In this English-Only discussion I can’t believe we’re actually having to have again I’ve followed all sorts of arguments for and against. The only one “for” that makes any sense to me is that people wish to forestall a Quebec-style bill where companies are forced to accomodate multiple languages down the road. There are any number of horror stories coming out of Quebec where small businesses have had to shut down because they couldn’t afford an interpreter or couldn’t afford to pay to change the labels on their products to reflect the French-AND-English-MUST-be-on-everything laws.
If we are ever faced with such a law (French and Spanish MUST be on EVERYTHING), I will fight it with every ounce of energy I have in my body. Granted, that’s not much these days, but it’s something. I wholly dislike one group of citizens deciding what is proper conduct for everyone. Unless we’re talking about murder or rape or arson or other horrifying Malum en Se crimes against humanity I’d just as soon let everyone go about his or her business in the way that makes them the happiest and most productive citizens possible.
I’ve heard a lot of people on the “English-Only Is DUMB!!!” side ramble a bit about how we Americans are so dumb and stupid that we only know one language and that ignorance is WHY we have to have such bills. No argument makes me angrier, and I have to tell you that on more than one occasion I was tempted to support the English-Only bill just to say a loud “Up Yours” to that particular train of thought.
Here’s the thing. A large number of Americans speak only one language. Many Europeans speak multiple languages. I get that it can make you feel inferior, but it’s not about stupidity. It’s about Geography. In most of the United States you have to drive for several hours before reaching a place where another language is predominant. In most of Europe you have to drive like two hours before you cross into “what the hell are they saying?” territory.
Trust me. If everyone in Tennessee had to speak Latin in order to do business in Atlanta, I would guess that many of us would sound like Roman senators. If everyone in Indiana had to speak French to do business in Michigan, well, voulez-vous couche avec moi? (Yeah, I know I misspelled that. I haven’t had French since Jr. High and I hate the remake of that song.)
At one point I was very conversant in Spanish and someone conversant in German and French. I can still read Spanish and Latin. I still know that Krankenschwester means Nurse. But I’ve not hung out with anyone who speaks any of those languages in a very long time so I’ve lost them.
I’m excited for the kids who are learning Spanish now. They may not lose it the way I did. They’ve got people nearby to bust out some chatter occasionally.
We’re not stupid. We’re just suffering one of the larger drawbacks of the whole Sea-to-Shining-Sea thing. And if you want to win people over to the Vote No On English-Only side, I suggest you stay away from the “you’re stupid” argument. It didn’t work on my brother when he was five and it won’t work on grown folks any better.