“National Language”

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Well, it was significantly weakened before it was passed, but an amendment was approved to the immigration bill that makes English the "National Language". It still allows existing bilingual requirements, but it does at least strengthen requirements for English language proficiency for naturalization.

The measure, approved 63 to 34, directs the government to "preserve and enhance" the role of English, without altering current laws that require some government documents and services be provided in other languages. Opponents, however, said it could negate executive orders, regulations, civil service guidances and other multilingual ordinances not officially sanctioned by acts of Congress.

That vote, considered a defeat for immigration-rights advocates, was followed last night by an important victory: By 58 to 35, the Senate killed an amendment that would have blocked eventual citizenship for future immigrants who arrive under a temporary work permit. Democrats and Republicans agreed that the amendment would have destroyed the fragile, bipartisan coalition backing the Senate bill.

By watering it down from making English the official language, it made it past the vote. It's at least a symbolic start. A single, required language is an absolute must for assimilation to occur. Bilingualism promotes Balkanization and lessens national identity.

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43 Responses to “National Language”

  1. Liberty and Justice TrackBack
    When someone moves to the US, it is completely logical they learn to speak English and that it is expected of them.
    Whenever one wants to participate in any society, it is logical that one learns to speak the language that is spoken in that society and that one adapts to that society.

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  3. Devil's Advocate says:

    Yeah, God forbids that Americans actually become multilingual. They might actually become interested in the world around them, and broaden their thinking. Can’t have that happening now, can we?

  4. Gaius says:

    Ah, how very French of you.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, English is the language of commerce in the world.

  5. Sven says:

    Ironically, the French are at the cutting edge in the fool’s errand of legislating monolingualism.

  6. Gaius says:

    Ah, but there intent is completely different. They want to keep the French language itself “pure” and unadulterated by that dastardly English. They insist on maintaining the laughable position that they are a world power and are somehow “important”. Hence Chirac stormed out of a meeting when a Frenchman dared speak English and declare tha English was the language of business.

    My forebears had the wisdom and foresight to get themselves thrown out of France, for which I am eternally grateful.

  7. Gwendolyn says:

    We all have very short memories — or perhaps many of us do not remember family stories. My great-grandparents, who immigrated from Canada (French-speaking Cajuns) and Sicily, did not speak English at all. Yet, they were good citizens, contributed to society, raised a family, and were homeowners. What was important, however, is that their own children learned English. Hence, my grandmother spoke not only English (she was a nurse in the 1920’s), but also Cajun French when she was with family and like-speaking friends; and my grandfather spoke English primarily, but could still understand a bit of Italian. My mother and her siblings did not speak either French or Italian at all, however.

    Having been a language major in college (my elementary and high schools had language requirements), I understand that it is very difficult to learn a second language later in life. Neurological studies have shown that the brain is wired for language early on in life, and that the ability to learn a second language diminishes as we grow older. As long as first-generation immigrants stress learning English to their children, I do not see the point of requiring English for citizenship.

    And, as for English being the language of commerce, when I grew up, French was the language of commerce. Yet, except here in Louisiana, very few people I knew spoke any French at all, or even bothered to learn a few words when they travelled to Europe. Where was all the outrage then?

  8. Devil's Advocate says:

    I was unaware of the fact that being multingual meant being French…

    By all means, do not ever learn another language in addition to English. That would be a dangerous step towards sophistication.

  9. Gaius says:

    My mother’s parents were immigrants from Norway. They did not allow Norwegian to be spoken in the home. Period. They had accents until the day they died, but they learned English the very first they could.

  10. Gaius says:

    I see, you equate learning another language with sophistication. Interesting yardstick.

  11. Sven says:

    Ah, but there intent is completely different.

    The hell it is. Ever heard of ,a href=”http://www.sunderland.ac.uk/~os0tmc/contemp1/lepen.htm”>Jean-Marie Le Pen?

  12. Randy says:

    Did y’all see Bush’s picture in a dune buggy, patrolling the border? It’s his most powerful photo-op yet. Muy bien, gracias!

  13. Devil's Advocate says:

    White trash don’t need no foreign language.

  14. Black Jack says:


    Go multilingual all you want, learn as many other languages as your fancy paints, even French or Hottentot if that’s your thing, get jumped up, put your nose in the air and get sophisticated as all get out, point your pinkie and spout Persian poetry, or measure out your life with coffee spoons, go for it, yeah, let it all hang out, but just make sure you learn American English first so you can talk to the folks you elected to join.

  15. Gaius says:

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    You know what, Devil's advocate? You're probably the single most ignorant person posting here in quite some time.

    UPDATE: And he's banned.

  16. Marci Kiser says:

    Aw man…

    Do you have any idea how hard this is going to make it to order food at Taco Bell? All those furrin’ words cluttering up the menu…

    And forget about buying any more imported beers. Nuts!

  17. Juggler says:

    I spent a couple of weeks in Turkey in December. An English speaking person in Istanbul actually would have little need to learn Turkish. My understanding is that one can get by very well there with just French or German, too.

    Konya was definitely a different story, but I never felt hostility towards me because I didn’t speak Turkish. In the small town of Selcuk (near Ephesus, where Mary and St. John went after Jesus’ death/resurrection) it seemed like English was in use as much as Turkish.

    A friend of mine lived in Athens for nearly 10 years, got by quite well, even though he didn’t learn much Greek.

    The English-only people like to spread the myth that in other countries you have to learn the native language to get by, but that’s often not the case.

  18. Scott says:

    I’m so glad the Senate has their priorities straight. Lets not allow that pesky war or those inconvenient high gas prices get in the way of the important things.

    On to Gay Marriage amendments that have no chance of passage!

  19. Renne P. says:

    Does this mean that Fl. Governer Jeb Bush will no longer be giving press conferences in spanish?

  20. Juggler says:

    Bush used to speak some Spanish while on the campaign trail. I’ve heard he even sung the National Anthem in Spanish! Horrors!

  21. jeff says:

    Blackjack: Let me guess, you think Mallard Fillmore is the most hysterical comic strip ever created?
    Knowing other languages is useful if you want to understand and deal effectively in other cultures. If folks wish to fully integrate in US society, they should speak English. If that’s not important to them, fine. Having lived and worked in foriegn lands and having made the effort to learn the local language, the folks in above postings who “did fine” without learning turkish, greek, whatever actually don’t know what they missed because they, like people who live in this country without speaking english, remained on the fringe.

  22. Shawn says:

    “We all have very short memories — or perhaps many of us do not remember family stories. My great-grandparents, who immigrated from Canada (French-speaking Cajuns) and Sicily, did not speak English at all. Yet, they were good citizens, contributed to society, raised a family, and were homeowners. What was important, however, is that their own children learned English.”

    The political culture is different enough now that there may be no pressure upon new immigrants to have anyone in their family learn the language. Instead of expecting immigrants to adapt to their new country, many in Congress would have the nation adapt to the immigrants. While Canada has its English-speaking majority and a sizable French-speaking sector, the two cultures have clashed at times, even to the point of many in French-speaking Canada desiring to secede.

    I don’t think it’s asking too much that we expect new immigrants to become proficient in the predominant language of this nation. Failure to do so could very well handicap their opportunities here.

  23. Michelle Murphy says:

    “A single, required language is an absolute must for assimilation to occur.”

    Right. Those first 200 years our country was just a powerless Tower of Babel. Now that we’ve figured out we need to pass laws strictly legislating language while at the same time we repeal all laws controlling guns, us Americans can get down to our God given destiny of empire and world domination.

  24. Juggler says:


    I do think for a full experience it’s helpful to understand the language.

    I recently spent a week living in an Australian Aboriginal community. Most of the people there also speak English, and their language now contains many English words, but it was clear that I was missing a lot by not speaking the language.

    I actually felt less of that in Istanbul, but more of that in Konya. If I were to live there, I think I would want to learn some Turkish.

    I don’t know if it’s still true, but it wasn’t that long ago where New York City had pockets where English was scarce. It seems that it’s when the people speaking other languages have brown skin that a big deal is made of it.

  25. Gaius says:

    Not one person here raised race as an issue, juggler – that’s out of line and extremely insulting.

  26. DocAmazing says:

    >Bilingualism promotes Balkanization and lessens national identity.

    Yeah, that Switzeerland–ready to blow up any minute!

  27. Gaius says:

    Yeah, Doc – show me any other place that worked out. Switzerland was a very unusual occurrence in history – they banded together because of the (working from memory here, so may be off) Hohenzollern oppression of the area.

    I know of no other place it worked out.

  28. An Jiaoshi says:

    The only thing necessary for assimilation to occur is *time.*

    Every wave of immigrants follows the exact same pattern: The adults who arrive continue to speak the language of their home country. Their children grow up bilingual, speaking the home language at home and English at school and everywhere else. Their children’s children grow up speaking English.

    We have this fantasy notion that “European immigrants assimilated faster” because we’re looking back in time through a telephoto lens, and everything’s compressed. European immigration to the United States peaked 80 to 100 years ago. All we see now are the children of the children of European immigrants. Latino immigration, on the other hand, has been on the rise for 30 years; we get new immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries daily, and naturally, they speak Spanish. But their children speak some English, and their children’s children will speak _nothing but_ English. We’ve never needed English-only laws to accomplish this in the past, and we don’t need it now.

  29. Gaius says:

    I disagree, An. Yes, immigrants have always had to learn before. Yes it has sometimes taken generations. But they were not encouraged to keep their own language. The push to use bilingual education, ballots, signage and whatever keeps the immigrants in a state of never having to learn English. It essentially creates a permanent underclass, whether you see it or not.

  30. DZ says:

    The Confederatia Helvetica – Switzerland – dates from at least the 16th century at which time the Hohenzollerns were the pathetic rulers of a bunch of extremely poor Prussian peasants. It was really until the 18th century with Frederick the Great that the Hoenzollerns acquired any significant power. Switzerland banded together as protection against the Hapsburgs in the East and the Bourbons in the West.

    Btw, Switzerland has four national languages – German, French, Italian and Romansch.

  31. Gaius says:

    Yeah, I couldn’t remember whihc one of the “H” families. I should have gone with Hapsburg.

  32. DocAmazing says:

    Hey, Gaius–

    Belgium’s got two official languages (French and Flemish) and a lower infant mortality than we do.

    Canada’s got two official languages (English and French) and a far lower crime rate than the US.

    South Africa’s got two official languages (English and Afrikaans) and the problems they’re having aren’t over ballot translations.

    China’s growning outrageously well, despite having at least four different dialects which are so distinct as to be separate languages.

    India’s got numerous languages and seems to be able to take over much of our computer industry in spite of their linguistic disagreements.

    The Philippines have a whole bunch of languages and a stable government with a growing economy.

    Shall I go on?

  33. Gaius says:

    So, you demand we have Spanish as an official language?

  34. Gaius says:

    Hey, Doc –

    Let’s see, Standard Mandarin is the official language of China


    The official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and English


    The Belgians are officially bilingual, but that seems to have caused some problems over time


    And I have witnessed personally some of the discord that the two official languages in Canada have caused.

    Shall I go on?

  35. DocAmazing says:

    Hey, Gaius–

    You’re right: no one speaks Hakka or Cantonese in China. That would be wrong and divisive.

    Filipinos are at least officially bilingual. (The language, by the way, is called “Tagalog”. You could look it up.) Several dozen other languages are also spoken, and are more-or-less official in each of their respective provinces.

    The “problems” and “discord” suffered by the poor, benighted, less-likely-to-die-in-infancy-or-early-adulthood Canadians and Belgians can’t compare to a typical Friday night in my native Oakland.

    Face it. Monolingualism is no more a predictor or sign of stability than a state religion or a secret handshake. An official language manages to be exclusionary and divisive without providing any benefits. Some of us prefer our xenophobia a little more unadorned.

  36. Gaius says:

    Hey, Doc,

    It’s not xenophobia, nice try. One common method of trying to stifle discussion is to throw a race bomb – which you just did.

    You’d want to read the post I just put up.

  37. DocAmazing says:

    Xenophobia–comes from the Greek, not the Latin, so I’m not surprised you’d misinterpret the word. Nothing about “race” in that word. Just fear of Auslanders (seeing as we’re playing the polyglot game), not necessarily implying that those folks are of a different color or other racial characteristic.

    Nice race-card riposte, there.

  38. DocAmazing says:

    The post you just put up–would that be the red, white and green hair? Very Mexican…

  39. Gaius says:

    Ok, split hairs. The common usage, as I am sure you know, is to use “xenophobia” as shorthand for “little brown people”. As has been done – repeatedly – in comments here.

    And the only people who use either term are left-leaning.

  40. Gaius says:

    No, the camera doesn’t quite render colors naturally. It’s actually more like red, blond and a sort of weird, radioactive purple. I don’t think it worked quite as she expected because she’s actually a brunette. Likely her head is highly flammable right now.

  41. DocAmazing says:

    The colors actually look quite good, though not exactly what most ‘Murrkins would consider patriotic.

    “Little brown ones”…wasn’t that Barbara Bush?

    “Left-leaning”? Gaius, I don’t lean left, I’m all the way left.

  42. Sirkowski says:

    Are you gonna rid of all the latin on the dollar bills?

  43. Robert says:

    Now that the official language thing is handled, let’s get to something else important.

    What are we gonna call Freedom Fries now?

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