Adopting unified language would cause a stir in the melting pot

In this year’s GOP debates and the presidential debates of the previous election year, there is deliberation among the candidates about whether to pass legislation creating an official language for the United States. Several states have passed statutes and legislation that declared the official language of their governments as English, but the federal government has not.

Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have both explicitly advocated for English as the official language of government of the United States. Gingrich has held firm for a few years now that an official language is necessary for the function of the United States.

Often, this sentiment appears when immigration policy is among the topics for debate. The argument, generally, for English as the official language is meant to curb illegal immigration, especially from Mexico.

By forcing English upon all government business, the use of foreign language in the United States is then believed to decrease, thus making this country less appealing to immigration.

They want to send a message to immigrants that if you are going to be within this country’s borders, you are going to speak English.

    Join Our Newsletter

    They argue that instead of assimilating into the “melting pot” culture, immigrants, legal or illegal, are creating their own subcultures that differ from the culture and nationalism of the rest of the United States.

    Four years ago, Gingrich said without a common and unifying language for our culture to rest upon, we will be unable to maintain the civic culture that is necessary for a democracy.

    Supposedly, we are becoming more and more segmented by the many languages in this country, namely Spanish and those of Eastern Asia. Many people will live here for over 20 years and will still know little to no English. If we cannot all communicate with each other, we cannot be united. Or so the argument goes.

    This is but a taste of the multitude of tangents this argument has. With each tangent the issue becomes more segmented, more divided.

    President Barack Obama said it best during his presidential campaign in 2008 when he stated, “The issue is not whether or not if future generations of immigrants are going to learn English. The question is how we can come up with a legal, sensible immigration policy.”

    There are thousands of legal citizens in this country that do not speak English, but they work and toil to make something of themselves and begin a life of prosperity here. They come to this country knowing that they need to know the language. If the national language is implemented as some say it will be, the law will disenfranchise many legal citizens of this country.

    Should it become a law, those who now reside in the United States will be forced to find and attend English as a Second Language courses. The high demand of the classes will far exceed the supply.

    Because this would be a national law, it would be upon the government to fund the classes. Of course this wouldn’t happen if the Department of Education was shut down, as has been talked about in many of the GOP debates.

    This hearsay aside, mandating an official language is not an appropriate solution to unifying this nation, nor is it a suitable policy for immigration.

    Instead of moving the United States toward a monolingual culture, it should be moving to encourage those who don’t speak English to learn by providing the necessary resources.

    Assimilating into a melting pot requires work from both sides. Those who don’t speak English in this country should learn it, but those who only speak English should be on the way to acquiring proficiency in a second language. Not only does this bring every American citizen to the same linguistic level, but it also bolsters cultural awareness. Inherently, a melting pot contains hundreds of cultures, so it only makes sense to be familiar with them.

    Advocating for an official language is a xenophobic immigration policy — one that runs counter to the foundation of this country. We were born of a people who came from all over Europe who, speaking many different languages, simply needed a place to go to escape the horrors of their old countries.

    Requiring an official language will not bind the people by the same culture, it will ostracize those who can’t speak it. Instead of bringing a nation together, it will divide it.

    _Ryan is a sophomore in LAS._