Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

English Only?

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Philly eatery’s controversial English-only sign.

While some folks are upset about this, I think it’s well within the owner’s rights as a private businessman. The sign may be boorish to some, but so what? I don’t have a problem with businesses requiring people to speak English to get service, within reason of course. I mean if some bleeding fellow walks into your business, and collapses saying “ayuda me por favor,” you can’t just point to the “English Only” sign on the wall and leave him laying there.

More generally, the language issue has certainly been in the news lately. I think we really have far more important things to worry about right now as a nation, so I don’t see it as being all that big a deal. It is a divisive issue though, and that’s a shame, because we need more divisiveness in the USA like we need another stupid war.

It might be an idea to make English the “Federal” language, so that it’s clear that the Federal Government conducts its business in English and if you bring suit in a Federal Court or otherwise conduct business with the Federal Government you either speak English or provide your own translation. States would be free to declare the same or not, but I do think ALL ballots should be in English by law. And it would be fine if people printed up any amount of ballot preparation materials in whatever language they please, but when someone walks into the booth the ballot should be in English. That might satisfy many of the people who want English protected without antagonizing the Americans who would prefer a more multilingual country. I doubt it though, compromise seems to be as out of style as being divisive is in style.

Now as for making English the “law of the land,” or requiring it for citizenship…no…that’s just racism in disguise.

Bilingual education is trickier. I think we should do whatever is best for kids, but parsing what that should be is difficult. The idea that its a good idea to toss a four year old who has never spoken a word of English into an English only school is debatable. There is research that shows that doing this results in a adult who speaks two languages badly, whereas with bilingual education you get an adult who speaks two languages fluently. But this is loaded issue and trying to figure out just what is really the case is similar to trying to find out if undocumented workers are a good thing or a bad thing for the economy. Depends on who you want to believe sadly. Did I mention divisiveness already?

I also think second language instruction should be mandatory in the schools, it’s ridiculous that so many Americans are completely monolingual. If more Americans were bilingual it can’t but be a good thing for the country. And Jesus Christ, the way some Americans carry on about only speaking English, you’d think ignorance was a point of pride!

(Use of the above eatery sign image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is an historically important image, it is not being used for profit, and it is central to illustrating the subject of this post.)

Written by unitedcats

June 13, 2006 at 8:53 pm

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