Wednesday, February 17, 2010

English Only Sentiment on Facebook

While on Facebook the other day, I noticed a new meme spreading in people's status updates. It read, "Why the hell do I have to press one for English if I live in America?"

I found that amusing. The obvious answer, "Because English is not the original language of North America?" Here is a response I made to one friend:

Just for the sake of argument, the original languages of the US were Native American. English was imposed later by European immigrants. In addition, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican-American War assured that Mexican citizens who came into American jurisdiction in what is now six states would have their rights recognized. The English speakers were the "immigrants."

Plus, it just makes good business sense to allow customers who speak another language the option to communicate with you in that language as you take their money. I have an online business and I have a Spanish portal there. I enjoy the dollars that result.

But yeah, I wish everyone used English. However, the history of North American does not support a universal English language. Some accommodations for Spanish, French, Hawaiian (the non-immigrant tongue of the State of Hawaii), or other native tongue will not really hurt anyone. I will gladly push one. I will become annoyed though if is becomes "Press two for English."

It really appears to me that anyone insisting on English only in the USA does not understand history very well. It may be just a populist backlash from some who do understand the historical issues but I think many are just ignorant and do not realize that large portions of the USA have been speaking another language like Spanish centuries before they became American and that English is the language of the immigrants.


inkyfingers said...

You are so right! I grew up in New Mexico, and the notion of "English only" there is patently absurd.

How people in say, New England, could even have this notion seems equally ridiculous considering how many place names there are in other (mostly native) languages.

Tom McMahon said...

I think the folks wanting English Only have a **much** better understanding of history than their critics. And one needs only to look north to Canada to see that they are right.

Jesse Alexander said...

@Tom McMahon: I am from Canada, and I'd have to say that my understanding of our history shows that trying not to use two languages for some 200 years even though linguistic dualism was a fact on the ground severely damaged our country and using two languages officially for the last 30 has kept my country together allowed me to have a different, more nuanced view of the world than we'd otherwise have had. It's not only about history, though - it's about respect.