Sample Paper on English Should be Declared the Official Language of the U.S.

English Should be Declared the Official Language of the U.S.

Introduction

Since the formation of the United States as a nation, diversity in language has been one of the major issues that have become highly contentious. This has resulted in continuous debates between the advocates of an English only nation and those in support of bilingualism. This is an indication that language is a highly contentious and sensitive issue in a civilized society, such as the US (Adams and Daniel 109). This is because languages play an essential role in the definition of how individuals define themselves in the society. In addition, language has also been used in the determination of social status. The United States does not have a nationally recognized or a largely mandated language despite the general assumption that it is English. In an attempt to understand the essence of language, Alexis de Tocqueville argued that the relationship of a common language is one of the strongest and most durable bonds (De Tocqueville 11). This is an indication that any decision that seeks to declare English as the national language in the United States may result in legal and societal consequences for the citizens of the country (Adams and Daniel 110).

According to one of organizations advocating for a national language, the U.S. English Inc., the declaration of English as an official language in the US would mean that all the activities and the operations of the government at all levels would be conducted with strict adherence to English. This would mean that public documents, legislations, records, public meetings, judicial hearings, official celebrations, and regulations would be conducted in English (Caldas 10). The U.S.E and other affiliate organizations have often advocated for the declaration of English as the national language in the US arguing that it would serve the purpose of uniting American who speak more than 300 languages. This is because it would provide an easier means of communication and encourage the immigrant population to learn English as a way of securing and accessing government devices and participating in the democratic process. According to studies conducted by Zogby International, about 80% of American and 77% of Hispanic agree that English should be the official language that defines the operations of the US government.

The underlying assumption among Americans the English language defines their national identity contributes to the fear among those citizens that any form of official recognition for minority languages would undermine the essence of national unity. Furthermore, there are concerns that the large minority groups in the country would amass power and insist n the enhancements of laws permitting a national bilingual policy as in the case of Canada (Adams and Daniel 112). The main objective of this paper is to present arguments against the declaration of English as the national language in the US. This will involve an analysis of the possible infringement of such a declaration on the due process abandon the right to equal protection by the law. In addition, the memo will also analyses the reasons why the US has not declared English as its official language by demonstrating how the declaration of English or any other language as the national language would not benefit the US. This will be supported by evidence from Canada following the enactment of dual official languages (Caldas 13).

 

National language development in the United States and Canada

The language policy in Canada

In late 1800s, Canada through it government enacted the British North American Act which allowed for the use of English or French during judicial proceedings and in parliamentary debates. In 1969, Canada drafted and adopted its first official language Act that led to the establishment of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). The charter contained constitutional guaranteed that the federal institutions would ensure respect for the use of both French and English as the national languages. Furthermore, the court also commissioned the provinces and Canadian territories to provide elementary and secondary schooling of the official languages to the minority ethnic groups in the country. This made students in areas that were primarily French speaking to learn English and those that were English speaking to learn French (Government of Canada Privy Council Office 12).

The Canadian Language Act operated on three major objectives. The first objective was to establish some level of equality for the two languages in public and private instructions at all levels. The second objective was to ensure the protection and the growth of approved language communities within the country. The third objective was to ensure that establishment of some level of equality for the two languages in the Canadian society (Adams and Daniel 125).

In 2003, the Canadian government presented an action plan for the official languages in the country. This was aimed at improving the linguistic duality of the country through investments in the education sector, public service initiatives, interdepartmental editions, and community development. Through this action plan, the Canadian government has the objective of ensuring that Canadians were more proficient in terms of their ability to understand and communicate in both official languages (Bolton and Kachru 22).

With respect to the concerns of fairness and equal protection, the government developed this plan with the understanding that the Canadians society being diverse required a platform that could enable the provision of fair and equal opportunities. These would be opportunities for all Canadians to participate in matters of administration and develop an identity based on the equality of their languages (Government of Canada Privy Council Office 13).

The benefits associated with the Canadian dual language policy include the ability of constituents to ensure effective communication and receive services from public institutions through French of the English language. It was possible for legislators to enact and make laws using both English and French. In addition, accused persona had a right to judicial hearing on either of the languages. The fact that bilingualism is not imposed on Canadians provides equal opportunities for all the citizens to seek equal employment opportunities in the public sector. There is a wide range of economic advantages associated with children learning English or French as their second language considering their competitive advantage in the international market based on language proficiency. About 40% of Canadian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is highly dependent on export business and this makes the bilingual nature of Canadian citizens highly profitable to the country (Macmillan and Tatalovich 238). Economically, bilingualism is beneficial to the country considering that about 50 countries have declared English as the national language while 30 countries operate on French as the national language. In-depth utilization of both languages benefits Canadians who can demonstrate high-level proficiency in both languages (Draper & Jiminez 100).

The language policy of the United States

Since the drafting of the constitution by its founding fathers, citizens in the United States communicate through a variety of languages. The linguistic diversity of the US ices languages such as English, French, German, Arabic, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Yiddish, Greek, hundreds of Native American Indian languages and languages borrowed from African Creoles (Bolton & Kachru 11). This is evidence that since its formations there were hundreds of languages spoken in the United States. Irrespective of the evident diversity in terms of ethnic origins and cultural orientations, there are analysts that have perceived the United States to be composed of a people descending from common ancestors, prophesizing the same religion, peaking one language and defined by similar customs. This is an erroneous and unrealistic perception of country since it would exclude non-English speaking and non-white individuals (Caldas 12).

Despite relentless efforts by the congress, the US has never declared English or any other language as its official language. The war surrounding the declaration of an official language in the US is traceable back to early 1900s where individual states developed legislations declaring English as the national language of the states. Some of these declarations such as the one in Nebraska in 1920 were controversial. This is because the declaration was made at a time when the US was experiencing anti-German hostility that h triggered the First World War (Bolton & Kachru 18).

The report by the Commission of Foreign language and International Studies in 1979 expressed the supposed lack of foreign language ability. This resulted in the introduction of federal funding for the development of curriculum on foreign language and the eventual enactment of the law on bilingual education in 1968. Attempted by congress to eliminate this funding was faced by opposition from the civil society which based its allegations on the desire by the legislative body to deprive American citizens of an opportunity to learn foreign languages (Crawford 33). In 1981, a movement aimed at declaring English as the national language in the United States following the introduction of an amendment to the constitution on the implementation of English only legislations. Despite the defeat of this amendment, there emerged English-only initiatives in the states and these led 18 states to pass laws declaring English as the official state languages.in the current United States society, there are efforts aimed at the establishment of English as the national language in the US (Petrovic 103). These efforts are driven by an influx of immigrants from Asia and Spanish speaking nations. The influx of the migrant has been considered a threat to the integrity of the English language due to an increase in the population of non-English peaking individuals. English for the advocates of the language has therefore become an essential symbol in the country and its protection is considered one of eh most essential elements that define the history of the United States (Hayakawa 94).

Since early 1980s, the US congress has been proposing legislations aimed at amending the constitution and adopting English as the national language. Additional initiatives have been conducted by the English-only movement, which attempted to execute alterations on the US States Code. The fraught with symbolism debate in 2006 led the US senate to pass a vote declaring English as the national language of the country. This legislation asserted that no citizen was allowed to engage in federal communicational any language other than English except for those exempted by the law (Weisman and VandeHei1).

Arguments supporting and those against the introduction of an official language in the US

Arguments in opposing the declaration of English as the national language of the United States

In a detailed paper published by the American Civil Liberties union (ACLU), the organization presented its arguments against the declaration of the English language as the national language of the US. The organization argued the English-only laws that had characterized legislation in the United States had abridged the rights of non-English speaking citizens of the United States (Hayakawa 99). This is because these laws were not only in contravention of their rights to be communicated to and provided services in a language that they could understand but also  a sign of discrimination by the government against its citizens. While giving an example of discrimination by the government based on English-only law, the ACLU outlined the details of the 1980 law passed in Dade County, Florida. The law barred from public funding all the bilingual services, multicultural events, public transits system, and medical services. This was aims at ensuring that the provision of public funds remained a preserve of events conducted in the English language (Hayakawa 99). The declaration of English as the national language through the English-only initiative is in contravention of the Due process clause as detailed in the US constitution. This in the view of the ACLU was because at a minimal there would be no court system translations to non-English speaking litigants of English was to be declared the national language of the United states. Furthermore the ACLU derived most of its support against such declarations from previous US Supreme Court decisions which rules against the prohibition on the teaching foreign languages since it would be an elements of contravention of the law under the substantive due process (Crawford 34).

The declaration of English as the national language of the US would also be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause as defined in the fourteenth Amendment. The introduction of English only laws therefore would be in violation of the constitution since it would eliminate courtroom translation services hence jeopardizing the ability of non-English speakers to understand the follow court proceedings (Petrovic 104). Through such laws, the US government would eliminate bilingual ballots making voting relatively impossible for non-English speaking Americans. Furthermore, such laws would also ensure high-level discrimination in workplaces considering the employers will be compelled to impose English only rule on non-English speaking employees (Caldas 15).

The violation of the equal protection arguments emanates from the proposition that discrimination is a substitution for national origin discrimination.in the Hernandez vs. New York court case. The judge argued that any policy that struck all who spoke a specific language with no regard to the prevailing circumstances of the trial or the specific responses of the jury can be associated in a judicial case as an element of racial discrimination (Crawford 35). In the subsequent English-only cases that were brought under Equal Protection clause, the United States Supreme court upheld the right of every US citizen to speak in the language they considered effective irrespective of the requirements imposed by the English only statutes (Porto 94). The main objective of these cases was to ensure the protection of the minority ethnic groups and languages by applying the requirements of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This was also aimed at invalidating laws that prohibit the use of other languages (Crawford 22)

The role of the courts according to the ACLU was to guarantee that the protection provided in the constitution was extended to all citizens irrespective of the language they spoke. This requires the perpetrators of the English –only law to consider the ability of other members of the society to understand the language before passing legislations that are implemented by method of which are in contravention of the constitution. The violation of the Equal protection Clause through the declaration of English as the national language can be perceived as a form of punishment by the government to all non-English speakers (Crawford 25). This is because such a law would limit their ability to access public services, vote and access education. Such declaration would also serve the purpose of stigmatizing non-English speaking citizens instead of helping them acquire some understanding of the language. The deliberate fortification of English language by making it an official mode of communication would act as demoralizing agent to the vast majority of non-English speakers who are struggling to learn the language.

The declaration of English as the national language in the United States would also be disadvantageous to the non-English speaking citizens. This is because it would deprive them of the opportunity of strengthening and enriching their national identity. Such legislation would ensure effective coercion of different of different cultural and ethnic groups into the American culture and impose the learning of English language in way that may be considered to be undermining their ancestral cultures and languages (Crawford 26). These individuals understand that their ability to speak fluent English is not a guarantee that they will experience any form of upward mobility. In the contemporary American community, these groups which include the native American Indians operate on the realization that there is need to establish and reconnect to their cultural and linguistic roots as a prerequisite of achieving high moral value and respect from other members of the American society (Huebner 12).

In the US, there have been successful attempts through court decisions and voting to eliminate initiatives aimed at the establishments of English only policies. These efforts have however been threatened by the existing perception by majority of Americans that English is the defacto official language in the country. A substantial percentage of the American population also operate on the believed that every individual living in the US or even those they encounter while travelling abroad has the ability to speak and understand English (Crawford 28).

The declaration of English as the national language of the United States would require the government to insist in the provision of additional resources, and opportunities for the immigrant population to learn English. Those in support of such a declaration have often argued that without an official policy defining the official language of communication, there would be an increase in the level of unemployment among minority ethnic groups. A large disparity between the vacant positions that the employers want to fill and the ability of the employees to fill these positions based on their levels of proficiency of the English language. For such workers to acquire the required level of proficiency it would mean additional cost for remedial training and reeducating for the employees (Huebner 18).

In 1993, the language for All People Initiative   was introduced to congress. This initiative encouraged the most instructions of English to non-English speaking Americans of all the legislations that had been introduced. Inasmuch as this initiative would provide some employers with a platform of offering English instructions (Espo 90). It would not affect the needs of the immigrants with the desire of learning the language. For employees working in low wage jobs, the employers would take advantage of their inability to speak the language hence introducing exploitative measures (Meisenheimer 11). These measures would thrive because the employees would be dependent on their employers making it relatively difficult for them to find employment in other places. These employers are also less likely to offer English classes despite the tax credit (Crawford 30).

The exploitation and negligence of the employees by their employers in terms of the implementation of the English-only law would be characterized by unpleasant consequences. This is because most of the non-English speaking individuals would not have an effective platform of learning the language upon the implementation of such a law (Huebner 18). Advocates for the declaration of the English-only law have failed to urge the US government to construct teaching facilities and resources aimed at helping the non-English speaking population acquire the desired level of prophecy in the language (Espo 93). The Language for All Initiative was passed by the congress despite lack of support to the USE on the efforts to enact English to foreign language speakers in the US. The USE has continuously spend many monetary resources in lobbying the federal and state government to support its English –only initiative. However, these initiatives have failed due to the inability of the organization to provide the resources necessary in teaching English as a second language (Espo 94).

Civil society organizations in support of the English-only law have argued that foreign languages in the US threaten the integrity of the English language. However, the opponent of the English only law argued that the assumptions by the supporter of the law are uninformed. One way by which they refute these assumptions is by focusing on the meaning of bilingualism (Huebner 19). Majority of the opponents of this concept interpret it as the using an alternative language other than English instead of the interpretation that focuses on the use of two languages. Seeking a single language does not comprise part of the desires of the immigrant population who are eager to learn, understand, and use English in their activities as a second language. When this is perceived in relation to the advantages of bilingualism in Canada, there are numerous benefits of this approach to language use on the competitive global market. There is also substantial evidence that the use of English as an official language also threatens the use and minority language. According to a study conducted on 5000 immigrant students of Cuban, Mexican, Filipino, and Haitian heritage, a majority of these students preferred the use of English to their native languages. This is an indication of the threat that English poses to the existence of the minority languages in the United States (Hulse 1).

There are no threats that exist if the US accepts the use of other languages by its citizens by the fact that English is the most dominant and globally accepted language. According to recent studies, there are more than 300 native speakers of the English language. In addition, the language is also being used as an additional language by about 40 nations in an official capacity. The language is also studies by a large number of native speakers of other languages in different regions around the world (Hulse 1).

Some of the most controversial issues in the area of language rights include the bilingual ballots, which were authorized in the Voting Rights Act of 1975. Forceful implementation of the English-only law would be a sign of the efforts to disenfranchise minority ethnic communities of their democratic right to engage in the voting exercise. In the history of the United States, literacy tests and poll taxes were used to intimidate the African-American community to discourage them from voting and involving themselves in political processes (Porto 95). These discriminative tendencies were also directed towards to the immigrants who spoke broken English while attempting to exercise their right of engaging in the voting process. The federal government through the Congress passed a legislation aimed at ensuring the protection of the use of bilingual ballots with areas with relatively high population of non-native English speaking communities with low levels of literacy (Panetta 34). This was aimed at eliminating any form of discrimination against minority and foreign language speakers. Critics of the use of bilingual ballots argue that they discourage nonnative English speaking Americans from learning, understanding and speaking the language (Hulse 1).

According to the advocates of the English –only law, it would be prudent for people seeking naturalization in the US under the age of fifty to be subjected to tests that demos rate their competence in speaking the English language as a condition of being awarded citizenship. In addition, advocates of this law also argue that natural citizens should be subjected to la literacy test before voting a way of substantiating their level patriotism (Hulse 1). However, the opponents of this law argue that voting in one’s native language does not deter him from learning and speaking the English language. This means that making English an official language will only limit their level of willingness and interest to learn the English language (De La Pena 110).

Arguments supporting the declaration of English as an official language in the United States

English-only advocates and organizations such as the USE believed that their agenda to promote amendments to the constitution that will declare English as the national language at all levels in the US is essential and beneficial for the country and its citizens. English, for the advocates of this law, would provide the US citizens who speak more than 300 languages with a platform of unity (Califa 102). The elements of unity will also provide a common sense of communication, which will encourage the immigrant population to develop an interest in learning the English language. This interest will be based on the understanding of the necessity of the language in accessing public services and participating in the political process (De La Pena 104).

The national motto of the USE, “Out of many one,” is based on eth belief that members of different ethnic groups formed the United States. However, there need all these communities to be blended into one trough a common language as a strategy of achieving unity (Califa 104). The main objective of this approach to understanding the essence of language is that the proliferation of multilingual government in the United States sends contradictory message to non-English speakers who develop the belief that it is unnecessary to learn the English language because the government will accommodate them in the other languages (Califa 295). While utilizing the study published by US Department of Labor, the advocates for the English –only law argued that the immigrant communities were relatively slower in learning the English language when receiving support for their native languages. This is an indication that a multilingual government encourages the development of multilingual enclave in the US (Schmidt 23). Such divisions in ethnic languages have also been cited as possible contributors of racial and ethnic conflicts. Therefore, the designation of English as the national language would help in reduction and the reversal of harmful processes and activities among the US citizens (De La Pena 102).

The declaration of English as the national language of communication would socially benefit the immigrant population. Instead of the mixed and confusing messages that the government sends by making it possible to vote, file tax returns, receive a host of services, and become an American citizen in varieties of languages. The immigrants will be compelled to learn the English language as a requirement for their participation in democratic process and the reception of public services (Califa 108).

The U.S.E contents that the benefits of attributing English, as the official language in the US is that it makes it imperative in an industrious society such as the US for the citizens to develop high level of proficiency. This limits the risk that the US will degenerate into a society of low skilled workers and relatively low paying employment opportunities (Perea 305). According to the 2000 Census data there, is a direct relationship between the level of proficiency in the English language and the levels of economic success in a society. The censure data indicated a 30% increase in the income of immigrants who could communicate in English (Califa 109).

An additional popular argument that is often propounded in benefit of an English-only law is that such a law eliminates irrelevant duplication of services offered by the government. Such saving would provide a technique through which the government of the US will ensure that it saves time and money, which comprise strained resources (Califa 1293). The financial benefits that arise from saving money would result in the establishment of an official language since it would ensure that the government saves the resources and time spent by publishing official documents in one language hence a reduction in the printing and translation costs accrued by the government. It is possible for the government to use the resources saved from multilingual services to construct infrastructure that would provide the immigrant population with educational resources that are considered a necessity in learning and speaking the English language (Califa 296).

Language polices in Canada compared to the policy in the United States

Different civil society and advocacy groups have cited countries with more than one official language such as Canada as examples of the future United States if the government fails to consider enact one official language. These advocacy groups base their arguments on the social and political conflicts that have often characterized dual declared languages. The difference between Canada and the United States is that the former developed with specific geographic regions where different languages were spoken (Macmillan and Tatalovich 239). In the U.S, immigrants with divergent cultures and languages were welcomed to form part of the United States. French and English are the two official languages of Canada. Prior to the declaration of these languages, areas where French was spoken such as Quebec wanted Canada to be declared a French speaking community to distinguish themselves from the English speakers as a way of making a declaration of their national identity (Macmillan and Tatalovich 240). The situation is however different in the United States where the English –only advocated have argued that an increase in the population of Spanish speaking immigrants threatens the integrity of English which is widely spoken language in the country. However, opponents of the English-only law have argued that Spanish speakers in the US accept English as an essential tool in the local and international success of the non-English speakers. Their desire to speak their minority languages does not threaten English but only serves the purpose of promoting elements of their cultural heritage (Chavez 88).

The language battle between the French and English speaking communities in Canada led to the necessity of implementing dual official languages in the country. This is however a different situation from the experiences in the United States considering that the country has only been experiencing an influx of immigrant population who do not threaten or advocate for their minority languages to be declared the official languages (Somerstein 251).

The challenge in the US in the view of the advocates of the English-only law is that the multiplicity of languages creates a diverse society, which requires some form of satisfaction from government services. These services are however relatively hectic to deliver effectively since they must be communicates in languages that the American citizens can understand, the government must therefore spend resources translating polices and providing services through languages that are easily understood by the targeted public (Hurt 1).

Inasmuch as Canada is an officially bilingual state, existing statistics indicate that the country is better described as English speaking with French delegated as the second language or the minority language. All the government operations in Canada are executed through French and English but the use of the former outside certain geographical areas is restricted. The frequent use of English can be demonstrated by the high population of English speakers in the administrative and economic arms of the government (Macmillan and Tatalovich 239). Furthermore, most Canadian employers prefer applicants with high profanely in English and this is a demonstration of how French-speaking Canadians are compelled to adopt English as the national identity. This is an illustration that even if the United States declares English as its official language it does not infer that the American citizens will abide by the requirements of the mandated language. The dominance by the English speaking Canadians over the French speakers in Canada has also resulted in the development of political, economic, and social-cultural fight for dominance between the two groups instead of the development of an ideal situation where the two groups mutually co-exist for the benefit of the country (Somerstein 252).

The fear of balkanization with regard to a divide of conflict between ethnic communities and the development of social misunderstandings has been one of the elements supporting the English-only law in the United States (Petrovic 104). The rise of the Spanish speaking population has created fears on the possibility of future demands for Spanish to be made an official language in the US (Chavez 88). Many advocates for an English only country argue that the legalization of bilingualism has the possibility of creating hostilities among citizens. The language policy in Canada is considered as an example of the divisive nature of bilingualism (Chavez 89). Despite the benefits that Canada acquires through its dual language policy, the policy does not need to the development of a perfect system considering that e prevailing situation does not satisfy the English and French speakers in the country. Despite the imperfection, both parties have made compromises to ensure that peace prevails as the unifying factor in the country (De La Pena 105).

The dual language policy in Canada should play the role of a warning the policy makers in the United States before they declare English as the national language. Language plays an essential role in the development of a society considering that it is used as a tool for communication. Effective communication is only considered a possibility is a satiation where bit parties can understand the information communicated (Tigreros 295). This means that it would be important for policy maker sin the United States to consider the interest of both the English only and the minority language groups who face the possibility of losing their cultural heritage upon the declaration of English as the national language of the country. Rather than strengthen English language and detriments other languages, it would be important for the country to embrace the Canadian example as a way of examining language rights. An English-only law would also affect the ability of minority children to access quality education. The declaration of English language would mean a withdrawal of bilingual education opportunities hence a denial of the basic right to bilingual education (Tigreros 296). Instead of an English only legislation, the US needs policies and legislations that provide an assurance to the minorities that government will provide opportunities that ensure access to effective government services in languages that they can understand (Hurt 1).

Conclusion

It would be important for the United State to consider the Canadian experience while handling language policies. This will ensure that the declaration of English as an official language does not act as a discriminatory tool. The English-only legislation is founded on contentions that statutes advocating for monolingualism in government operations are unconstitutionally motivated. In addition, such a law would also lead to the creation of second-class citizens for American who consider English as their second language. It is the responsibility of the United States to ensure that it avoids the introduction and implementation of language polices which make it relatively difficult for minority communities to access government services and exercise their democratic rights such as voting. An additional consideration is that national unity in a culture such as the US can be enhanced when linguistic and cultural diversities are encouraged. The implementation of an English-only law by the ferial government would be an indication of an intention to repress non-English speaking communities. The result of such an action would be backlashes instigated by non-English speaking communities against English speakers of against the US government. It is therefore important to consider the United States as a multilingual society where the minority communities continuously strive to learn English as a means of realizing social mobility and success.

 

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