Although not a linguist by trade, from time to time I intend to here publicize relevant articles from other sources regarding issues important to the domain of speech. Some of these will be in regard to the national fabric. Others will enter territory such as aesthetics, breadth and connotation.
"Amnesty Attacks the English Language"
Excerpted from the Eagle Forum
One of the mischievous proposals hidden in the crevices of the unlamented Senate amnesty bill was a surreptitious attempt to convert us to a bilingual (or even multilingual) nation. Section 702(b) would have forbidden the government to "diminish" any existing rights under U.S. "laws" that concern services or materials provided by the government "in any language other than English." Section 702(c) then gave this section extraordinary legal scope by defining the word "laws" to include "Presidential Executive Orders."
These deviously written sections would thus have exalted Clinton's Executive Order (EO) 13166 to the status of U.S. law. Clinton's EO requires all recipients of federal funds to provide all information and services in any language requested by any recipient of federal funds (such as a private-practice physician who accepts a Medicare or Medicaid patient). Ergo, all applicants for the new Z visa could apply in any language of their choice. Applicants would even have to be provided with tax-paid attorneys to demand their Z visas and challenge any rejection.
Clinton's EO 13166 should be repealed and English should be legislated as our official U.S. language. A new Zogby survey reports that 84% of Americans support this, one of the highest percentages of Yes votes ever recorded in public opinion polls.
CNN's televised presidential debates highlighted the chasm between the two parties on this issue. When Wolf Blitzer asked all the Democratic candidates "to raise your hand . . . if you believe English should be the official language of the United States," only Mike Gravel held up his hand.
A few nights later at the Republican presidential debate, Blitzer asked any candidate to speak up "who doesn't believe English should be the official language of the United States." Only John McCain spoke, hedging his reply by talking about the sovereignty of American Indians in Arizona. Blitzer followed up with the question "is there anyone else who stands with Senator McCain specifically on that question?" No Republican candidate responded.
A good example of the effect of not legislating English as our official language can be seen in this June 22, 2006 release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the school lunch program: "Please be advised that we have finalized the process of translating the Free and Reduced Price School Meals Application package into 25 different languages . . . Arabic, Cambodian, Chinese (Mandarin), Farsi, French, Greek, Haitian, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Kurdish, Laotian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Serbo-Croatian, Somali, Spanish, Sudanese, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese."
Univision, the nation's most-watched Spanish-language television network, has announced it wants to host a Spanish-language TV debate among the 2008 presidential candidates. After specifying that all questions would be asked in Spanish, Univision condescendingly said that candidates may either answer in Spanish or use a translator if they answer in English.
The Univision invitation illustrates why it is important to recognize English as our official language. Since only citizens may legally vote, and being able to speak English is a requirement for naturalization, there is no necessity for candidates to speak to voters in any language other than English.
When a candidate uses a language other than English (as Mitt Romney is now doing in radio ads), it's like whispering behind the backs of most voters. This is unacceptable because the candidate may be making promises or concessions or innuendoes to a minority bloc, and because the process tends to divide the electorate into political pressure groups.
The English language is the greatest force we have for national unity. It would be a tragic mistake to diminish it.
Let's terminate President Bush's "silent amnesty" and demand that our government enforce current laws.