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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Nous Namlok Ein Problema.

Earlier this week I saw a news story that baffled me. In a nutshell, an Iranian couple filed a formal complaint against the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. They wanted to take their driver's license exams in Farsi, their native tongue, and the state refused their request. The couple does not understand English well enough to pass the normal exam. The complaint accused the state department of "unlawful discrimination based on national origin."

Um, excuse me, but last time I checked, all of our street signs are in English. I'd hope someone could understand enough English before being issued a driver's license. (Just so happens the couple went across state lines to Kansas where they were allowed to take the test based on symbols and not language. They then crossed back into Oklahoma and exchanged their Kansas licenses for Oklahoma ones.)

I heard the young man who filed the complaint on the couple's behalf in an interview a few days ago. It was his belief that every state should provide driver's tests in any language requested. Can you imagine the administrative and financial burden this would place on the government (and in turn, your tax dollars)?

Now, I have no problem with legal immigration. It's how this nation started and one of the many reasons for its greatness. We've been able to draw from the strength and creativity of so many different cultures, and that is beautiful. But it is my belief that in order to maintain the unity and functionality of a nation, you need at least two things: BORDERS and COMMON LANGUAGE. We need to make English the official language of the United States, and people should be expected to learn it if they choose to make their home here.

What do you think? Should English be made the official language of our nation?


Ross Middleton said...

Heck yeah, that's redonkulous. People are crazy, we already have two languages on everything, and without trying not to sound like some crazy, right winged, fundamentalist, that's one too many.

Nathan Talbot said...

Teddy Roosevelt penned his thoughts on immigration in 1919 and the words could not be more profound or hold more truth today. His thoughts so eloquently stated sum up exactly how I feel on the subject.

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith, becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American… There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”—Theodore Roosevelt, 1919

portorikan said...

I disagree that English should be the official language of the United States.

I do agree that people who move to the US should make sure they have learned enough English to be able to function, live and communicate effectively with others, and continue to enhance/improve the learning of the language the longer they live here.

This has been done by others before and will continue to be done without the need to make English the official language.

Kelley said...

Just curious, Portorikan, what do you believe would be the downsides of making English the official language?

portorikan said...

One of the downsides I feel would be create/maintain racism for those who speak other languages in the states, making them more of an outcast in their new surroundings. Reading some of the comments on the story you linked to, you can see the attitudes of people aren't the friendliest.

Also, because of this alienation, it may cause the children of these new immigrants to be ashamed of their culture and heritage due to outside pressure to 'drop' or forget their or their parent's native tongue.

I just don't know that legislating an official language is beneficial or necessary. We're a nation of immigrants that speak/spoke many different languages. Our Language is a part of who we are, and to create an official language seems to me to be denying our history and other cultures that make our nation what it is today.

This is obviously my opinion, but it does come from someone who is bilingual, and who's parents learned the English language after moving to the mainland. The didn't need a law declaring an official language to help them learn English, get jobs, raise 3 children

Angel said...

Hmm, interesting question. I see the plus of having English as the official language. I see the point of "power in a common language". I guess I can go either way on this one. I know when I first came to this country I wanted to learn English because I wanted to be successful.

What gets me however, is the fact that America is literally a "melting pot of cultures" and yet other languages being spoken is still not openly accepted. People tend to think youre talking about them or get unfomfortable beacuse they dont understand. I think Americans dont really see a need or dont see the open doors that come from being bilingual. This in turn causes them to have that mentality of "your in America, speak English". When the truth is that with the Spanish-Speaking population growing the way it has in recent years the majority could soon be the minority. Lets all learn at least 2 languages! I love languages!

Amy Middleton said...

Yeah I think it would be wise for the future of the country to establish one common language- English that is. Like you mentioned it would bring unity, etc. I do think American's need to start learning more languages though and not be so ignorant and judgmental to those who don't speak English well. With English being the "official language" I think there would need to be a push in schools and business to also possibly require people to learn at least one other language, starting at a young age... mainly to help us be successful and communicate well with other cultures, but also so we aren't so arrogant (which tends to be the trend).

Anonymous said...

The issue at hand is not nearly as complicated as people like to make it out to be. The fact is that America is comprised of people from more than 200 nations all of which have one or more languages. There are literally thousands of languages represented by "Americans" and one of those had to be chosen as a common language. Why? Because not having an official language is dangerous,difficult, expensive, and divisive among other things. To someone of German decent like myself whose forefathers were denied the privilege of having American laws published in German in 1795 (and numerous times after that)it is laughable that now someone would expect to have that privilege in Farsi or Spanish. I have learned to speak both Spanish and Farsi in order to live and drive in both Spain and Afghanistan. Never did I consider it odd that I would be expected to be capable of communicating with their police officers who did not happen to speak my native language of English. In order to live in those societies I had to learn those languages.
Anyone who has lived in a country like Canada, Spain, or Afghanistan (all of which have two official languages and all of which I have lived in), knows how impractical it is. Since it would be impossibly discriminatory to choose only one additional official language and since it is excessively inefficient I think it preposterous to even consider such a thing. Furthermore, it is too great an economic burden, as Canada has discovered 2x means x2. Actually, twice the expense, twice the time - one fourth the outcome. It starts snowballing like compound interest and before you know it, you just shut down an economy. Simple math really. It could have been German, French, Spanish, or whatever but it wasn't/ isn't. Has nothing to do with being the best or worst language, and everything to do with being the one we have.


Clay said...

what he said. (tanner)

Robin said...

I do not think that English needs to become the official language. We are seen as arrogant around the globe as it is. I don't think that driver's test needs to be translated into other languages either. My father came here from Panama and made a great living for himself and our family who has produced children that contribute to society and he did not know English until he had lived here a few years. I just think that you can't base English needing to be the official language on this one story. There are so many stories and so many people. I would want to know why this is such an important issue to people and why they feel (deep down) they want for this to happen. Is it to be more comfortable? This is why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Jaz said...

the idea of not having an official language is ludicrous. why do we think that we as americans shouldn't have one? THAT is arrogance to assume that we shouldn't because people don't like it. french is the official language of what country??? france. german??? germany. here is a shocker, too. english is the official language of england. so on and so forth. just because, magyar, the official language of hungary, is spoken by only 15 million people in the world. 13 million of them live in and around hungary. trust me, they didn't care that i didn't have a clue about their language and they weren't about to change what they do for me or anyone else. pretty normal.

it's nothing new and it should be done because this is an english speaking country and if you're going to live here and contribute you should adopt the means to do such. why would i expect anything different if i moved overseas? that would be arrogant.

it's funny to me that as americans we expect the world to make every exemption and exception for us AND we should make it for them. what is this? i guess everyone else can have their own specific culture, but God knows we shouldn't. awesome.

regardless of where you come from you should be treated with the respect and dignity that is incumbent upon every human being. at the same time, it's completely ridiculous to presume upon an entire culture, society, and people to change who they are to suit your needs. asking for help? yes. suing so that you can get your way when you're 2 of 300 million? it's not right and if you care about who we are as a people and the millions of people who have made this country what it is then it's in your best interests to continue on that as opposed to make exceptions for every person.

Kelley said...

Just to make myself clear... Making English the official language of the USA has nothing to do with thinking one language is better than another, with being arrogant, or with being comfortable. It has everything to do with being practical and pragmatic. It doesn't mean you can't speak other languages here. It doesn't mean other languages can't be appreciated or taught. It doesn't mean people are heartless or insensitive. It means you have to have a common language for business, government, education, etc. to operate in. I think French should be the official language of France. I think Italian should be the official language of Italy. I think Spanish should be the official language of Spain. It also has nothing to do with this story alone... this story is just a good example of how crazy it can get if people are allowed to demand things in their native tongue. Let me reiterate a point I already made: A nation can't continue to exist as such without a common language and borders. (And please reread Tanner and Jaz's comments as they make the point very well).

Anonymous said...

America is built and developed by immigrants, and probably 95+% of Americans immigrated to the US from all over the world. This by no means could be interpreted that anyone who wants to move to the US should be able to do so. I think the US policy on immigration is generally fair and unbiased. However, there are certain things, in my opinion, that should be addressed when it comes to immigration, for example, cultural assimilation, respecting American values and language communicability. Cultural assimilation: People who want to legally live in the US should respect and accept the American values, meaning they can practice whatever cultural/religious/ceremonial… traditions they have, as long as they are compatible with the American values. For instance, child/forced marriage and female genital mutilation cannot (and should not) be tolerated in any sense in the US although such a practice is accepted in some countries and cultures!!!??? Respect for American values: People who wants to move and live in the US cannot ask their belief system/values/way of life be imposed on other people. For instance, sharia law (Islamic law) in no way can be accepted in the US as it contradicts American values and human rights although Muslims still have the right to practice Islam. In other words, if a Muslim wants to practice whatever he deems appropriate for himself as Muslim, he is free to do so as long as it doesn’t violate the right of someone else other than himself. However, he/she doesn’t have the right to impose those things once living in the US on someone else. Language Communicability: Anyone who comes to live in a new country, must be able to communicate with others, or else, he/she will be a burden on others. I think, people who come to the US to live should either know English or be willing to learn English. The government has no obligation to provide translation services for people other than criminal cases (and situations where stipulated by law). In short, if the government doesn’t want me to live on welfare, I should be required to learn the language where I live.
Coming to English becoming the formal language of the United States, it needs more than some people arguing about it. Well, English is already the “defacto” formal language of the United States anyway. If it is meant to be stipulated as a law that everyone in the United States must learn English since it is the formal language, I think it must be decided by all Americans in a referendum. Nevertheless, I don’t agree with the idea that any language should be imposed on the people (specifically citizens, not immigrants) as a formal language. A Native American may decide not to speak in English at all, and just speak in his/her language of origin. And in that case, the government has the ethical obligation to support that language. In general, it is good to have a language as a “formal language” in a country to help ease the communication between people.

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic... Consider this, though:

There are territories & areas that are part of the U.S. but are historically from different language backgrounds, such as Puerto Rico, some parts of Texas & California, among other places. Some of these geographical locations did not incorporate themselves to the U.S. willingly, but as a result of Treaties with other countries, especially Spain.

People in these areas already had a language and a culture associated to that language. So, why should they be expected to learn a language they didn't choose to be a part of in the first place?

I'm not saying that they need to resist speaking English, since in order to survive day-to-day life in the U.S., you need to at least have basic communication skills in the language. However, making English the official language of the U.S. would force these groups of people to speak, read, and communicate in English in all aspects of their daily lives, losing a bit of their identity and their culture at the same time.

This is how heritage dies... this is how cultures and languages die.

Granted, requesting a driver's license test in a native tongue might be taking it a bit too far, I don't think we should jump so quickly into "make English the official language" without thinking of its true impact nationwide.

Remember, your liberties end where someone else's begin.