I recently commented on a post by one of my favorite bloggers on Word Press, Sylver Blaque. She and I normally find ourselves in agreement but in the case of this particular post regarding requiring English as a language for all people who live in this country, we disagreed.
I supported the idea and would like to explain my rationale.
In my very early posts I often spoke of my grandmother who came to the United States at the age of 9 and spoke no English. Thanks to her aunt and a dictionary she learned the language. She received no formal education as she had to work to support herself and contribute to her aunt and uncle who provided her food and lodging. This was not unusual for the immigrants who came here at the turn of the 20th century.
In a recent post https://juwannadoright.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/be-afraidbe-very-afraid/, I addressed the requirements we hold for those who have immigrated to the United States and mentioned that one of the requirements to be accepted for citizenship is that these resident aliens must pass a test about how the government is structured and who is currently serving in public office.
It is interesting that at a time when we are becoming more “inclusive” in terms of allowing people to be informed about matters of public interest in languages with which they may be more conversant, it is a requirement that this test is given in English and only in English.
Apparently, on the one hand, the Federal government recognizes the importance of learning English – even as other authorities including the Department of Justice, require that we disseminate information to those who live here, whose primary language is not English, in their native language.
Several months ago, Nevada conducted a primary election. Prior to this I received a booklet which detailed the offices which were being contested and the candidates for those offices. This booklet was printed in both English and Spanish.
As I read the booklet I noticed the following notification, “Clark County has been informed by the DOJ that in the future all election booklets shall be printed in English, Spanish and Tagalog (to accommodate our Filipino voters). Those who would like to receive this booklet in Tagalog may call xxx-xxxx to receive a copy.”
I have an objection to this on two levels. The first is environmental. We are now using twice as much paper as if these booklets were prepared only in English and we will soon expand that to three times as much paper.
The second relates to the level of information and knowledge to which the electorate will have access if they do not speak English. As voting is one of the most fundamental rights and responsibilities we have as citizens, does it not make sense that we should understand and be able to listen to those who are running for office if we are to make an informed decision on who has the best vision for the future of America?
I know for a fact that the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates will be broadcast in the language of those who are running – and that is English – not
Spanish or Tagalog. So if a person cannot understand those debates and what the candidates are saying, how can they make an informed decision about who is worthy of their vote?
As Americans ventured abroad, travelling in Europe in the last century, we coined the term, “Ugly Americans” to describe those who were disdainful of our European friends who didn’t speak English. We expected them to speak our language. We considered that our presumptive right.
How foolish – but these were only visitors in foreign lands. I believe that had some of these decided to relocate to Aix-en-Provence or Venezia, they would have learned French or Italian in order to converse with the locals.
Is it unreasonable to expect less of those who have come to live in America – to learn our official language, English? It was good enough for the immigrants of the last century and I have to say that seems like a reasonable requirement to me.