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Reasons Why English as America’s Official Language is a Bad Idea

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In the poem “Bilingual Sestina,” Julia Alvarez expresses her feelings for both the Spanish and English languages. Language is not just a part of people’s culture but a reflection of their identity as well. So, what occurs when two languages come together? It is easy to favor your mother tongue because it feels almost like home, as opposed to the second language that one learns. Alvarez implies that she finds comfort in her mother tongue by utilizing the first-person point of view, repetition of words, and constant indirect comparisons between the Spanish and English Languages. The English-only movement, also known as the Official English movement, is a political movement for the use of only the English language in official United States government operations through the establishment of English as the only official language in the US.

Alvarez manages to bring light upon her title “Bilingual Sestina” by simply stating words in both Spanish and English. This is significant because it sums up her feelings throughout the whole poem. She is an author who is stuck in a world where two languages exist for her. Throughout the poem, Alvarez utilizes not just a first-person point of view but also a bilingual’s personal point of view. It is used to emphasize her feelings of admiration and appreciation towards the Spanish language, leading her audience to relate to and comprehend her better. Later through the poem, Alvarez implies that she favors her mother tongue, “the sounds of Spanish wash over me like the warm island waters…”, over English due to the amount of comfort the Spanish language makes her feel. Her favoritism for Spanish only grows stronger as she continues to belittle English.

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Alvarez’s use of both English and Spanish words made it not just difficult, but unpleasant for one to read. This gave the impression that she did it on purpose to show her unhappiness with the English language. In her transition from the Dominican Republic to America Julia Alvarez knows she is growing fond of her mother tongue Spanish and transitioning to her native language, English. Alvarez reminisces about the times she had Spanish only. She is constantly battling to make out her feelings but through this poem, she successfully delivers the meaning of being bilingual, stuck in two languages. Looking at the bigger picture, language has the power to both unite and divide us. In Alvarez’s case, she felt divided between both due to the close connection she held with the Spanish language since birth but later on adding English into her life.

With the world desiring to learn English more than their own official language. It has come to my attention that Americans believe we do not need any other language. With this ignorance comes discrimination towards any other language being spoken in America. Americans should be acceptive of any language in a blooming country that praises diversity, bilingualism specifically. Adhering to the idea of English as our official language, we would have to face the consequences and adapt to all changes in our businesses, social life, and the responses of other countries.

Multilingual people are praised and have better luck at attaining a job. English is the primary language used in America, with Spanish falling second. When people mention businesses, they primarily imagine Walmart, Amazon, Nike, etc. The businesses I’m referring to are businesses such as hospitals, schools, and restaurants, those who would be much more affected by an official language. Taking a look at hospitals first. Anyone can wind up in a hospital, anyone who has ever gone to a hospital knows that they have to fill an abundant amount of paperwork out. Luckily for us, that paperwork can be translated from English to various other languages that currently exist in America. Not only that but translators are provided by law in case a patient does not speak English. According to a bill called the Declaration of Official Language Act of 2001 proposed by congressman Bob Stump in 2001, which states “…Unless specifically stated in applicable law, no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the Government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English…” Fortunately this bill was turned down a year later. This is an example of a bill created to set English as the official language and to eliminate any form of services that would serve to translate. This would include professional translators, voluntary translators, and translated documents. This leads me to the English-Only Movement which began around 1750, it’s simply an attempt to make English the official language in states but ultimately in the whole nation. In restaurants, non- English speakers’ people would have difficulty ordering food or asking questions. Although this is nothing compared to a patient given medications and there is no translator to communicate to the doctor that the patient is allergic to morphine. Now people would be more logical and not adhere to certain parts of the bill proposed by Stump by having healthcare and safety services including translation services. It still does not dismiss the fact that other important documentation will all be in English only such as certificates, taxes, driving exams, and announcements in form of flyers, etc. Americans, more specifically our gov’t will not find the need to translate anything into another language if they could fall back on the excuse of English being the official language. Schools would not change much as the system is already all in English. But what about the requirement for students to take a course in a foreign language in some states? Will it still be necessary?

Moving along, the whole movement of “English Only” seems like a business as it is identified as a political movement. People involved seem to be worried about the expenses of documents being translated. As author Stephen J Mount in Constitutional Topic: Official Language states “They note that English-only laws help governments save money by allowing the publication of official documents in a single language, saving on translation and printing costs…” it is very possible that the people are highly worried about the money being wasted on these services. If English were to become the official language, the government would take away the funding to provide us with forms in other languages. Businesses would be permanently damaged and people would lose jobs. This act would save the gov’t millions but with one solution would come to another problem.

For many languages is a reflection of their culture. In fact, many people want to acquire English as a second language because they know it is a universal language. With the past comments of our president, Donald Trump, we have started to pay too much attention to English, ignorantly belittling minority languages in America. In “Language loss, Identity, and English as an International Language” Dastgoshadeh and Jalilzadeh, state “According to different studies one of the sources of language loss which is also identity loss is the dominance of international languages.” In this case English is the international language, meaning to say it is one of the languages that is mostly learned as a second language. If language is the one factor that contributes to our identity and makes us who we are, allowing for English to become the official language would take us one step closer to it becoming completely universal. In Pew Research’s “1. Language: The cornerstone of national identity”, Bruce Stokes explores what 14 countries believe truly defines one’s national identity with America having 70% of Americans believe that religion nor birthplace were really any determining factors, but rather language. With that being said if 70% of Americans believe that English is what truly makes an American, it would make sense why Spanish speakers have been verbally attacked. There have been multiple reports of Americans being involved in racist verbal attacks, arguing “This is America, speak English.” This causes not just an overwhelming feeling of not belonging but having English as the official language would give Americans more reasons for people to not speak their mother tongue, stripping them from it at the end.

Simply reading the word world is overwhelming. But that exactly how this issue should feel, overwhelming and realistic as it can become a reality at any moment. As of now, 77 countries have made English their official language, and 26 countries that have English as their primary language.

In the article “Learning a foreign language a ‘must’ in Europe, not so in America”, the author Kat Delvin reports how in Europe it is a requirement for children and adolescents to learn a foreign language. Furthermore stating “Fully 73% of primary students in Europe and more than nine-in-ten secondary students were learning English at school in 2009-10…”. This implies the importance of English to one of the top leading countries. Delvin continues by implying how America does not have any interest in having their future generations or realistically anyone learns any other language “…U.S. does not have a nationwide foreign-language mandate at any level of education. Many states allow individual school districts to set language requirements for high school graduation, and primary schools have very low rates of even offering foreign-language course work. “This not only contributes to the idea behind the English-Only movement but also why Americans have the idea of English identifying who they are.

Setting English as the official language would motivate other countries to follow their lead if they have not already. America is seen as a country of opportunities, a better future, with the famous phrase “The American Dream” popping into people’s minds. At this point, no countries, no one at all want to stay behind. Countries will encourage or perhaps even make English one or their official language.

Although America is not the greatest country in the world, we are looked upon by many, we have the power to influence, shape, and transform countries with any simple action. According to “More people around the world see U.S. power and influence as a ‘major threat’ to their country, by John Gramlich and Ka Delvin America is seen as a major threat and influence to other countries, “A growing share of people around the world see U.S. power and influence as a “major threat” to their country, and these views are linked with attitudes toward President Donald Trump and the United States as a whole.” America is seen as a threat for many, at times for reasons such as citizens from the countries stating that they “have little or no confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing regarding world affairs. “It is clear that the citizens of other countries fear the influence of America with “A median of 45% across the surveyed nations see U.S. power and influence as a major threat” out of the 22 countries surveyed.”

Language is essential to our lives. We use it every day to communicate. Many of us rely on the fact that we will be provided with services that will help us comprehend other languages. English is considered a universal language, which why so many countries learning is comprehensible. English gives people the ability to communicate by speaking a common language. But at what price? Having more people than ever struggle due to a language barrier, having people’s cultural identity stripped little by little, where would diversity go if language is the one factor that makes up a person. America is fine with having English as their primary language but not official. This way we continue to be “The Land of the Free” letting any language thrive, welcoming anyone. And to our future generations in America, who we would be doing a favor by not depriving them of the ability to learn another language besides English.  

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