The United States of America, unlike a large number of all nations, does not, at present, have a federal official language English or otherwise, in spite of the frenzied debate and the fact that more than twenty states have acts that pronounce English as the official language of the particular state (Macmillan and Tatalovich, 2003). English is only the official language in a de facto sense and not a not in a de jure sense. The U.S., since the declaration of independence had never had an official language. In 1780, at the establishment of the nation, John Adams made a proposal for an official, federal sponsored English language academy (Draper and Martha, 1996). This proposal was abandoned having been adjudged by the continental congress to be undemocratic and a detrimental to personal liberty. The Founding Fathers, it appears, deemed as a right to the use of ancestral languages, and just like there is no official religion, never wanted the United States to have a particular official language.
Awarding English the official language status of the United States is rather a dangerous, risky and culturally sensitive idea. Many problems would come with the establishment of an official language (whichever one) that one may not always anticipate when arguing for such an idea. One of the most outstanding characteristic of the distinctiveness of any national or cultural grouping is the language that it uses for communication among its members (Ricento and Burnaby, 1998). It is true that a language, either spoken or written, is the solitary mean by which people communicate within a culture, and as such, the incapability of members to speak with one another using a common collection of words and a mutual recognition of their sense probably will hamper the cohesion, and even the continued existence of the group in the long run. However, to proclaim and institutionalize the official language of a society, a culture or a nation is laden with social, political, and even economic dilemmas. It is in the midst of the most challenging of political problems (Ricento and Burnaby 1998). Though the question is frequently simply posed in the argument (should English be constitutionally recognized as the official language of the U.S.?), by various proponents, it is more complex than it might appear to pronounce an official language for numerous unforeseen reasons.
In most sessions of the U.S. Congress, a constitutional amendment is tabled in Congress to compel the US government to adopt English as the official language of the country. Other efforts have made attempts to take the simpler means of altering the U.S. Code to adopt English as the official language. As at now, the efforts have been unsuccessful. As with other new ideas or beliefs, the idea of adopting English as the official national language is not devoid of opposition and consequently a heated debate. The contention from the opponents is that giving a language an official status, compels the government to necessarily provide all official information and provide services in that language only, and takes away the right of non-English speakers to obtain government services and official communications in another language which they understand. The debate whether it is time English was given the official status through a constitutional amendment intensified in 2010 due to the discourses surrounding the illegal immigration laws of Arizona and also due to the rising number of illegal immigrants in America who do not speak English present in many communities. Despite this dimension of the issue (illegal immigration), that has been brought to the fore frequently in the recent times, the growing figure of Hispanic immigrants incoming into the U.S., in particular, has strengthen and aided the penetration of Spanish and other languages in daily discourses, official documents and even in advertising. These complex dynamics have led to a heated debate about whether English should be legally acknowledged as the official language of the United States, attracting a number of fanatical supporters. The opponents feel that the proponents are very often motivated by anti-immigrant sentiments, or just pure racism.
By 2010, thirty US states had passed laws giving English the official status and a great element of the discourse is whether other US states should follow suit in giving English the official language status as well. Some pertinent questions arising from this debate are: whether it would help immigrants in the integration process and increasing their chances of success or whether other languages would be employed for some particular official purpose in America if English is recognized by law as the solitary official language, whether giving English the official status would be an affront on the American diversity, whether it would be discriminatory against non-native speakers, whether there is sufficient motivation to learn English if it is not the official language, whether there is something wrong with its status as it is, would English only laws endanger or boost public safety and whether official English policy is good for the public among others.
The debate has pitted the proponents against the opponents of the idea against each other each with both sensible and flawed arguments almost in equal measure. In other words there are convincing reasons supporting or opposing the idea of giving the official status to English. Various unconnected incarnations of the English-only or Official English political movements have been leading the call for recognition of English as the federal language throughout history while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Institute for Language and Education Policy (ILEP) has been the chief opponents of the idea.
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A notable group that that campaigns for the adoption of English as the official language of the United States of America is the citizens’ action group, U.S. English, which prides itself as the “oldest, largest” group “dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States” (U.S. English Inc. Para. 1). American English, which is spoken by an astonishing number of immigrants who also speak some other languages alongside English, points to the fact that even as other 320 languages are used in the United States of America, the nation has at all times orbited around a single central language, English (U.S. English Para. 2). The group argues that circumventing the affirmation of an official language introduces theoretical, pragmatic, and logistical challenges that prevent simplicity and stability from typifies all official exchanges between the general public, societies and government. While this organization does not campaign for the expulsion of other languages, it calls for a legal English policy and claims that such a move would facilitate an unambiguous set of agreed upon principles and measures for effective official communicating at all times.
The major historical explanation that is given to rationalize the nonexistence of an official language policy at the federal level is that the United States is a country of immigrants, a collection of people from contrasting settings, cultural understanding, and linguistic capabilities and inclinations. The rationale by the federal mandate here being that given we wouldn’t be what or who we are as a nation devoid of the influx of numerous languages and traditions, to endeavor to standardize it now would be counter-sensitive to our collective national memories. Yet, regardless of the rich assortment of languages and dialects used in the United States from diverse heritages, it has generally been taken that English is the most widespread, if unendorsed; language used in most day to day exchanges from official transactions to common informal dialogue in the majority of public places.
Conferring English the status of the official language in the united state of America galvanizes Americans who speak in excess of 322 languages according to the 2000, U.S. Census, by providing a universal means of communication. The requirements for all immigrants to learn English prior to admission into the country is a simple requirement and is a common provision in many countries abroad. It is would be a sensible request by a government and country that has always transacted its official business and governed in English. This development would not undermine national diversity since making English official in no way means it is the only language. For over two decades, inhabitants of the United States have been sharply divided over the question of whether English ought to be acknowledged legally as the official language of this nation (Macmillan & Tatalovich 239) particularly considering the country’s exceptionally varied inhabitants and all of the present languages.
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There are apparent gains and drawbacks of each position in the disagreement over whether or not English ought to be established the official language of the United States of America, but with all things put into perspective, even in a pluralistic and democratically governed nation of settlers—and maybe particularly in such a typical immigrant civilization (Ricento & Burnaby 1998)—in which the multiplicity of languages is traditionally perceived as a strong point, the recognition of an official language can in fact strengthen diversity, not dilute it, if in any sense, along the lines of nationalism. Additionally, the argument in support of English as an official language that it in no way, nor ought to, bar the sustained survival and use of the many other languages used in the United States of America. Rather than saying that such a development would not acknowledge the likelihood of the reality of other languages, say that it sets forth one norm as the most favorable. Proponents put it forward that many countries in the world have a legally recognized official language through the means of which the official activities and the daily interaction among citizens are carried out and this official language is just that (the language of government and other official business and formal relations). The contention here is that recognizing English as the official language doesn't imply 'English only.' That none of the states among those with official English laws forbid government departments from using additional languages when there is a convincing public interest.
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As already noted, there exist over three hundred spoken languages the United States of America. Approximately, there are 15 million American citizens, roughly 5% of the total 300 million citizens, who don’t speak English. Giving 15 million individuals, in not one, not two, but 300 different languages, the right to claim services from the government in any of the 300 languages is outrageous. If Spanish speaking citizens are given this right, it would only be naturally fair that the same right be extended to all the other 300 and more odd languages and the individuals that speak them. This would unduly be a burden to the federal government services, accounting for a huge layer of bureaucracy and financial costs. Even then, predictably, some person with some incomprehensible language will seek their "right" to be given services in their own language and of course the demands will not be sufficiently fulfilled at a government facility. The status quo is an illogical blend in public policy; a right that can’t possibly be supplied sufficiently and all the same adds billions of dollars in additional costs for the US government and the citizens who pay taxes.
Another benefit that would come up with the installing of English as the official language is that those emigrants and the 5% who don’t speak English would get an incentive to learn the language and succeed. The learning English would empower immigrants. It would give incentive to the 5 out of 100 an additional boost of encouragement. A declaration of English as the official language would also be beneficial to the education system. Bilingual initiatives in schools are extremely expensive. They entail employing bilingual teachers, generating bilingual syllabus, conducting exams in many languages, and purchasing different text books for the same units. This adds operating cost to schools whose finances are already stretched out thin. Making English the official language would make English the language of instruction in school and hence cut on these costs. Additionally, English only in schools would be a very efficient language immersion program. This would enable immigrant students learn English contrary to the bilingual system which facilitate student to go through the school system without learning English and consequently keeps people from finding well paying careers since they cannot speak English with clientele, co-workers and employers. This would also place the responsibility of children English acquisition squirrely on parents rather than schools.
An argument that is used by opponents is that such a move is not in the public interest. The issue is that English-Only Negatively affects the Government’s reaction to tragedies (Dicker, 1995). Nothing could be further from the truth. If an immigrant who cannot speak English witnesses an accident or is involved in one, for example, wont be in a able to communicate with response units such as a 9/11 agent, or police officer. Recognizing English as the official language does not restrain the government to always, in all circumstances, use only English in its services. It allows for the federal government to offer services in additional languages when there are extraordinary, convincing reasons to do so.
The implementation of English as the official language of the U.S.A would be advantageous to all Americans, not considering their immigrants generation status. As the country grows it would develop an individuality that is conspicuously American, but that uniqueness would not essentially need to keep out the wealth of language, culture, and customs that immigrants bring with them. Additionally, the adoption of English as the first—but not the sole—language creates a universal language for all Americans to relate to and to relate with each other. People should not be castigated for not learning English, but learning the language would enhance their interaction with others and with the essential institutions, which have at all times run from an English-based position. Presidential debates are held in English, we write our laws in English, our crucial Television stations televise in English and English is the means of used for all messages between towers and business aircraft globally. That demonstrates that English should be enshrined in our constitution.
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