By KATIE BARLOW and REBECCA SABER
With an open mind and two sides of the story, you’re bound to learn something new.
Welcome to the zoo! This is a blog where both the Republican and Democrat viewpoints are represented. The blog is not meant to sway you either way necessarily, just present both sides of the story. You may not agree with the whole article, but hey, you’re likely to agree with half! The topic this week: English as the National Language.
English should be made the national language of America at the federal level. I have to admit, I am not extremely adamant on the topic, but it makes sense. Despite the predominance of the English language, many other languages permeate American society. It is wonderful that America is the “great melting pot” and that there is such a variety of people and cultures. I support the maintenance of traditions and parents teaching their children languages other than English. However, English as a national language is necessary to ensure that everyone in the country is able to communicate intelligently with each other. The majority of the American population, or approximately 94.2 percent, speaks English. English is also the official language of 31 states and is the language used in nearly all government functions.
Making English the official language of the United States would also save the country money. Millions are spent during election years on printing ballots in several languages and on bilingual workers; e.g. the $15 million spent in Los Angeles alone in the 2002 elections that was 15 percent of the city’s election budget! Other pertinent costs include forcing health care providers who accept Medicare and Medicaid payments to hire interpreters for patients requiring their services and schools hiring bilingual staff and training teachers in new instruction methods for other cultures in response to the increasing number of children enrolled in ESL classes – Jefferson County Public Schools spends approximately $5 million a year on ESL students.
Declaring English the official language of the United States is the logical course of action as it will diminish barriers to communication, unite the country and save us money. Not to mention it would conform to the standard of the national language mirroring that of the fundamental law, in our case, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
The United States prides itself on being a melting pot of diverse cultures and peoples; we claim to be the land of the free. Enacting an official language would exclude much of our population and limit the amazing diversity of cultures in the United States. When I walk down the street in New York City, I hear a plethora of languages and experience an abundance of different cultures in just a few blocks. I cannot imagine living in a place where homogeneity superseded heterogeneity and the importance of diverse people. This would be a reversal of everything we worked so hard to achieve throughout the last three centuries.
Because our country was founded on the importance of acceptance and independence, we try to avoid excluding anyone because of race, background or privilege. That is what makes this country what it is. We have no official religion because that would create a dichotomy among citizens. Similarly, we do not, and should not, have an official language. Just because English is the most common language in the United States does not mean it is, nor should be, the only language spoken. There are 291,524,091 people living in the United States who speak only English at home, and 60,577,020 people who speak a language other than English at home. Why limit the extent to which we can embrace other cultures by curtailing the languages accepted in the United States? Furthermore, the United States holds the fifth largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. If we were to demand that each Spanish speaking person in our country speak English as her predominant language, we would be requiring that she lose a part of her culture and heritage. We could no longer claim to be members of a welcoming, free country.
We must embrace all cultures because we should actively include anyone who wants to thrive in America.
Katie Barlow is a sophomore biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences. When not debating politics, she can be found running half marathons and eating nutella by the spoonful. Welcome to the Zoo appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. If you’re up for a chat, Katie can be reached at [email protected]
Rebecca Saber is a sophomore government major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She aspires to be Secretary of State, but is willing to settle for Supreme Court Justice. When she is not writing about politics, Rebecca can be found watching TV in her bed or at some musical theater rehearsal. Welcome to the Zoo appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. If you want to chat, Rebecca can be reached at [email protected].