us uncomfortable, so we impose euphemistic language such as “economically disadvantaged.” Likewise, foreign languages, people and rituals make us uncomfortable, so we impose lame logic and propaganda to prohibit their arrival as well.

We say people aren’t learning English? The only population of people not learning English is us. From now on, let only decent representatives of the English language do the talking.