Saturday, August 27, 2005

Official English - A Slightly Different View

For some reason, I have been motivated lately to write
"Letters to the Editor." The most recent one is was
addressed to the program Lou Dobbs Tonight that airs
nightly Monday though Friday from 6 to 7 pm Eastern US
Time on CNN. Lou has taken up the cause of the outsourcing
of American jobs to lower-paid workers in countries such as
India and the detrimental effects of outsourcing on the US
workforce and the US economy. He also campaigns against
illegal immigration and its deleterious effects on the US
economy as well as on US security. He does not attack the
immigrants, for whom he professes a respect that I believe
is sincere, but rather he attacks the US Government for
failing to secure the nation's borders and attacks employers
for maintaining the demand for illegal workers whose labor
they exploit. He believes that immigrants should learn
English rather than being taught and otherwise receiving
services in their mother tongue. On Wednesday, he railed
against the Dallas school board's decision to require
the principals of majority Hispanic schools to learn
Spanish. I offered a more nuanced view, which was not
read on air.
Official English - A slightly different view

Lou - I have spent most of the last 30+ years working in
international development, including 19 years with the
Peace Corps. I can attest to the immense advantage -
economically, socially, and politically - of having a
language that is common to everyone in a country. I can
also attest to the great disadvantage to developing
countries of not having a common tongue.

However, I can't bring myself to endorse "official
English" or "English only." Unfortunately, lurking
behind these movements are, in addition to the many
sincere and well-meaning folks such as you, racists
and nativists for whom "English" is simply a
politically correct euphemism for "white."

I would like to see English promoted as our "national
language" rather than our "official language" while at
the same time demonstrating that we value fluency in
other languages and cultures. I would like to see us
make the sustained financial commitment to promoting
both English and our other languages so that our
citizens will be able to work and to communicate
together and to compete effectively in an inexorably
globalizing and polyglot world economy.

The difference between "official" and "national" may
seem semantic, but I assure you that it is not.
Promoting and taking pride in all of our languages makes
a lot more sense to me than trying to forbid or discourage
some of them and enforce English.

Copyright © 2005 Kelly J. Morris

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