It has been suggested that making English the official language of the United States will benefit our country.
On the contrary, officializing the language which has served our country profoundly for the last two centuries would be admitting its defeat.
Throughout our nation’s history, immigrants from around the world have been coming to the United States speaking little to no English.
One way or another, these immigrants have found a way to thrive in the melting pot in spite of their linguistic difficulties.
Despite our country’s success in championing itself as a nation of immigrants, some have questioned the de facto status of English in the United States, believing it should be officialized because immigrants today are not trying hard enough to learn the language.
To insinuate that people no longer want to learn English in America would be an insult to Mark Twain, Robert Frost and Arthur Miller, whose works have inspired millions to take on the task of learning the language of Shakespeare.
By the year 2000, over a billion people were studying the English language. The British Council estimates that over 750 million people speak English as a second language.
With such a vast number of Anglophiles around the globe, it is surprising that some would believe the English language is on the decline.
In fact, English has become so prominent that the French Canadians are starting to get worried. Earlier this year, the province of Quebec proposed revising a law that would further disincentivize the use of English.
The original law, known as the Charter of the French Language, has been responsible for the closure of several English speaking schools and businesses. Some Canadians have reported that the bureaucrats tasked with enforcing the law had deported a parrot to the Toronto Zoo because he was speaking more English words than French.
It would be amazing to think this preponderance was apparent in everywhere but the most preponderant country in the world.
Another myth heard too many times around this topic is that other languages in the United States corrupt and damage English. If critics of multilingualism were really concerned about the purity of the English language, they should find a way to avoid using ketchup, jungle, breeze, mattress, zombie and hurricane in their everyday speech.
What is important to know is that making English the official language would only be a symbolic gesture. The United State is required by law under the Voting Rights Act to provide ballots in other languages where there is a sizable population of citizens who do not speak English as their primary language.
An official language policy as a means to force people to learn English would place a heavy burden on older groups of immigrants who are already struggling to adapt to life in a new world.
Instead of staying at home to teach their grandchildren the beautiful poetry of Pablo Neruda or the prose of Sun Tzu, these abuelas and nanas will be chained to ESL classrooms which are poorly run and there is no guarantee that they will understand the significance of Beowulf by the time they finish their course.
Though these grandmothers may struggle with speaking English, history indicates that their children will speak English primarily and their children’s children will only speak English.
A person’s inability to fully understand the English language is frustrating at times, but it in no way undermines an individual’s personality. Every person has a story and despite the language barriers, a person should not be forced to learn a new language in order to share them.
The English language will always be alive in America. If it is ever in question, just ask the French Canadians.