Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Press "1" for English

A country is in some ways like a quilt or tapestry, reflecting the many faces of humanity with its mosaic of people, cultures, races, religions, and ethnic groups. A thing of true beauty. It is a reflection of all that has come before it, and what yet lies ahead. But like all quilts, or tapestries, it can only be held together by a common thread. That thread is language. This is especially true of a county like America, which as a nation, truly represents a microcosm of the world.

Here, we have every race, practically every language, culture, ethnic group, and religion that exists on this fragile blue-green orb of ours represented. Many of these people work, live, play and go about life’s little chores without so much as a thought, yet in their respective home countries, many of these same groups are at war with each other. In some case, they’ve spent centuries fighting and murdering each other. Such is the strength of America.

But this “co-existence” comes at price. It requires us to talk to each other. And that means learning and speaking English. While it’s a quark of fate that our Founding Fathers were of primarily English speaking Irish, Scots, and British stock, the fact remains that we became a country united by a common language. That commonality has held us together through the darkest days imaginable, and it has allowed us to celebrate our greatest triumphs. It allows us learn from each other, and well as teach each other about our cultures and beliefs. In doing so, it has created a sense of shared values, albeit broadly, and sense of what it means to be an American.

Today, we are faced with a crisis. For the first time in our nation’s history, we are dealing with massive explosion of people who not only do not know our language, but has little or no interest in learning it. Native born and naturalized citizens from all over the world, who have taken the time to learn the language of our nation, are finding themselves almost outsiders. There are many who seem to think we should accommodate these people by changing everything into their language. We are spending millions converting product information into Spanish, including taxpayer funded forms, applications and informational pieces. Businesses are now using automated phone systems requiring us to “press 1 for English” (there are even some US based businesses where English is the second choice).

To be fair, it should be pointed out that most of these immigrants come from countries were Spanish is the national language. Their governments don’t spend millions of dollars trying to accommodate those who don’t speak the language. You learn it or tough it out. You won’t find many bags of chips or cookies in both English and Spanish either. You won’t find businesses willing to give you an option of English or Spanish by pressing a button on a telephone. So, why do we?

It’s been said that every revolution contains within it its own seeds of destruction. Perhaps it is our diversity; our willingness to accept people regardless of where they come from or what they believe that will be our downfall. I hope not. Maybe it’s our generosity or our national sense of compassion that we try to make the transition into America a little easier than most nations. After all, we are a nation of immigrants. Again, I hope we as a people never lose these traits. But, I think it’s time that we ask of those coming to America (legally) that they learn the language. It doesn’t mean they have to forgo their own native tongue, or their culture. It does mean that to live here, you have to be able to communicate. Otherwise, how do you speak to the car mechanic (or tow truck driver)? The grocer? Government agencies or those elected to represent you? What do you do in the case of emergencies? How you tell the police, EMS, or fire department what’s wrong? How can they speak to you?

Let’s talk education for just a moment. Public schools aren’t just a place where you send your children to learn reading, writing, history, math, spelling, and the arts (and it certainly isn’t a place for teachers to “baby sit” either). Schools are also a place where children from all walks of life come together and learn to needed social skills. It’s where interactive skills are acquired, and the most basic building block of this is language. Yet, we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring special education teachers and translators for kids, some of whom are children of parents here illegally, teaching them in other than English. In some cases, because the parents don’t want their children learning English! I can’t imagine any parent wanting to limit their child’s potential that way, but there you have it.

To that I say it’s a waste of precious resources to hire teachers or translators for children to continue their education in a language other than English. To hire facilitators to teach them English so they can participate with everyone else would be a better use of tax dollars. Secondly, only those who parents are here legally should be entitled to a public education. If we, the taxpayers, are paying for their education, we have the right and responsibility to at least insist they’re here legally (and one presumes that with that, their parents are contributing through their tax dollars as well). On the point of jobs, let me say that those who don’t speak the language also run the risk of abuse by employers when it comes to their pay, benefits, hours, etc. Of course, sadly those here illegally have little resource to these abuses.

It’s time that America adopts English as it national language. Our representatives in Washington need to make this happen now. It’s also time we demand that our Governors, State Senators and State Representatives adopt a resolution making English the official state language of whatever state we happen to live. It’s time to tell manufacturers that English only on a can of peas or beans will do just fine thank you. And finally, the next time you have to “press 1 for English”, tell that company’s representative that we speak English here. Let someone else “press 1”.


Cindy said...

here here. well said. My my you do sound like a conservative.

Bill said...

Dear Paul- Karl Rove would love it! Do you have his E Mail address? The ones on immigration and English will fit right in! As we talked about Wednesday, can you also find one to do on the disbursal of misfits into middle class neighborhoods courtesy of HUD and whatever they call Section 8 these days? These are the drug dealers, rappers, and other social misfits that cause the further deterioration of our already fragile low middle and middle class families. They especially seem to be a special attraction to the children of poor single parent families, or families with working parents, where they can prey on the vulnerabilities or these children while the families are working. I have seen whole neighborhoods go up in smoke when this element moves in. I have also seen good families devastated when one of the daughters, especially ones in their early teens, become impregnated by these animals, "because it is the thing to do." Think about it for awhile and make sure that it does not appear to be racist as the "animals" and other misfits come in all colors.

Another Opinion said...

"Right in" huh? Thanks Bill. I'll see what I can do, and don't worry, as you well know, there's not a racist bone in my body. There's good and bad in all groups.

Barbara said...

Another good one!

EHB said...

Hi Paul,
I just read your article re Press "1" for English... It is an extremely good article and I can certainly relate closely to it as Canada does have a 2nd language (French) for Quebec and here in BC we have unofficial languages of Chinese and East Indian and they each have their own dialects. Richmond is has become the 'chosen' site for the Hong Kong Chinese community and there are probably as many Chinese residents as there are us 'other' residents. They have a part of the city which is their 'own' community including malls and restuarants as well as they influence what is sold in other businesses becausethey have the money to influence decisions and have the 'buying' power.
In North Delta where Teresa and Roger live the East Indians have 'settled'. They do fit a bit more into the community and do learn to speak English but maintain their culture which is perfectly fine as long as they allow 'us' to maintain our culture.
The Chinese in Richmond, severeal years ago, influenced City Hall not to decorate for Christmas - no tree and no lights because it offended their beliefs. Well...the next year City Hall was decorated with Christmas again! People were outraged when they found out why the City did not decorate the previous year.
As far as French is concerned, it is an official language along with English but in the years that I've lived in Canada my personal opinion is that by having two official lanaguages the country is weakened as it divides the country. Quebec gets many benefits that the other provinces don't receive, mainly to pacify them. Also, if one wants to work in a government capacity, one must be able to speak French fluently. When I have to make a call back East and get a machine, I must listen to both English and French and sometimes the French is first. When I go to the grocery store locally, the majority of the time the shelf products present the French label rather than the English label. That makes me so mad!
I truly feel and have always felt that Canada will never be a great country because of the two official languages. I feel it causes a great division - each 'language' wants their fair share of everything.
In BC, especially Richmond lots of tax dollars are spent on ELS - English Language Studies - and then the children go home from school and continue to speak in their native language so their English never gets better because the only time they use their English is in school. In the malls I constantly hear the Chinese speaking their own language and many of the older immigrants never learn to speak English.
I think the American people should stand up and fight for one language only. As you said, if people choose to come to the country of their choice then they should learn to speak the language and abide by the rules and traditions of that country. Otherwise, they should go back to their home country.
I just wanted to let you know that I hope you continue to influence the 'English language only for America' as I feel by allowing a second language it weakens the strength of the country. If people want to speak a second language, that is perfectly fine and their right to do so, but for a country there should only be one official language.

Donna said...

boy this is good!

Lou said...

Well said. i read not so long ago that a
bill passed making English our NATIONAL language. Now to make it the
State language.

Another Opinion said...

Thanks Lou. Actually, one was proposed, but it got watered down (hosed might be a better word) and nothing has happened to it.

John said...

Well done Paul. Be sure to have your readers check out the English First site at

moderate man said...

Right on target. We are a large and segmented country. We need glue to hold us together. Language is that glue. Generations present and unborn do not want any future race or civil wars in our country. The price is too high. We should never forget this. Through communication maybe bloodshed can be prevented and issues understood. English language should be mandatory for all legal citizens. It is their duty as a citizen. If our country was a small as, say Switzerland, who have several languages there, then a multilinguistic society would be expected. But due to our diverse population this is not possible as every lasnguage on earth is found in our country. Writh your US Representative and Senator and urge passage of ENGLISH AS THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF AMERICA!

Moderate Man

Ed Springston said...

Just to add my 2 cents as usual.

Recently my son went for a job interview at a Riverport facility and was one of 2 interviewed. The other person that interviewed was Mexican and could not read, speak, or write English.

He brought his 12 yr old daughter with him to fill out the necessary application and interpret for him during the interview.

My son is still looking for a job.

The problems with illegal immigration do affect each and every one of us Americans. Speaking English is a start to understanding that. Well written post.

Another example of unfairness in our community? Approximately 3 years ago we had some teamsters go on strike at a Riverport facility. Why?

The benfits and wages were agreed on but the company was refusing to allow Doctor's notes for absences. One employee had MS and of course due to his illness would have an occassional day off.

This one employee is the largest reason they went on strike. He was not asking for handouts, as he could have done by going on disability, he wanted to work. The company had allowed him to work and did not force him to go on permanent disability which would have cost him his job.

The answer? Catholic charities brought in a group of non english speaking refugees and the employer hired them thus negating the union and that situation.

Right? Wrong? You decide.

The point is these examples are just a few here locally and we need to address our issues before everyone is a minimum wage worker who cannot afford rent.

It is amazing how many will not stand together against these type injustices when opportunity presents itself. Locally we had an immigration day and no one stood against it.

United we Stand Divided we Fall. It is time to make a difference in all areas of our community. It starts with accountable leadership.

Ed Springston Louisville Metro Mayor 2006

Share said...

Here are things I do to protest against this ploblem: 1) I tell the company representative (which does no good); 2) I refuse to press 1 for English and if I can still go ahead without doing do, fine, but if I can't, I stop doing business with the company ... after telling them why.


Anonymous said...

ed said:

Recently my son went for a job interview at a Riverport facility and was one of 2 interviewed. The other person that interviewed was Mexican and could not read, speak, or write English.

He brought his 12 yr old daughter with him to fill out the necessary application and interpret for him during the interview.

My son is still looking for a job.

Wow. Your son got beat by that guy? Your son REALLY needs to work on his interview skills. It's your son's fault for not getting the job if he can't beat that guy.

Anonymous said...

noone should have to press 1 for english. i work in construction and constantly have to deal with people that cant speak english. how do you get a job in this country without being able to communicate? my grandparents came from other countries and learned the language. it is pathetic that i have to go to a job that has safety meetings in 2 languages. if you give them no reason to learn english then why should they.!? and employers who hire illegal aliens should be thrown in jail imo.

Another Opinion said...

Thanks for the reply. Both sides of my family spoke German. They knew that to live in this country, they had to learn English, though they continued to speak German at home, in Church, and in their community center.

If you want to come to this country and work I suggest two things:

1.Come Legally

2.Speak English

I doubt they would make the same concessions for us in Mexico, or anywhere else in Central or South America.

By the way, another change I would like to see, if the mother isn't a citizen at the time she give birth, neither is the child. That would keep a lot of illegals at home and save millions of tax dollars.