By Linda Bentley | october 14, 2015

Is it time to adopt English as our official language?

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WASHINGTON – ProEnglish is the nation’s leading advocate of adopting English as the official language of the United States and of individual states.

ProEnglish is guided by the principle that in a nation, such as the United States, the function of government should be to foster and support the similarities that unite us, rather than institutionalize the differences that divide us.

The recent release of Census Bureau data from the 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) indicates 63.2 million (21 percent) U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home.

Of those 63.2 million who speak a foreign language at home, 44 percent were born in the United States.

And, of the more than 63 million who speak a foreign language at home, 41 percent indicated on the survey they speak English less than very well.

In the early 1920s, immigration was sharply curtailed, cutting the flow of non-English speaking immigrants.

The decision to cut the flow of new arrivals to the non-English speaking ghettos made up of Italians, Germans, Poles, Jews, Ukrainians and other Eastern European countries, stunted the growth of those non-English speaking enclaves and successive generations learned English in public schools enabling them to move away from those ghettos which eventually faded away, leaving behind only remnants of their culture in food, architecture, festivals and religion.

According to ProEnglish, by the 1970s things began to change with unprecedented mass immigration from non-English speaking countries.

As a result, English’s place as the unifying and almost universally spoken language in the United States began to erode.

In 1980 approximately 11 percent of U.S. residents spoke a language other than English at home, by 2007 that figure leaped to 20 percent, representing 55.4 million people.

Of those 55.4 million, 62 percent, or 34.5 million people spoke Spanish at home.

In providing background on English’s role as the common language of the United States, ProEnglish stated, “The rapid increase in the non-English speaking population has once again created large linguistic ghettos and the critical mass necessary for English to be virtually displaced as the common language of the local population.”

It goes on to state, “These demographic trends and the reemergence of linguistic diversity and linguistic – cultural segregation have been reinforced and facilitated by other trends. One has been a decided shift in the attitudes of American intellectuals and cultural elites away from assimilation into the prevailing American culture and the ideal of the ‘melting pot,’ toward ‘multiculturalism’ and its closely related manifestation in multilingualism, in which maintaining group identity is the overriding goal. Metaphorically the competing ideal is described as the ‘salad bowl’ in which different ingredients are mixed, but instead of blending retain their separate identities and distinctiveness.”

This shift in opinion led to gradual but pronounced reversal of government policy.

While government policy discouraged multilingualism prior to the 1970s, by 2000, it encouraged and even demanded the use of foreign languages.

The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 required schools to provide special assistance to children lacking in English language ability.

Children were taught their core subjects in their native language along with supplemental help to learn English.

Hundreds of billions of dollars were thrown at the program, which became deemed a failure by both natives and immigrants.

In 1975, Congress amended the Voting Rights Act to mandate the provision of foreign language ballots in certain political jurisdictions that met specific criteria.

This was supposed to be a temporary remedial measure, according to those who supported bilingual ballots.

However, despite government reports of waste that these ballots were rarely used and widespread public opposition, Congress renewed the provisions in 2007 for the third time, extending the bilingual ballots for another 25 years.

Special interest groups then pressured other government agencies with a demand for foreign language translation, primarily Spanish.

The Social Security Administration, for example, provides information online in English as well as in 16 other languages.

Obamacare provides translation services in 132 foreign languages.

ProEnglish states, “Symbolically, declaring English our official language would send this important message to new arrivals: if you aspire to avail yourselves of all the opportunities in this society, you have a responsibility to learn English as your very first priority. At the same time it would reassure native-born English-speaking Americans that immigration is not going to transform the United States into a country they do not recognize and where they no longer feel at home. It would signal that the United States intends to remain unified as an English-speaking country and not plunge headlong down the path of a linguistically divided society with all the dangers and conflicts that entails.

“But the most important reason to make such a decision is to respond to the overwhelming will of the American people, 87 percent of whom, according to the most recent poll, want to make English the official language of the United States. This desire cuts across all lines and reflects a degree of unanimity not known to exist on any other major public policy issue.

“To preserve our incredibly successful ‘melting pot’ society and protect the opportunity the United States offers to people from every country on earth, it is time to make English the official language.”

Meanwhile, the ACS reveals the largest percentage of foreign language speakers from 2010 to 2014 were among those who speak Arabic (up 29 percent), Urdu (up 23 percent), Hindi (up 19 percent), Chinese and Hmong (both up 12 percent), and Gujarai and Persian (both up 9 percent).

In 2014, the survey data indicates 39.3 million residents speak Spanish, 3.1 million speak Chinese, 1.7 million speak Tagalog, 1.5 million speak Vietnamese, 1.2 million speak French, and 1.1 million each speak Korean and Arabic.

Section 28 of the Arizona Constitution declares: “The official language of the state of Arizona is English.”

It goes on to state: “Representatives of government in this state shall preserve, protect and enhance the role of English as the official language of the government of Arizona.”

It also has a provision protecting English speakers from discrimination and states, “A person shall not be discriminated against or penalized in any way because the person uses or attempts to use English in public or private communication.”

Despite this clause, in August 2015 a Tucson Superior Court judge, in the case of Terri Bennett v. Pima Community College, ruled in favor of the college, which Bennett claimed created a hostile environment for her as an English-speaking nursing student.

After Bennett simply requested her classes be conducted in English, school administrators labeled her a “bigot” and punished her with a nine-month suspension.

After the verdict, ProEnglish Executive Director Robert Vandervoort stated, “This is a terrible blow for those of us seeking to preserve and protect the rights of English speakers in a taxpayer-supported institution.”

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