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Christianity/Religion Social

American Noobs Must Know English

A dispute over English being the national language Friday as a broad immigration bill moved toward a final Senate vote next week with one conservative predicting it will never become law.
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It is mind-boggling to me that any American would question the desirability of English being declared the official language of the United States.

This is America. We speak English. We fly the red, white and blue. We sing proudly our national anthem. We fervently add, GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Tags: America, English, official+language, immigration, immigration+bill
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By Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 81 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She was married to Jerry for 64 years, and grieves yet at his death in August of 2019. They have 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)

22 replies on “American Noobs Must Know English”

Carlos, I appreciate your comments so much, and will try to answer some of your questions.

I’m 67 years old and have seen lots of change, and although it is hard to truly know oneself, I believe I am not afraid of change, actually welcome it if it is an improvement. Your question, though, is a good one–improvement for whom? For me, for the world, for you, for Mexico?

The changes that are happening in the US at this moment seem as negative changes in general. Of course, there are individual people–mostly from Mexico–who benefit from these changes. But I believe overall, these changes will damage our country, and yes, ultimately the world. I don’t have the figures at my fingertips, but it is easily documented that our state–California–is being overrun by undocumented people, who are putting such a strain on our social services as to threaten these entities very existence. We can only take in so many people and tend to them, educate and medicate them. Many thousands of them have broken our laws by sneaking into our country.

Again, I recognize it is hard to truly know oneself, but I believe I am an unprejudiced person–although in some respects, we all have prejudices. I have had lots of interaction with Hispanics and believe they are very fine people. They are artistic, good workers, even-natured, handsome, but a rather laidback people. Their country is beautiful with rich resources, but their leadership is abysmal and is ruled by drug cartels.

Perhaps you may think I have strayed a bit from the subject of English being declared our national language, but really I have not. It is all connected.

Enough for now.

Blessings.

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Shirley, I can certainly see how not knowing my own national language could be a loss to me, but its a choice/path that I’ve chosen for myself and one which has turned out quite well actually! Yes, there are ups and downs with that too and I see now how you ‘choose’ to stand up for your personal beliefs.

On that last thought of your’s, about changing face of the US, are you so protective because you personally see it going downhill, or is it just because things won’t remain as ‘glorious’ they once were? Personally, (and I know this is a bit selfish) I’m not a major fan of change in any status quo, unless there’s some direct benefit for me and quite often it’s so frustrating to see elected officials run things (like customs or values or even commmon sense for that matter), that’ve been so painstakenly maintained, to the ground. Basically either way, I can relate 😉

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Carlos, thank you for coming and leaving this thoughtful post. I agree that one of our greatest freedoms is choice, and this certainly extends to one’s choosing of dominant language.

It’s interesting that you know more English than you do the language of your native land. Would you not agree that is a loss for you, your progeny and your country? (Yet, I recognize how important the knowing of English is.) I only know English, and a smattering of Spanish (seeing I live in southern California), but I think to know multiple languages is of great benefit. I admire European countries whose school systems teach many languages.

But, I am a patriot and feel protective toward our country and its challenges of the moment. English is our tongue, but there be those who wish to change not only our language, but the face of the United States of America.

Come again.

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I’m a fan of the English language and it is ironic that I live, think, breathe English while not knowing squat about my own ‘national language’ (India – Hindi). I put it down to how I was raised – my entire family (going up 3 generations is about as far as I can)speaking English as a means to comunicate.

But from what precious little I know or have realised, one of the biggest freedoms most of us have is one of choice. America is the world’s biggest democracy – India being the oldest.

Its alright to want to always have what one is comfortable with, but change is practically inevitable. In this day and age of globalisation’ and the whole ‘we’re just one big village’ vision, I feel its no longer socially useful to have just a single national language.

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Berean and Helen: Thank you both for your posts–conflicting though they are. Berean, I appreciate your taking the time to post Mr. Bristol's words and I fully agree with him. Recall that I live in southern California where these problems are evidenced daily.

I wish to go one step further: Mr. Harry Reid, the Senate Minority leader, owes America an apology. To call me a racist and to call you a racist because we want English declared our national language, borders on the complete loss of one's sense.

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Concerning Ralph’s comment “. . . it’s neither “silly” nor “racist.” The issues are real and substantive.” Racism is NOT silly; it is REAL. Racism is about power: the power of the rich and usually, although not always, the “white.” Many immigrants do not want assimilation; they want money to feed their families, not white American culture.

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Shirley,

This from a friend of mine(bit lengthy, but worth the read):

If insisting on English being the national language of the U.S. is “silly,” as Cokie Roberts proclaimed on ABC’s Sunday morning program or “racist,” as Senate Minority leader Harry Reid claimed last week, that certainly doesn’t say much for the rest of the world. The Associated Press reports:

Some 158 nations have included a specific measure in their constitutions promulgating one or more national languages, according to a survey by Eduardo Faingold, a professor at the University of Tulsa. The United States is one of the relatively few without such a measure.

Why does language matter so much? Is it about preserving a common culture? Maybe, but I suspect it’s more about power.

The AP story quotes a couple of other college professors.

Walt Wolfram, a social linguist at North Carolina State University — “Language is never about language,” “Why should it be any different in the United States?”

Dick Tucker, an expert on language education, planning and policy at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University – “I think it’s a worry about who will continue to have political and economic influence.”

Consider the case of the Omaha grocer, No Frills, in Omaha. Manager Dick O’Donnell decided a few years back to brush up on his Spanish to help him with the store’s growing number of Latino shoppers.

Now, No Frills is making Spanish mandatory for all managers, pharmacists and butchers at the south side Omaha store. The company will pay for all classes, including overtime. Managers who don’t want to learn Spanish have the option of transferring to other stores.

No Frills President Rich Juro insists, “This is not a political issue at all, this strictly taking care of business.”

It’s not unusual for business owners and employees to have to learn new skills to keep their jobs or to get ahead. It’s also not unusual to meet resistance. I remember when the newsroom at WGEM-TV in Quincy, IL first replaced typewriters with computers. One reporter, who was nearing retirement, couldn’t adjust to the change. She had a nervous breakdown and committed suicide. That’s an extreme example, but it’s not unusual for workers to resist change or find it hard to develop the new skills necessary to keep up or get ahead.

But learning Spanish is not just another necessary skill. It is a skill necessitated by a growing Latino influence. Businesses that tell you to “press one for English and two for Spanish” are doing exactly what the Omaha grocer is doing. They are catering to a new set of customers with new demands. These new customers are forcing change (and people are naturally resistant to change) and they are forcing many people to learn new skills.

Not only does that inconvenience us, it means they are gaining power, and power, unlike the economy, is relatively static – that is, when someone gains power, someone else loses it.

Finally, we don’t know what this loss of power is going to mean. We don’t know what the new immigrants will do with their power. Will they use it against us? Will they be liberals or Marxists, or worse? Fear of the unknown is also very common. It is much easier to imagine the worst than the best – especially in government and politics, which so often disappoints.

The “English is our national language” debate provides a convenient market basket for all of these issues and fears, and it’s neither “silly” nor “racist.” The issues are real and substantive. The fears are justified.

But there are also practical, less emotional reasons that English should not just be the national language, but the official language of the United States. One is that English is the international language of commerce. If you are going to thrive, not just survive, in the United States, you must know how to speak English fluently. Spanish speaking people may have enough buying power and political power to force businesses and government agencies to cater to them, but they will never run those businesses and agencies if they don’t speak English.

Finally, one cannot fully assimilate into a country without learning to communicate with other citizens of the country. Imagine being adopted into a family and not being able to communicate with your new parents or siblings. The same is true for a country. One common language is necessary for any country that is going to resolve its differences peacefully, and especially for a democratic country that believes in open, public debate as the precursor to public policy.

It’s a small example, but a person who can’t speak English can’t even call the Ralph Bristol Show and tell my why they think I’m wrong about the need to learn English.

The “English is the national language” amendments to the Immigration Reform bill in the Senate are both largely symbolic. They should go farther, and make English the “official language” of the United States. If fact, it should be in the Constitution, and all government agencies on all levels should conduct business in English only.

That’s not discrimination. It’s not silly and it’s certainly not racist. It’s simply a tool to achieve the many benefits that accompany the ability to speak English in the United States.

If it’s not asking too much that No Frills managers learn to speak Spanish, it’s certainly not asking too much that immigrants to the United States learn to speak English.

Ralph Bristol

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I believe the adoption of an official language (most of these laws anyway) is an issue for how the government works, legal system, etc. For example, in Australia (where I grew up) they made English “official” but still provide language services and even training to immigrants (btw, they have a MUCH more strict immigration policy than the U.S. does–side note:)

There are also huge social expenses to bilingualism, etc. from packaging, to education to signage, etc.

Where we live we have hispanic communities that have isolated themselves from the “melting pot” and are not becoming part of the community at large because of the language barrier. Historically this has given rise to poverty, gang activity, etc.

My wish is that the U.S. adopt an official single language–I don’t care if it is German, Spanish or Malaysian, just as long as we understand the need for unified communication.

-j

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I understand that it is to one’s benefit to speak the language of the majority. Certainly after a couple of generations in a country immigrants should speak that languge (because both business and eduation use it). I just think passing a law is going too far. Will that law really change the way the marketplace works or just give fuel to people who want to discriminate? Canadians seem to do fine with two official languges. Is it not prejudice that keeps Americans from considering both English and Spanish as “official”?

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Mark and Bodiar, thank you for your comments. I’m with you and certainly don’t see why it’s such a big deal. The big deal is that such a problem has arisen in the first place. And absolutely, no one is saying what language any individual person can speak. That is up to each one. But the wise person who chooses to live in the United States will speak English…it only makes sense.

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Quoting:
Have lived all over the world and know the devisive nature of language. I have lived in countries whose people war with each other simply because they speak different languages.

Yes, in Belgium, we almost do so. It’s quite rediculous, but on the other hand, we have 3 official languages, and in each part of the country, you have to know the primairy language. I think there is a law on that, which basicly says the same thing as this amendament. The law was basicly made in the 60’s, when most of the administration, legal system, etc. was in French in the Dutch-speaking part of the country – so it was quite necessary.

Immigrants have to take courses in our language. That, also, was necessary. Believe me, there are third generation immigrants here in Flanders that barely speak a word of Dutch… And that’s not a good thing. It leads to social decline in certain minorities, because of the language gap between them and the rest of society.

So I don’t see why this is a big deal. I actually thought: “What? They don’t have a law saying that English is their primary language?” It’s a good thing: it makes all people equal. Why? Simply because you have 1 language for all your administration, in your case English. And that’s the base for all equality: not the fact that all men and women alike are given a choice, but the fact that there is no choice. And for something like administration for a whole country, there have to be laws on that.

Oh, right, 1 note: I’m not saying that nobody can speak a different language. I’m just saying that everyone should be able to communicate in 1 language, which is equal for a whole country.

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Daniel, with all due respect, I believe you have misunderstood the bill. Learning English is definitely a choice. No one is forced to learn the language. One can stay unlearned, learn Italian, the Scandinavian languages, an African dialect–whatever one wishes to study and learn, one is free to do so. The bill is only to make English the official national language, not to make everyone learn that language.

I appreciate your coming to my site, reading it, and commenting.

Berean: Thank you for your comments, thoughtful as usual.

God’s blessings to everyone.

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Hi All!

Have lived all over the world and know the devisive nature of language. I have lived in countries whose people war with each other simply because they speak different languages.

If one uses the scripture as any basis of measure then the story at Babel is a good example of what differing languages does to people.

Concensus, unity and progress are based on effective communication–something that does not exist in poly-lingual societies.

Been there, done that–it doesn’t work. 🙂

-j

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Helen, you are indeed a character.

First of all, having English declared as our national language does not demand that everyone learn English. As far as I know, no one will check to see that we all speak English…only that English is declared our national language. If someone wants to speak German or Russian or French, that will be their business. They probably will not have American ballots in their language, nor street signs, nor American newspapers, but they can speak any language they wish to speak.

Your second sentence “…if…speaking English does not help him/her with the process… (bettering his/her life)…(you are indicating, I believe, that person should not be required to learn English.) I venture to say that a person who really wants to better his/her life in America will more easily accomplish that if English is learned. It is the language spoken here.

If I moved to China, my thoughts are that I would be much better served to learn that language. When some friends went with Jerry and me to Hong Kong a few years ago, I tell you we felt completely lost….not able to read the street signs in any way–have a funny story to blog about that some day.

Thanks for your interesting comments…and yes, my mind is yet boggled. 🙂

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Consider your mind further bloogled by me. If an immigrant comes to the US only to better his/her way of life and speaking Engish does not help him/her with the process, why would he/she want to add the burden of learning to speak another language to an alrady all-too-difficult way of life? We live in comfortable houses with stocked refrigerators. Not everyone does. Education is important to us, but that view is a luxury we hold because we have everything necessary to “survive.” Hungry people make poor students.

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