7/27/2004

English - Official Language?

       I was interested awhile back when we talked briefly about the effect that language barriers can have on the economy.  I found this web site (http://www.us-english.org/inc/) whose purpose is to promote english as the official language of the United States.  I think that english should be the official language of the U.S., and that every U.S. citizen should be required to learn english. 

      Language barriers can be an extreme problem in the workplace.  My boss hired an employee over a month ago who could barely speak any english.  After a few weeks of struggling with language barriers, the man was laid off.  The result of the language barriers was decreased productivity in the workplace.  That's only one example.  Imagine what effect language barriers are having now on productivity all over the U.S.

      There are some interesting statistics on the website previously mentioned.  Of those statistics, I found it amazing how many millions of dollars is spent each year on translators, interpreters, and overall catering to the language needs of those who aren't willing to learn english.  On the other hand, it could have a positive effect on the economy by creating more jobs (translators, etc.).  Go to the website and check out the statistics and let me know what you think.

15 comments:

Senator Miller said...
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Senator Miller said...
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Senator Miller said...
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morty said...

hmmmm i agree with you but i want to take it a step further. you should not be granted citezenship unless you pass the GED. (if you are over the age of 18). i for one am tired of imigrants not bothering to learnt he language. you can't be succesful in America if you can't speak english, and if your just going to be a failure leave our country because we have enough failures already.

Jules said...

I agree that it is a good idea to have a common language and to make English the official language of the United States. While it is possible for people to be successful without speaking English it is easier to become successful if everyone speaks the same language. It is also better for our economy as a whole if we have a common language. However, I don't think it's a problem of people coming to the U.S. and refusing to learn the language. There are very few opportunities for immigrants to learn English after moving here aside from immersing themselves into the culture and "picking it up as they go". The intention of U.S. English in making English the official language of the U.S. is to "expand opportunities for immigrants to learn and speak English, the single greatest empowering tool that immigrants must have to succeed." I think having a "learn the language or go home" attititude will prevent very productive people from contributing to the economy.

Senator Miller said...

An official national language is very important. Could you imagine what it would be like if everyone made up their own language and tried to use it? It would be madness! Although, I feel that English, because of it's present influence, doesn't need to be made our national language. It is by default. When I was in Korea, I was shocked at the amount of money and time everyone put into learning English. I must have taught English as service almost everyday I lived there. The reason English is so important to them is because English is the language of business, and it's required for almost all international trading businesses in Korea. I feel that it would fine if we did have English as our national language, but I feel it already plays that part and even the part as an international language.

metromut said...

I agree with you and say that english should be the language spoken here in the US. If you are going to come to our country you should at least be able to communicate with people. I think it is rude that some immigrants come here and expect us to accomadate them by changing our language. Its just like going over to someones house. You wouldn't go in and make them feel all uncomfortable by not trying to communicate with them in a way they wouldn't be able to understand in there own house. Im not against immagrants I just think that if they want to live here they should live by our rules and speak our language. When you move to a country you go there because you want to be a part of that culture and everything that is included in that culture. Being part of a culture includes speaking the language.

C-Dizzle said...

I didn't know until recently that English wasn't the official language but that we actually have no official language.

I think English should be made the official language. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely for preserving peoples' native languages but when in Rome, do as the Romans' right? If you're going to do business in the U.S., learn the language of business. It's the same for any country, if you're going to do business in any country, learn the language.

Lizzie said...

I do not think the United States needs an official language. I do think, however, that funds should be allotted to teaching adult ESL. At the time the constitution was created there was no majority language in this country. The Founding Fathers are silent on an official language. The truth is 51% of the people in the country at the signing of the Constitution spoke a language other than English as their first language. (This number excludes the Native American dialects, which were not accounted for.)

Research shows that most immigrants that come to this country want to learn the language. They want to get jobs and contribute to society/ the economy just like you and me. The United States is the “land of opportunity” for everyone, not just for those born here.

Utah is an English-only state as voted on by its citizens. The problem is that people cast their votes and think the problem is solved. Wrong. The states have failed to provide a way for these adult immigrants to learn the language. Many of the new immigrants coming to the U.S. are educated. Through my work with adult English as a Second Language (ESL) groups I have come across PhD’s, MD’s, Engineers, and many more educated people that are working at minimum wage jobs trying earn enough money to attend ESL classes. We would be better off teaching these immigrants English and using their skills to enhance our economy and society, rather than ignoring them and telling them they need to learn English and until they do they are no good to us.

The question remains, do we want to enhance the citizenry of the United States or are we not interested in the individual and his/ her worth?

Rolf Tiblin said...

I personally think it is odd that there is a necessity to create a law dictating any language be deemed the national language of any country. Observations of just how English in itself is communicated differently in different parts of the United States only confirms this. It would take more laws dictating that everyone in different parts of the country speak exactly the same. Have you ever tried to understand someone from the deep south as compared to New England?
When I came to this country I had to learn to speak a different language myself. The fact is that many immigrants who come to this country learn English on their own. They understand the importance of doing so to better themselves, and their lives in a new land.
The problem we have here in the U.S. is that we tend to cater to a small group of people that tend to play on our emotions so we give them a pass. I am all for helping those that want to help themselves. Writing every form and document in a myriad of languages is not only a waste of taxpayers money but detrimental to the individual we are doing it for.
With that said I support opportunities for all “legal” immigrants to attend ESL courses that would help them learn the language better and faster. I oppose however requiring the burden to fall on the taxpayer and not the student.
As Lizzie commented this is the “land of opportunity”, motivated immigrants recognize this, and capitalize on it every day.

Kid said...

To say our country doesn’t have an official language is a lie. If English isn’t our official language then German must not Germanys official language, Italian not Italy’s and French not Frances. Everyone knows that Americans speck English! Yes, we as a country may have variations in our language. The people from the South have a drawl, New Yorkers have their recognizable accent and Californians well “dude” what more needs to be said. It’s the same in all countries. Different parts of Germany have their accents and Mexico is the same way. The people of the United States did at one point vote on an official language Germany would have been our official language but it lost out by four votes. The funny thing is I never learned this fact in any American History book I was told by family, who are all Germanys, because some of my ancestors actually voted for Germany to be America’s official language. A vote has been taken and it looks like English won out.

Tennistud said...

This is a post to clarify what I mean when I say an "official language." Here are some statistics from the web site I previously posted:

-"Ninety-two percent of the world’s countries (178 of 193) have at least one official language." (Source: 2002 World Almanac, 2001 U.S. Bureau of the Census Estimates)

-"English is the sole official language in 31 nations (16 percent). An additional 20 nations recognize English as one of two or more official languages (total, 51)." (Source: 2002 World Almanac, 2001 U.S. Bureau of the Census Estimates)

I'm not totally sure of their definition of an "official language." When I speak of having english as the official language of the U.S., I mean that, I think every person desiring to become a citizen of the United States should be able to speak english with a certain level of proficiency.

It's true that many who come to this country learn english just from living here and for their own good, but it is still a fact that many don't or won't learn english. Also, millions of dollars are still spent every year to conform to the needs of those who don't speak the language.

Dr. Tufte said...

Grammar problems in the post by Tennistud, and spelling problems in Morty's and Kid's comments.

The economic take on a national language is that this is an example of a positive network externality. That is a situation in which the value from using a thing increases when the number of other people using it increases. A language is most valuable when you can share it with other people. And, everyone benefits when there are more people that can speak the language. This is the same reason that computers are more productive now that Office has squashed most of its competitors.

An interesting economic problem is why are immigrant so much less likely now to learn English? One reason may be that we have lowered the costs associated with not learning English (by providing bilingual or multilingual signs, education, and so on).

I like Metromut's idea that it is rude not to learn the language. Perhaps there is a correlation between our perceptions of increasing rudeness in this country, and the fact that fewer immigrants seem willing to learn English.

I agree with Rolf Tiblin's and Lizzie's comments. Rolf noted that there is an incentive for immigrants to learn English, and Lizzie noted that many are trying. Our society would benefit by subsidizing this. But ... once again, governments are better at taxing things they don't like than subsidizing those they do.

Jordan said...

Dr. Tufte said:

"An interesting economic problem is why are immigrant so much less likely now to learn English? One reason may be that we have lowered the costs associated with not learning English."

Another reason is the large number of immigrants that cross the border every day that form Spanish communities. They have their own stores and so, many times, they don't need to speak English.

Dr. Tufte said...

This is a way in which the costs have been lowered.