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A civil tongue

For all my life, I have loved the English language. It is quite possibly the most powerful and amazing language ever to exist, and it is no small coincidence that it is the common language of business, science, and many other pursuits. Its greatest strength is its adaptability; it freely absorbs and assumes words, phrases, and concepts from other languages, almost at whim. I once saw a T-shirt I wish I had bought -- it proclaimed, roughly, "English doesn't borrow from other languages. It lures them down dark alleys, knocks them unconscious, and goes through their pockets looking for loose grammar."

Likewise, I am proud of my ability with English. I have put a great deal of effort into my mastery of the written word, expanding my vocabulary, and finding new ways to express my ideas.

I sometimes think that that ability came at a price. For all my fluency in English, I have absolutely no talent for any other language. I have studied other languages, but my brain is simply incapable of the linguistic hurdles required to grasp another language besides the one I have been reading, writing, and speaking since childhood. For example, I know exactly two phrases in Dutch -- one a vile insult, the other "Happy Birthday." I tend not to use them, because I'm not positive which is which. I think the greeting is "hartelyk hefeliceerd," while the fighting word is "klootzak," but I'm not confident enough to use either.

That might be a factor in why I support the general notion of making English the official language of the United States. English is the language on which this nation was founded. All our founding documents were written in English. Our laws are written in English. The status of English as our national language may not be de jure, but it certainly is de facto.

Because of my inability to grasp any other languages, I decided long ago that I would never travel to places where my English-only brain would not be a hindrance. It is the height of rudeness, in my opinion, to travel to another person's land and demand that they cater to my linguistic disability. I would never think of traveling to France and insisting that they indulge me by speaking only English to me. (Although the thought of inflicting that kind of arrogance on the French does appeal to my sense of irony.) I have also been invited several times to visit Costa Rica, but again I have declined -- the primary language of that nation is Spanish, and I am utterly helpless in that tongue.

It's not just good manners, though, that prompt this belief of mine. It's simple survival.

When one cannot speak the common language of a community, a culture, or a nation, one is putting oneself in dire straits in case of an emergency. One must depend on others to pass along one's thoughts, one's fears, one's needs to those in a position to help.

That concern is playing out in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a broken-down city often described as "the armpit of the state." It's plagued with nearly all the typical problems of modern cities, such as gangs, drugs, other crime, poverty, a large illegal alien population, corruption, crumbling infrastructures, and scads of other issues.

Lawrence was hit hard by the recent New England flooding. A lot of homes and businesses suffered greatly under the deluge, and the residents are looking for help in recovering.

But for some, the quest for assistance has an additional barrier -- a language barrier.

I hate to sound cold-hearted, but when one is seeking help, when one is in dire circumstances, one is in no position to make demands such as "give me this form in Spanish!"

Lawrence, as the article points out, is about 70% Hispanic. But the implication the author conveys is that those people speak only Spanish. I don't think this is true. I'd be willing to wager that a significant percentage of that group can read, write, and speak English passably. If there are significant numbers that cannot, that is a testament to just how badly the Lawrence school systems (already established as inept -- they lost their state accreditation a couple years ago) has been failing.

FEMA is sending in multi-lingual specialists to assist the victims of the flooding, but they aren't there yet. In the meantime, those seeking help in Spanish are having to wait for the few available translators to get around to them. Meanwhile, those who can grasp English are well ahead of them on the road to recovery.

I know English is not the easiest language to learn, especially as a second language. But in this nation, whether or not Congress has passed a specific bill, it is the common tongue. And incidents like the flooding in Lawrence highlight just how essential knowing the basics of a nation's common language can be.

As Blanche DuBois learned, depending on the kindness of strangers can be a very dangerous thing.


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Comments (37)

My brain is screaming from ... (Below threshold)

My brain is screaming from the agony...

If 70% of the population is FLUENT in spanish... and let's assume 1/4 of THAT population can speak passable english... that leaves one translator for every 3 people. This means 1 person, helping 3 others fill out forms, can solve this "problem" in a flash.

Do people no longer seek help from their neighbors, preferring the aid of the sacred FEMA? What creates this kind of blindness and unwillingness to help themselves?

More importantly... Why should we give a rat's ass? Sometimes the stupid must be allowed to feel the consequences.

It seems to me that this ph... (Below threshold)
Imhotep:

It seems to me that this phenomenon is part of the culture. You cannont translate for a family member or friend, is a rule that I thought only happened out West.

This learned helplessness requires that the person or agency supplying the help must supply ALL help, including an interpreter.

Stupid question time: If I ... (Below threshold)
diffus:

Stupid question time: If I live in this country and speak Albanian and only Albanian, why am I not entitled to the same courtesies and rights as someone who speaks Spanish and only Spanish? After all, if I am a flooded-out Albanian, I'm undergoing the same hardships that the Spanish speakers are. Why does the government care about me only if I'm a member of a group? How big a group do I have to be part of for the government to furnish me with a translator? If rights accrue to individuals, why is the government's willingness to provide translatos for some and not others a violation of my rights?

This word "rights" people k... (Below threshold)

This word "rights" people keep using... I don't think it means what they think it means...


As for your question Diffus: People have raised that point. And the government conceded. Go to the DMV on the east coast if you would like to see a demonstration.

Gelukkige Verjaardag... (Below threshold)

Gelukkige Verjaardag

South Mississippi has lot o... (Below threshold)

South Mississippi has lot of immigrants. Some are from Vietnam and in the past 5 years, a lot are Hispanic.

After Katrina, the Vietnamese community organized itself and helped out those who did not speak English. They helped with FEMA, insurance companies, and all other aspects. Many Vietnamese depend on their children who were born in this country to intrepet for them.

The Hispanic community relied on intrepeters provided by the different agencies. Since they are relativity new to the area and are still first-generation, I do not expect them to grasp the intricacies of asking for help. While many speak passable English, it's a far different matter when trying to read government forms.

English is my native tongue and yet, I have at times trouble dechipering government forms!


Oh, yeah, epador? So's your... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Oh, yeah, epador? So's your mother!

J.

It is very important that E... (Below threshold)
Patricia Downing:

It is very important that English be declared our official language for at least two reasons which have much to do with history and experience.

First, Spanish has only two-thirds the vocabultary of English. Why is this important? Because words have meanings, complex meanings, and a person cannot conceive of or express certain concepts unless that person has a word for them. For example, if the word "freedom" doesn't exist in a language, then the full concept of what rights the word entails is limited.

For those who would argue that English has many unneeded permutations of words ( words that mean the same thing ), not true. Populations don't create a new word if the old word sufficiently covers the concept. Every word in English ( and any other language ) is subtly different from any other, else it wouldn't have been invented.

Secondly, our entire structure of government is based upon English law, its "language," and certain comcepts missing from Spanish history.

Spain was ruled by kings and queens, absolute power was granted to them, and the Roman Catholic Church also ruled over Spain - and consequently those concepts of monarchy and theocracy are inherent in the Spanish culture.

But in Britain, representative government and the concept of wide-spread suffrage was taking shape slowly but ever so surely over this same period of time. When did Spain become a democracy? Name any Hispanic nation today that is a democracy or a republic in the same sense that Australia, Canada, Britain, or the US is a democracy.

Language and politics are intertwined. There was no Spanish Magna Carta, and there was no real Protestant Reformation in Spain.

The present American goverment (Congress )follows a Protestant governing form ( Congregational and Presybyterian) with elected representatives making up the body of the "congregation." Of course, it also models itself upon the House of Lords and the House of Commons. This is all because of the Reformation, which did not touch Spain's governing principles the way it touched Britain's ( and thusly, the future United States.)

The idea of voting comes itself from the English method of representative government, which was a holdover from the Germanic/ Nordic idea of "commeners" having a say in the way the tribe is governed.

These two points may seem trivial, but as a man thinks ( in language ) and communicates he determines how his society will be governed.

History and language and the future can't be easily separated. I do not want this nation to fall under the concepts of Spain ( Europe ).

It's called assimilation to the American culture. You can bring your pot luck dinner, friend, but remember who's the host and respect the host's house.

Patricia, Queen Elizabeth I... (Below threshold)
Someone:

Patricia, Queen Elizabeth II would be quite surprised to know that Englad does not have a history of monarchy. In fact, one of the reasons why English has such a rich vocabulary comes from England's colonialism and the fact that it borrowed from its subjects' languages. I doubt there was a prevailing theme of 'freedom' in that vocabulary set.

Also, Magna Carta (Latin for the Great Charter) was written in Latin.

And the last time I checked, Martin Luther (protestant reformation), was German.

I know English is not th... (Below threshold)
chuck:

I know English is not the easiest language to learn, especially as a second language.

I have always been told by folks who had to learn English that it is one of the easiest languages out there. It is difficult for adults to learn a new language but, if they have to do so, English is the way to go.

In typical Jay T. fashion, ... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

In typical Jay T. fashion, the literary path to his ulitmate point is strewn with irrelevant debris, logic-seeking landmines, and the slimey trail of red herrings that criss-cross in myiad directions. As usual, I lack the conviction to forge ahead and tackle his conclusion because the absurdities in the path distract me like shiney objects.

Like this:

"Likewise, I am proud of my ability with English. I have put a great deal of effort into my mastery of the written word, expanding my vocabulary, and finding new ways to express my ideas."

Holy shit, dude! Any self-respecting writer knows "mastery" of the written word is a life long quest, and no good writer would claim to achieve that. Reality notwithstanding, you repeatedly bog down your posts with such claims, while frequently being called to the carpet by readers. Why not let your readers be the judge? Then your delusional ego can take a break, and we don't have to wade through your self congratulatory crap on our way to finding your point.

"Because of my inability to grasp any other languages, I decided long ago that I would never travel to places where my English-only brain would not be a hindrance. It is the height of rudeness, in my opinion, to travel to another person's land and demand that they cater to my linguistic disability."

Huh? Do you fault foriegn-tongued tourists who drop $millions on our soil every year? Do you fault the domestic tourism industry for catering to these people?

Perhaps if you did travel, you might gain some much-need perspective on things. Your writing would benefit immensely. Also, travelling might actually inspire you to learn new languages. In the time of a plane flight, you could easily learn enough to get you through the first day, and find the bathrooms, order from the menus, find the trains and taxis, etc. It's pretty simple once you inject yourself into the environment.

Linguistically, the main problem with illegal immigrants is not that they're unwilling to assimilate and learn the language--it's that most of them are illiterate in ANY language (or so I've been told by the translators and interpreters I've used in my legal work). Many have no education or, at best, the equivilent of a second grade education. They don't really speak Spanish, but rather bastardized dialects of slang and gibberish that resemble Spanish less than ebonics resembles English. Many don't have the capacity to learn. That's tough, but I don't want that to be my problem.

While you two circlejerk ea... (Below threshold)

While you two circlejerk each otehr over semantics, I would just like to remind you that this is not about "tourists".

Wow, I think Yogimus just i... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Wow, I think Yogimus just injected a semantic argument where none existed before. I'll leave it to him to pull the dictionary and resolve it in the privacy of his own mind.

As for tourism, I agree. So why did Jay make us wade through an entire paragraph about tourism, after already forcing us to suffer three paragraphs concerning his love for, mastery of, and confinement to, the English language?

My point was about the tortuous path Jay's readers frequently must overcome to find his kernal of a point. I certainly hope the English speakers in Lawrence are not mired in similar crap while filling out their relief applications.

As for the non-English speakers, they can sit in their puddle and wait their turn--preferably with a Spanish/English dictionary in hand.

In fact, one of th... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:
In fact, one of the reasons why English has such a rich vocabulary comes from England's colonialism and the fact that it borrowed from its subjects' languages
Actually, English's flexibility is owed to the number of times Britain was conquered, not how many people they conquered. The Roman's brought Latin, the Normans a variety of French, the Angles and the Saxons brought old German (not in that order). English's place as a bastard tongue and its high degree of flexibility was established well before the Brits ever claimed territory outside of their island. English has had its vocabulary expanded in the last few centuries, but it hasn't changed much since the printing press started to enforce some order on things...
Also, Magna Carta (Latin for the Great Charter) was written in Latin.
Because Latin was the language of record back then. The language of the Church, which bridged cultures and borders, and it was churchmen that kept all the records, hence the term clerical work.
And the last time I checked, Martin Luther (protestant reformation), was German.
So? It was Protestants that settled America, and they brought many of the ideas of their individual faiths with them. Esp the ones about how a people should act and how they should govern themselves. Martin Luther was long before the colonization period.
Yogimus, I blush to admit y... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Yogimus, I blush to admit you have a very valid point here. My principle holds for things such as tourism, at least for me personally, but it is far more significant for those who are actually relocating to another land. That was the point I was trying to reach, in my admittedly round-about way. And SA's first salvo (with whom I thought I had reached a modus vivendi) threw me off that point. Thanks for reminding me about it.

J.

It would be of substantial ... (Below threshold)
TheEnigma:

It would be of substantial benefit to all if a law were to be enacted to make ENGLISH the official language of the US. However, we can be assured that if such were to happen, at least one lunatic federal "judge" would find the law to be a violation of the Constitution.

Such a "judge" would not be compelled to provide proof to support such a ruling, just use his/her opinion. Once this "ruling" were to be handed down, we can be assured that virtually all democrats would vote no to override such a "ruling", thus ending the ENGLISH as the official language process.

I would be willing to be th... (Below threshold)
superdestroyer:

I would be willing to be that very few of the "spanish" spakers in Lawrence can read more than a few words of Spanish and can probably not write ay Spanish. I would also hazard to guess that most of them can "speak" Spanish in only a very rudimentary way and that most of them are closer to speaking "Spanglish" instead of textbook Spanish.

I would guess that if I took any of them and dropped them into Madird that they would be as lost and the very English only speaking American.

Jay,We had reached... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Jay,

We had reached a modus vivendi. But, in the words of Ronald Reagan, "well there you go again."

When writers open pieces bragging about their own writing, regardless of who or how skillful they may be, I am put off. I find it insulting, distracting, and completely unnecessary. In fact, it usually muddles up the piece so bad it completely belies the original assertion.

I recall about a handful of pieces during the past 18 months or so, where you bragged about your writing skills. I'd say those rank at the bottom of your work, primarily because you sabotaged them with the boasts.

As Randy Jackson would say, "Ok, so, yo dude, check it out: That's not working for me, and I think I'm not alone."

There are many things no... (Below threshold)
Elphii:

There are many things not being taken into consideration. First, this is a pluralist country. The most diverse coutry in the world, this is our most defining attribute, even more so than English. Also, before English forced it's way onto the scene, lets not forget that this country belonged to many other native tounges and still does. These native languages, such as the many still spoken among the remaining native tribes, Hawiian Natives, Alskan Natives, the Geechee/Gullah Nation of the southeast, or the French Creole culture of Southern Luisiana; are the true Amercian laugages. They evolved here and are tied to the land.

Also, langauge is subject to change. The English langauge itself is a result of tribal migrations and countless invasions. If langauges didn't change as a result of these events than we'd all still be speaking Latin or some Tribal Germanic tongue.

English is an exceptionally beautiful language, but we are not English, we are American, a collage of the whole world, and with this "invasion" of the Spanish language our language is taking just another inevitable but appropriate twist in it's evolution.

Believe it or not, the Glob... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Believe it or not, the Glob writer is arguing with me via email, claiming her slant on the story was created by the city of Lawrence. Bullshit. The story is contained in the first 4 paragraphs, and the last two sentences. The filler material inbetween is loosly based on the city, but it really doesn't advance her theme.

If you're offended by the "victim" angle of the story, let her know. Her email address is at the bottom of the story.

Jay T, I wholeheartedly agr... (Below threshold)

Jay T, I wholeheartedly agree with Starboard, and recommend you provide him with a complete refund.

Starboard, please feel free to insert the appropriate word instead of "semantic" to make the statement grammatically pleasing.

Now back to the topic at hand: NOWHERE in the article does the author so much as suggest that there is any responsibility on the part of the people.

Yogimus,There IS n... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Yogimus,

There IS no responsibility--just ask the author.

Please write to her--she's at her keyboard now, and willing to argue the point with you. In doing so, you'll find she doesn't even take responsibility for the words in her own story--preferring instead to blame the City of Lawrence.

If you share your findings with us, I'll pass my refund from Jay over to you.

ElphiiI would love... (Below threshold)
superdestroyer:

Elphii

I would love for you to explain you argument when a Spanglish speaker is calling 911 and trying to ask for help. I assume that you expect the 911 system to be able to speak in dozens of languages while making excuses for illegal immigrants to not learn English (as currently spoken and more importantly written in the U.S.).

Superdestroyer, <br... (Below threshold)
Elphii:

Superdestroyer,

The United States is now the country with the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world (referring only to Spanish speaking American Citizens) I can assure you connecting with a "Spanglish" speaking 911 operator is not going to be anywhere near as difficult as you would like to make it out to be.

Second, my point wasn't that people should not learn the English language, it was simply that they should not be forced. All second generation Americans from Spanish speaking backgrounds learn to speak English.

The discussion was about making English the official language on a federal level. Right now, only states have adopted official languages, some of them include Spanish or Hawiian and even Gullah. Let the states decide based on their own demographics.

This is not the first time this country has faced this dilema. Prior to World War I, in many parts of the country the school curriculum was given in German. The only reason that stopped was because we went to war with Germany and German-Americans were being attacked and harrassed therefore forcing them to assimilate.

I think appointing English as an official langauge shows little considerstion for those languages that were here well before English or those that evolved right along with it.

Elphii I am glad t... (Below threshold)
superdestroyer:

Elphii

I am glad that you do not believe that people should be forced to learn languages. You may want to tell that to all of the Anglos who have basically been forced to leave southern Florida since they are not bilingual. You may also want to take to the Anglo schoolteachers, ER nurses, 911 operators, etc that it is wrong to be forced to learn another languages. Or course those same teachers could spend years in community college learning textbook Spanish and still not be able to converse with the colloquial "Spanglish" that is spoken by most "Spanish" speakers.

My point is that if English is set as the official language then businesses, employers, and the government would not be able to use Civil Rights laws, EEO rules, etc to force US citizens to learn "Spanglish" in order to hold a job. It would also eliminate the coming line of endless lawsuits trying to force native born Anglos into learning "Spanglish."

Elphii said:"I thi... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Elphii said:

"I think appointing English as an official langauge shows little considerstion for those languages that were here well before English or those that evolved right along with it."

Let me see how deliicately I can put this: Tough shit!

We need an official language now more than ever. Learn and speak whatever you want, as long as you can also read, write and speak English! Do not spend my tax dollars to print official materials in a hundred languages, and do not spend my tax dollars to pay for interpreters to assist non-English speaking people to take even more of my tax dollars in the form of flood aid.

Ya know, I had to learn English to earn the income I pay as taxes. One would think the recipients of my tax dollars should also learn the language as a prerequisite for taking it. Otherwise, I do all the learning and working, while they do nothing but the taking.

There are dozens of reasons for an official language. For one, imagine the cost to product manufacturers (and consumers) when they're sued because there is insufficient space on a product to plaster warning labels in a dozen languages, and some illiterate moron in Kansas slices off his hand with a powertool or fries herself with a curling iron in the bathtub. We need an official language to avoid unnecessary printing costs, and liability costs from frivolous lawsuits. That's just one example.

We need an official language, we need people to learn that language, and that's a very reasonable expectation. We also need to begin putting English-speaking people back in telephone service positions, like 911 and customer service operators!

What in hell is wrong with us, America?

We need an official lang... (Below threshold)
mantis:

We need an official language now more than ever.

No, we don't. It would be a meaningless symbolic gesture that would have no effect whatsoever.

Learn and speak whatever you want, as long as you can also read, write and speak English! Do not spend my tax dollars to print official materials in a hundred languages, and do not spend my tax dollars to pay for interpreters to assist non-English speaking people to take even more of my tax dollars in the form of flood aid.

We can print official materials in English without a ridiculous "official language".

Ya know, I had to learn English to earn the income I pay as taxes. One would think the recipients of my tax dollars should also learn the language as a prerequisite for taking it. Otherwise, I do all the learning and working, while they do nothing but the taking.

Apparently you think that the "recipients of (your) tax dollars" don't also pay taxes.

There are dozens of reasons for an official language. For one, imagine the cost to product manufacturers (and consumers) when they're sued because there is insufficient space on a product to plaster warning labels in a dozen languages, and some illiterate moron in Kansas slices off his hand with a powertool or fries herself with a curling iron in the bathtub. We need an official language to avoid unnecessary printing costs, and liability costs from frivolous lawsuits. That's just one example.

We have never had an official language, therefore there has been plenty of time in our lawsuit obsessed society to sue manufacturers for this. Please cite at least one case in which what you are warning against has happened. If a court hasn't already ruled in the way you predict, please offer us some reason why you think one would, other than "because I say so!"

We need an official language, we need people to learn that language, and that's a very reasonable expectation. We also need to begin putting English-speaking people back in telephone service positions, like 911 and customer service operators!

First of all, where the hell do you live that 911 operators don't speak English? Second, regarding customer service operators, even if it were true that they don't speak English, which it isn't, do you really propose that we regulate customer service? You apparently aren't a conservative, and have not respect for the free market.

What in hell is wrong with us, America?

In short, you.

Superdestroyer, <br... (Below threshold)
Elphii:

Superdestroyer,

Who the hell forced the "Anglos" to leave Southern Florida. As an "Anglo" still living in Miami and having the time of my life I can assure there is no forcing going on here. The only thing that forced these "Anglos" out of Southern Florida was their ignorance and inability to adapted to a changing and evolving society.

Also being a R.N. here in Miami the extent of my "required Spanglish" lessons consists of about 5 sentences. To bad for the common monolinguistic, ethnocentric "Anglo-American" to have to learn 5 sentences of someone elses language.

P.S. not just "Anglos" speak English as a first language in this country!

Mantis spewed:"We ... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Mantis spewed:

"We have never had an official language, therefore there has been plenty of time in our lawsuit obsessed society to sue manufacturers for this. Please cite at least one case in which what you are warning against has happened. If a court hasn't already ruled in the way you predict, please offer us some reason why you think one would, other than "because I say so!""

You fucking moron, it happens every day! A saw says "don't cut off your fingers" in English, Spanish and Japanese, but some Danish motherfucker lops off his elbow and sues for inadequate warnings. The official language movement has been a central tenet of product liability reform for nearly 20 years now. Wake up.

Furthermore, many states do have official languages (contrary to your asinine assertion), and that protects manufacturers in those jurisdictions to a point. But they're still at risk nationally.

"We can print official materials in English without a ridiculous "official language"."

Of course we can, dumb ass. But we're still at risk for not publishing in 100 other languages. An official language clearly defines the threshold requirements, and absolves us if we don't print for everyone.

"No, we don't. It would be a meaningless symbolic gesture that would have no effect whatsoever."

It would have huge legal significance, moron.

"First of all, where the hell do you live that 911 operators don't speak English? Second, regarding customer service operators, even if it were true that they don't speak English, which it isn't, do you really propose that we regulate customer service? You apparently aren't a conservative, and have not respect for the free market."

I live in Southern California, but that is irrelevant. Most customer service centers are not local.

Mantis, you're a pinhead.

Oh, and Mantis, I said noth... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Oh, and Mantis, I said nothing about "regulating" customer service. That was my request to those who do the hiring--and I'm certainly not alone in that request.

Fuck, it seems most customer service is now farmed out to India (if you want examples of companies, I can give you a loooong list), and help is beyond reach for most of us.

This is not really a Lawren... (Below threshold)
John Anderson:

This is not really a Lawrence problem, it is a state problem. And yes, I think there should be Spanish (and possibly Portuguese, a large minority of coastal Mass population) forms.

I also think (American) English should be the official language. This does not mean not having forms available in a few other languages. Last time I looked, a few years ago, applications and tests for driver licenses here in Rhode Island were available in some seven languages. No, not for what is probably the one Albanian family in the state, but certainly Vietnamese... Of course, traffic signals and signs are largely understandable regardless, being of differing colors, shapes, and mostly numbers.

- - -

English is the hardest language to become fluent in, with grammar that is good for comedy routines and some 650,000 words (French has about 123,000) - but it is the easiest to learn enough to communicate, partly because of the grammar. A few years ago, I used the words "der Saltz" with a German and he coud not understand until altered to "das Saltz" although both "der" and "das" are just "the" to English and Saltz - salt - is certainly one of the first words in any language. In English "the house red" sounds silly but comprehensible: in French "la rouge maison" is not just silly but incomprehensible.

In English:happy bir... (Below threshold)

In English:
happy birthday


In Dutch:
gelukkige verjaardag

I'm worried about the numbe... (Below threshold)
Tim in PA:

I'm worried about the number of second and third generation immigrants around here (and I presume elsewhere) who have very little exposure to English until they get into the public school system.

While working in the city it isn't uncommon to run across 5 year old children playing in the streets and alleys who will talk at you in Spanish for an hour or two. You know, the usual "I saw a cat and then I got some ice cream and then we played tag.." sort of thing. They seem to have no idea whatsoever that you speak a different language.

I hate to sound cold-hea... (Below threshold)
Lee:

I hate to sound cold-hearted, but when one is seeking help, when one is in dire circumstances, one is in no position to make demands such as "give me this form in Spanish!"

Let's say you're visitng Spain as a tourist, and are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car accident. You are taken to the nearest police station, and the seargent at the desk shoves a form at you and hands you a pen. The form is in Spanish, and Spanish is your second language.

Are you going to ask for the form in English?

Of course you are, you'd be a moron not to...

Actually, I would ask for a... (Below threshold)

Actually, I would ask for assistance from the consulate.

I would be a moron if I did not know I had this option.

No, we don't. It would b... (Below threshold)
MikeSC:

No, we don't. It would be a meaningless symbolic gesture that would have no effect whatsoever.

Then why be so hostile towards it? I mean, if it won't help anything, why oppose it at all?

You don't see me bemoaning the recognition of "National Executive Assistants' Day", do you?

We can print official materials in English without a ridiculous "official language".

BUT, as pointed out, failure to print it in every conceivable language leaves one open to all kinds of lawsuits.

After all, if there is no English language, isn't it "irresponsible" of a business to not print warnings in Farsi?

We have never had an official language, therefore there has been plenty of time in our lawsuit obsessed society to sue manufacturers for this. Please cite at least one case in which what you are warning against has happened. If a court hasn't already ruled in the way you predict, please offer us some reason why you think one would, other than "because I say so!"

Hell, I am aware of these suits filed on a far-too-regular basis.

Who the hell forced the "Anglos" to leave Southern Florida. As an "Anglo" still living in Miami and having the time of my life I can assure there is no forcing going on here. The only thing that forced these "Anglos" out of Southern Florida was their ignorance and inability to adapted to a changing and evolving society.

When you lose a job due to a lack of bilingualism, you've been forced out.

Let's say you're visitng Spain as a tourist, and are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car accident. You are taken to the nearest police station, and the seargent at the desk shoves a form at you and hands you a pen. The form is in Spanish, and Spanish is your second language.

Are you going to ask for the form in English?

Of course you are, you'd be a moron not to...

You'd also likely be shot down in that request.

Of course, you DO have embassy staff to discuss this with if needed.
-=Mike

MikeSC, I do... (Below threshold)
Elphii:

MikeSC,

I doubt you know anyone from Miami let alone one whose lost their job due their "lack of bilingualism". As a matter of fact most of our visiting nurses come from South Carolina and I've yet to meet one that speaks Spanish. Now wouldn't you think if it were so important for someone to speak Spanish in this city, to the point where non-spanish speakers were being forced out of their jobs and homes, the companies hiring all these non-spanish speakers would make it a requirement to be bilingual.

Be a little more thorough in your thought process, instead just of waging arguments based on "because I said so"




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