OCALA, Fla., December 6, 2013 — America is a very divided nation these days.
Most often, pundits, politicians, and partisans focus on a small set of issues. The poor economy, hot-button social policy, and national security get the spotlight without failure.
As this is going on, we fail to notice that fewer and fewer Americans are able to communicate with one another. This is not because of some sweeping pandemic which has left untold millions mute. Rather, it has everything to do with the fact that less and less people in our country speak English.
“One of the defining characteristics of a nation is having a shared, common language,” Robert Vandervoort, the executive director of ProEnglish, explains to The Washington Times Communities.
He continues: “The loss of a common national language often leads to fragmentation and conflict. Making English our official language will send an important message for assimilation in this country, as well as reduce unnecessary government translation costs.”
Mauro E. Mujica is the chairman of U.S. English, a leading advocacy group for adopting English as America’s official language. Last year, he told TWTC that “(o)ur nation’s motto is E Pluribus Unum-out of many, one. The founder of U.S. English, former California Senator S.I. Hayakawa, once said, ‘A common language can unify; separate languages can fracture and fragment a society.’
“He is exactly right - America is a melting pot, and in order to maintain a unified society, we must embrace English as a common language. It would be a shame to see the country divide along linguistic lines, and to see immigrants continue to be held back by language barriers. Having an official language sends the message that learning the common language leads to success in this country.”
How might the federal government go about instituting English as our official language? What advice could be given to Congress on the matter?
“There are two bills pending in Congress right now to make English our official language at the federal level,” Vandervoort says. “One is by Congressman Steve King of Iowa, the ‘English Language Unity Act’ (H.R. 997). The other bill is S. 464, which was introduced in the Senate by Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. This should be an easy bill for Congress to pass given the widespread support it has with the public.”
Some believe that America should not have an official language of any kind. They say that such a thing will promote social discord.
“My opinion is that quite the opposite will happen,” Mujica stated. “In fact, I would argue that social discord is promoted by the lack of an official language! The idea of adopting an official language is not a new one. In fact, 92 percent of the world’s countries have at least one official language-and English is an official language in 51 nations.
“What many people don’t realize is that making English the official language of government sends a message that English leads to success - it encourages people to learn English. And learning English prevents the exclusions that occur when a non-English speaker faces situations such as shopping at a grocery store or asking for medical advice, in which they often aren’t able to receive foreign language translations.”
Vandervoort mentions that “(m)any of the opponents of official English seek to promote multilingualism and multiculturalism instead. Our view is that multiculturalism will cause greater social discord than promoting linguistic unity. Also, most countries in the world have an official language of one kind or another.
“There are over fifty countries in the world that have made English their official language. We think America should be the next country to make English official.”
Such statements might make some wonder about the ultimate alternative to instituting English as America’s official language.
“Unfortunately, living in a linguistically isolated community does no one any favors-rather, it serves to isolate residents,” Mujica remarked. “Studies have shown that for those just beginning to learn English, being in an environment where more English is spoken helps them learn more quickly. Official English will allow foreign language speakers to maintain their unique language and heritage, while also encouraging them to reap the benefits that come from being able to participate in an English-speaking society.”
Vandervoort tells that “(w)ithout an official English law, we will continue to see increases in costly government translation services. Without official English laws, we will also continue to see a rise in divisive multiculturalism. The bottom line is that assimilation will decrease in this country.”
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