Interesting Stuff

Se Bueno Anglais Solo Buddy?

Another of those fake polls designed to influence public opinion has come out.

No ranking Idaho as great, Nampa as secure, best bike trails, finest job hunt, fastest growing, family friendly. This one claims 77 per cent of Idaho folks favor ENGLISH as the official language of the state!
How many law books or legal ads have you seen that were NOT in English? A group calling itself U.S. English, Inc. sponsored the survey and to the surprise of no one the results are in line with their goals. Look for this to show up on talk shows and in the Idaho legislature.

The Daily Paper has it on a web site as the LATEST news complete with exclamation point and red type. We see it as a non-issue, but one that will push some buttons in the legislature along with abortion, contraception, and inoculations against disease.

GUARDIAN says despite the hype, ENGLISH should be the common language–to put us all on the same radio frequency so to speak. While it should be the official language, we should also embrace, accommodate and encourage second languages.

Radio and television stations have found there is U.S. Treasury CASH to be made with Spanish language stations and programming.

(Headline is intended as a bad mix of languages)

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Aprender otro idioma es una cosa muy buena. El Guardian debe tener paginas en espanol y frances.

    Noble G — when will the Guardian publish in Spanish. I think the sooner the better. Am I wrong?

    Viva El Guardian! Viva Frazier!

  2. OK, so what’s the point of this poll? Is there some problem with people being able to get officials documents in English? Sounds like this “poll” is a solution in search of a problem. Maybe they hope to divide and anger people, and that would then create a problem for them to “solve.”

    Last I heard, foreign languages were an elective, taught in our government-funded schools, and most people (me included) think that’s a good thing. The better our citizens can communicate with the rest of the world, the better able they will be to bring more jobs and industry to this state, or at least profit from jobs and industry abroad.

    What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American.

  3. I list this poll with Eldon Anderson’s and Dano’s comments along with the fear of even discussing or thinking about total legalization of birth control,abortion,social pot use,prostitution etc. The fear of another language borders on paranoia as the “fear” of responsible use of the above illustrates.

    Homo Sapiens major difference from others is their CURIOSITY,THEIR NEED AND ENJOYMENT OF LEARNING a better way to live.This poll illustrates the worst part of Boise; that repressive militaristic crowd that hides their ignorance behind the word Conservative and is convinced they have a right to control your behavior.

  4. I loathe the divisive nature of this issue. I loathe the fear it strikes in the hearts of a humble people attempting to improve their lot. I began a Spanish class this week.

    I am old and thick and am prayerful that I can learn enough to converse at the market with a mother of an especially beautiful baby or at the PTA meeting with another concerned parent. I practice by using the Spanish language screen at the ATM!:)

  5. I flunked French in college…actually I dropped out for lack of ability. I did take two years of Latin in high school, which actually helps when figuring out strange words that are in English.

    I have a brother who is trilingual (not Spanish) and a daughter who is bilingual (French). I think it is great when people learn other languages but one has to agree that for people who move to the US, they are going to have an easier life if they can learn English only because it is the predominant language.

    I can’t imagine moving to France (which I actually considered some years ago) without learning French, or to Spain without learning Spanish. That’s how it works. What’s the problem?

  6. As an anthropology major, I think it’s great when people are multi-lingual and/or multi-cultural. It does cause me concern, however, when the federal government mandates that government information must be printed in multiple languages. It is my understanding that learning English is a basic citizenship requirement and natural-born citizens should be learning English at home or at least in school anyway.

    I also agree with Treva – if you live in the United States, you will have far more opportunity to fulfill the “American Dream” if you are able to read, write and speak English.

  7. I’m a linguistics major at BSU, so I follow the “English only” debate with some professional interest.

    A few points against the idea of establishing English as an official language:

    The US has never had an official language, and we seem to have done pretty well for ourselves; why bother with one now?

    Has there ever been a problem with people not being able to communicate with the government in English?

    Having multiple languages in a country does not cause instability; just look at Switzerland. They have three official languages: French, German and Italian.

    Having a country united by language does not cause stability. English has been far and away the dominate language in the US from the beginning, and that didn’t stop us from having a Civil War. It also doesn’t stop us from having (frequent) litigation over the meaning of laws that are written in English, where all the parties involved (lawyers, judges, plaintiffs) are native speakers.

    There are many more, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll stop here.

    If anyone is interested, I can give you some links to recent articles on this subject.

  8. English is our business, government and primary social language. OK. In the history of the territory now covered by the United States, official languages have included American Indian (of many lanugages), Spanish, Dutch, French, Hawaiian and Inuit.

    In our communities, there were always pockets/neighborhoods where people spoke at home and did business in a language they brought with them to this country — think China Town (in several locations), German Valley in Illinois, Swedish neighborhoods in Rockford, Illinois, Norwegian towns in Minnesota, the Italians of North Beach in San Francisco. Some learned English and became citizens; some did not. Inevitably, younger generations grew up speaking English and soon did not know their grandparents’ language.

    My father had many clients (insurance and accounting) who spoke only Italian and had been in this country for many years. My older half brother learned Italian to talk to our grandmother, who never learned English in her 40+ years in this country. I never knew my grandmother and my father threw up his hands trying to teach me Italian. I did OK in latin (only had to read and write it) but flunked French in college and my Spanish teacher remembered me decades later as that memorable student who butchered the language.

    I envy people who can speak other languages but I agree people living in the United States will have an easier time if they learn English. We should encourage it, applaud it and facilitate it but also recognize people speaking other languages within our borders is nothing new.

  9. Tam, you are inspirational. It has been a goal of mine to do just what you are doing. And your example is propelling me again in that direction. Thanks.

    EDITOR NOTE–Sis, does this mean you are headed for the ATM?

  10. If you live in America then speak and do business in english.

    If you do not want to learn english and just speak and do business in spanish then move back to Mexico. Go home. Please.

  11. Wonk has a good point. Seems like almost everyone in other countries can speak and understand two or more languages.

    Americans are at a major disadvantage in business negotiations with other countries, for example, because the others can talk among themselves right in front of the Americans, discussing prices, conditions, what they would be willing to yield in exchange for what, etc., and the Americans don’t know what the conclusions are.

    But when the Americans discuss what deals they would cut, the others usually understand the talk.

    I don’t know why Americans have so much difficulty learning languages. I’ve studied Spanish some, pero todvia no se muchas palabras. When I’ve visited Mexico, I could have some very basic talks with the residents, but with my limited vocabulary and confusion about tenses, we’d generally switch to English.

    As for the immigrants: Yes, they should learn English, but that’s not something one does overnight. Some of the older people may never learn enough of it to converse, and younger ones may take anywhere from a few months to many years to learn enough to really talk with anyone on various subjects.

    If I moved to Spain or Mexico, I’d sure try harder to learn the language, but I’d probably give the folks there a lot of laughs at my foul-ups for many years.

    English is an extremely difficult language for others to learn (spelling is not phonetic; we have numerous homophones, hundreds or thousands of idiomatic expressions, etc.), but many people in other countries do quite well in it.

    Personally, I’d be loath to try to tell the American Indians they couldn’t use their languages; they were here first. However, I wouldn’t mind requiring people from Louisianna, Texas, Arkansas, Brooklyn, Bronx, Boston etc. to learn to pronounce the language well enough that we from the rest of the nation could understand them.

    All in all, the whole thing is a “so what?” argument. Passing a law isn’t going to magically make a newcomer able to read, write, speak and understand English.

    As for documents: I’d rather a person who signs a lease or has to deal with a legal entanglement know what’s going on than to force him or her to try to deal with it in an unknown or even unfamiliar language.

    How many of you who are native English (well, what we in the U.S. of A. call English) speakers can really read and understand all the income tax forms, court documents, etc.? Heck, we can’t even get lawyers and law-writers to use “our” language — let’s work on them first. And if we native-born speakers can’t understand them, how can a newcomer?

    My, how I ramble on … but, see, I can use a whole lot of words in this here language. So what does that prove?

  12. Dave… ¿Qué te pasa, calabaza?

    (That’s “What’s happ’nin, pumpkin?”)

    If Español were my native language, and I came to the United States, frankly I would feel insulted that there is a debate about whether official business should be conducted in English and Español, or just English.

    There doesn’t seem to be a groundswell for French, or German, or Japanese, or Hmong, or Mandarin Chinese, or any language besides Español. Now, that may be because the second-most-predominant language (but WAY below English) is Español, or it may be because people think we’re somehow incapable of learning English, like all those other folks are expected to do.

    I agree it’s FANTASTIC to be multi-lingual, and having spent quite some time in South America, I speak fluent Español. (And a bit of Portugés.) It has blessed my life, and enabled my survival for many months when I didn’t speak any English whatsoever, because there was nobody around who understood English.

    English speakers beware – Español is the official language in Argentina and Uruguay. You will be expected to speak Español to conduct business there, except perhaps with those who engage in the tourist trade.

    (By the way – English is supposed to be one of the harder languages to master – Spanish, French, Italian, etc. – the “romantic” languages – are “cake” compared with English.)

    Carne de cerdo is okay… my personal favorite is carne de vaca! Moooooooo!

  13. One other thought.
    Steve Martin, describing his trip to France:
    “Those French… they have a word for EVERYTHING!”

  14. curious george
    Feb 22, 2007, 6:32 pm

    I think I’ve written this before. My grandfather was born in the U.S., but didn’t speak English until primary school (just like most of the people in his home town). His school teachers beat him if he spoke anything other than English.

    Until the day he died he spoke with a thick accent, and was stubbornly proud that he could still speak, read and write in his “native” language – that he didn’t let it get spanked out of him.

    But it wasn’t Spanish that he spoke – it was Norwegian. He was born in a rural Wisconsin village, and except for a fishing trip to Canada and a tourist-trip to Juarez he never traveled outside the country.

    It seems that most of the resentment/vehemence that fuels such one-language pundits is pure xenophobia (for non-library types, that’s Greek for “fear of strangers”).

  15. I have a problem with American’s statement. Since when was this about Mexicans? You are very naïve to think that this is only a Mexican issue. Did you in all your in-depth thought think that we are bordered by Canada also, which, and again I don’t know if you knew this, but they also speak French. I feel bad for people that turn this into a race issue, which I believe is at the root of this.

    I met and spoke with a gentleman from Denmark. In speaking with him, he informed me that in their country they are required to learn at least three different languages. Most learn more than that, but why are we so afraid of other languages? Many languages in a country are a good thing. I have been to many other countries in which I did not speak the “national” language and had a hard time getting along, but I was more than happy to see things printed in “American.” I think that if you have been other places in the world and seen how much a problem it really isn’t you would dismiss this whole subject completely and go onto bigger and better problems. Mi dispiace, parlo solo inglese.

    EDITOR NOTE– You mention Canada where BOTH English and French are official languages.

  16. Making English the “official” language is merely a technicality. Some people are using it to try to drum up support for the anti-illegal-immigration cause. That issue is serious and urgent enough, it doesn’t need support from those who are transparently racist.

  17. Snoop’s reference to what American said sent me looking for that one, since I apparently had somehow missed seeing it among all the comments:

    “10. American said:
    If you live in America then speak and do business in english.

    If you do not want to learn english and just speak and do business in spanish then move back to Mexico. Go home. Please.”

    Well, I have some big news for American: If you live in Mexico, or Canada, or Ecuador or Brazil (where they speak Portugese) or Guatamala or Tierra del Fuego, you are still American.

    That hadn’t dawned on me until one day years ago when I was driving across the border from Arizona to Sonora, a border guard stopped me and asked a question.

    I was chatting with other people in the car, so didn’t really pay attention to what he asked. But because they routinely asked, “Where you from?” I replied, Tucson (or some other southern Arizona town), which had always been enough response to get waved through. Then he asked something (and I still wasn’t paying attention. I responded, “Downtown,” again the usual response to the usual second questions when there is one (Where you going?) to get waved through.

    The guard leaned in the window and snapped: SENOR!!!
    That got my attention, then he said, “Senor, I asked, what nationality are you?”
    I responded, “Oh. I’m an American.”
    He: “Senor, I am an American.”
    I: “Hmm, Yep, that’s true. OK, I’m from the United States.”
    He: “Senor, I am from the United States.”
    I: “Hmm, yep, also true (the official name of the country is Los Estados Unidos Mejicanos — the Mexican United States — or Los Estados Unidos de Mejico — the United States of Mexico — depending on which documents you read).
    So I said, “Well, I’m a Gringo; OK?”
    He laughed and said, “OK, Gringo, c’mon in.,” and waved me through.

    Yep, there a lot of American countries. And I had never before thought about the fact that we seem to be the only people in the world who have no name for our nationality, only an name for our continentality. How strange.

    Anyway, American, study a bit of geography, eh?

  18. My father and his parents were German Jews. They managed to leave Germany in about 1936 and eventually made their way to New York City. In Germany, my grandfather had been a doctor and the family was well off. Things were not as good for the family in the United States.

    My father’s way of protesting the move to the U.S., and all the changes in his life, was to refuse to learn English. Only after his mother committed suicide when he was 13 and his father committed suicide three years to the day later, did my father, by then 16 years old, finally learn English.

    Nonetheless, I recall as a teenager being told by my father that be believed everyone who lived in the U.S. had an obligation to learn English because that was the language of our country.

    It is not racist to believe that people who want to live in the U.S. as citizens should have to learn English.

    By the way, at Paul’s Market on S. Five Mile Road this evening, there was a sign announcing kindergarten enrollment. Information was provided in English, Spanish, Russian and Bosnian. If I recall correctly from a few years back, the Meridian School District had “English as a Second Language” students enrolled who represented about 50 different primary languages.

  19. Most immigrants (both legal and illegal) do learn English. For the adults, as it always has, it takes longer. Because the ability to communicate is a characteristic of status, many who can speak passable English, will not use it because they are afraid they will use it improperly…the same reason I am always hesitant to use my limited Spanish with them.

    No one wants to be thought illiterate, which is what it feels like when you can’t communicate fluently in a common language. My spouse’s grandparents came here from Germany when my FIL was 16. My FIL and his sisters learned the language and eventually his parents did, but they still speak with VERY thick accents and they have been here more than 40 years, legally.

    Grandpa is Russian German and has never become a US citizen, although he is in the country legally. They both converse in German and Russian at home and with family, because it is what they are most comfortable with. I think we should not ASSUME that those coming here ‘won’t’ learn English, or ‘don’t want to’ learn English. When one works full time to support a family, it’s hard to find time to learn a new language and the older you are the more difficult it is. (I can attest to this personally) Based on what I see in local papers, on blogs (present company excepted, of course) and in other places….there are a good many of us who are English only speakers who need to learn to use the language before we can expect others to. 🙂

  20. Just have to ask – When people talk about “racism” and Mexicans – what “race” are Mexicans? I thought we (Americans) and Mexicans were the same race. When I went to school many years ago the talk about race was black, yellow and white. No one ever gave “brown” people a separate “race” – the brown people are like my grandchildren – a mishmash of everything. In the not too distant future we will, because of our constant moving about, become a non-race population, which will, in my opinion, be a good thing. Why do people even care about skin color? Guess it is that tribalism thing – if it is not skin color then it is about religion. The human “race” hasn’t learned much in the last 10,000 years. I hope to live long enough to see that attitude change.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: