Should English be the official language of the United States?

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent– English should always be given first priority as the official language of the United States and many citizens have the mistaken idea that it already is the official language. Unfortunately, at this date and time it is not official at the federal level for a number of reasons.

Congress has introduced legislation in the present and past on numerous occasions to make English the official language, particularly concerning use in official government communications and documentation. Even then Congressman, and now Vice-President Mike Pence, co-sponsored legislation for official English-in-government use, but the legislative moves have always proved unproductive and lacking in the right language and format for passage.

Another stepping stone towards making English more official would be the repeal of (Executive Order) E.O. 13166 that was issued during the Clinton administration, which not only discouraged assimilation and use of English by legal immigrants but required that the federal government provide expensive and extensive translation services in any foreign language in use in the United States.

So, repeal of that executive order could be of help in moving towards English being used in official capacities, and President Trump assured pro-English groups during his election campaign that he supported the concept of English as the official language of government.

In relation to that executive order, one of the requirements of U.S. citizenship is that legal immigrants should be proficient in the English language, so this requirement is in direct contrast with the executive order that basically states that legal immigrants don’t really have to learn the language as translation services will be provided.

Other reasons for English not being declared the official language are historical in nature. During the Continental Congress of 1780 and lead up to the drafting of the Constitution, patriot and later President, John Adams proposed that English should be made the official language of the up and coming nation, but this idea was not well received because a large number of different languages were spoken at the time. The idea of English overriding other languages was considered “undemocratic and a threat to individual liberty.”

Even though English has remained the dominate language in the United States for over 200 years and legislation has been repeatedly introduced and reintroduced, it still has not been officially declared the language of the land, and it hasn’t for basically the same reasons given in 1780. Even the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has gotten into the fight with its argument that English as the official language would go against the First Amendment.

Legislators and presidents (Teddy Roosevelt) saw and have seen official English as a unifying force, one that is powerful on its own. As Congressman Steve King of Iowa stated in his proposed legislation several years ago concerning the English Language Unity Act: “A common language is the most unifying force known throughout history. More powerful than race, ethnicity, more powerful than common experiences or even religion…” Many are in agreement that multi-language use is a divisive element but little has been done to address the issue of multiple language use and the problems it can create in public education, legal proceedings, work-related issues and other areas where English needs used to simply to understand everyday interactions.

In spite of the fact that there is no official language at the federal level, 31 states and counting have declared English as the official language of their local governments, but if those states want to receive federal funds (as made official through Title VI of Civil Rights Act of 1964), any public office or other entity receiving federal funds for operation must provide all essential documents in every language that any person being serviced by that public office speaks.

Even though English has not been made the official language of the United States, it hasn’t been stopped from being the predominant language of the country, but it should certainly have its place at the federal level for conducting government communications and written documents of any kind. Repeal of E.O. 13166 would be of help in legal immigrants learning English and minimizing translations and their costs, plus it would give credence to and support of passage of English only at the federal level.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent– I’m startled by that question. Why? Well, maybe because I’ve always presumed English was the official or native language of the United States? Yep, that’s it. But, really, do I care? Not particularly.

As far as I’m concerned, the United States could flaunt up to 10 official languages and that still wouldn’t put food on my plate. But, for the sake of this argument, I’ll go ahead and tickle your ears.

Based on a quick Google search that I was moved to perform, there are 3 official languages of the United States at present – Spanish, French, Hawaiian. What???! All my life I’ve been misinformed, as English didn’t even make the list. But, can I really trust Google? Is that source credible?

To appease myself and become more cognizant, further research led me to discover some shocking truths (well, maybe not shocking – I’m just trying to be extra at the moment).

English, though not pronounced officially as the official language, is the national language of the United States. I guess that’s primarily the case, as most legislations, regulations, and executive orders are communicated in English. To add, in most schools in America – whether public or otherwise – children are required to take English classes at every grade level.

Hence, the huge question looming over my colossal head is, “Why is English not the official language already”? I think it’s about high time they make it official.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent- English has been the de facto official language of the United States since we gained independence after the Revolutionary War. English is also the language most used in global business and politics. Therefore, it seems reasonable to believe that English should be legally designated as the official language of our country.

The most obvious reason is the simplicity and lower cost of having only one language to deal with in the business of the federal government. Let’s use Canada as an example. All their communications, brochures, documents, laws, and records must be written in both English and French. It’s safe to assume Canadians pay twice as much in taxes for those than they would if there were only one official language.

However, with the growing number of Spanish speakers and other large immigrant groups in the U.S. who haven’t assimilated enough to communicate in English, it seems that more and more governments are printing documents and signage in multiple languages. This is despite the fact that none of the several languages one often sees in government documents (tax instructions for example) is an official language. It seems counterproductive to have no official language yet act as if we have five or six.

That said, America being a melting pot of cultures and languages from day one is one of our strengths. To favor one over marginalizes new immigrants who don’t speak English. People will speak the language they grew up learning no matter if it’s the official language of their country or not. Many will choose to learn multiple languages for a variety of reasons.

On balance, I favor making English the official language of the United States because of the simplicity and lower cost of dealing with one language for all government business. To accommodate those who don’t speak English, private businesses, charities, and churches need to step up and fill the void of providing translators, interpreters, and multi-lingual information.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent– Making English the “official language” of the United States is a quintessentially silly idea. While we might do so on a ceremonial basis, and forbid this use of language other than English on official government documents and election forms and in public buildings, but it won’t change the fact that on the street, there is a hodgepodge of languages spoken, written and used in daily commerce.

One of my favorite questions to ask the English-only crowd is how they would enforce the law. Beyond the aforementioned government documents and such, where is the line drawn? Will we start shutting down newspapers that print in Spanish? Will US-based websites catering to French expats be required to write in English only? Will “word squads” walk the streets, accosting, fining and arresting those found not to be communicating in the official tongue?

You might be chuckling at that last paragraph, and that is a healthy response. However, bear in mind that if an English-only law is passed, the line will have to be drawn somewhere. Better to teach English to those who come to our shores, acclimate them into our society and let them become part of the mutt enclave that is America.

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