The English only debate has created quite a bit of controversy since its creation in 1983. It has been the subject of various news articles from many different news outlets and the foundation of many pieces of legislation. The movement itself is based out of the right wing organization U.S. English and is nationalistic by nature. It is sometimes seen as synonymous with immigration issues. So far twenty-three states have adopted English as their official language. It has yet to be made the official language of the entire U.S. and its government but not for lack of trying. It has gained support from many politicians. One politician that supports the English Only initiatives is the former republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
The goal of the English Only movement is to make English the primary language of the United States government and of its states, ban most interpreter services and limit bilingual education. The argument behind these three objectives is quite simplistic and somewhat schizophrenic and narrow-minded in nature.
Supporters of the movement believe that if the U.S government does not make English its primary language it will encourage and foster separatism and disunity in the U.S and cause another civil war that is more ethnically, socially, culturally and obviously linguistically divided than the American Civil War. This argument is somewhat understandable if you look at Canada’s previous bilingual dilemma when Quebec wanted to separate from the rest of Canada because it spoke a different language. However, this conflict was resolved fairly quickly and peacefully when Canada became by law a bilingual country. There are examples of successful bilingual and multilingual countries. One such example would be Switzerland. It has four official languages and children are taught one of these languages depending on where they live.
The part where English becomes the US national language is acceptable to many but the fact that supporters of the movement want to ban most interpreter services and ban bilingual education is both absurd and ignorant. Today the world is more connected than ever through the internet, TV, music, culture and faster and more efficient modes of transportation. Banning interpreters would hurt the tourist sector of the US economy which is pretty substantial and would hurt its relations with other countries. Not to mention it would make it more difficult for immigrants to assimilate into society, a demand that is frequently made. How can Americans demand immigrants assimilate if they take away the tools in which they use and need to assimilate? It is because of bilingual education that many immigrants and their descendants speak more English. Also, many of the English supporters seem to forget that the U.S was built and created by immigrants from other countries. It is the biggest “melting pot” in the world. There is no other place in the world where there is so much diversity and mixture of culture. It is this mixing of cultures from around the world that has made American culture what it is today. Changing this would not only seem hypocritical in regards to how American culture was created but it would also contradict the U.S’s basic values regarding equality and liberty.
(Information from Los Angeles Times and Psychology Today)