Print Сite this

English as the Official Language of the US

Introduction

Despite English being the official language of more than fifty nations globally, it is yet to become the official language of the United States of America. If English is made the official language, it means that all government operations must be carried out using the language and that no other language can be used to demand government service. The United States, since it became a republic back in 1776, is yet to have an official language. The United States of America is a country like no other, with a diverse population composed of people of all descent. Almost people of all races, religions and ethnicity are to be found in the United States, today there are more than 330 languages currently in use, including 176 indigenous dialects. More than 47 million people (approximately 14% of the population) speak a different language other than English at home and around 30 million of this speaks Spanish. Hispanics make up to 11% of the population. 1

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

Main body

The nation’s founders knew the importance of America having a national language as an essential tool of culture and nation building. Language is an important component if any political and cultural unity and cohesion is to be achieved among the citizens especially in a society that draws citizenry from a diverse setting. Historically, the founders of the nation were reluctant to declare English the official language, having just been out of war with their English colonizers. Despite this, the American government has always carried out its business in the English language. In 1795 the House of Representatives even rejected a bill proposing the printing of federal laws in German. This development became a source of unfounded claims that German almost became United States official language. Since then the American government has given the issue of a national language little emphasis. Several states in the early 20th century outlawed teaching of other languages other than English in private schools. In the 70s though, the government gave directives requiring schools to teach foreign languages especially to students with limited skills in English. The education department advised schools not to use exclusive English language training but incorporate multilingual and multicultural instructions. These regulations were however withdrawn during the Reagan administration.2

The U.S. English organization is a political advocacy group formed to push for the adoption of English as the official language of the United States of America. It was founded in 1983 by the then California senator S.I. Hayakawa and John Tanton. To date, the organization has not yet realized its objectives. Some territories though have recognized English as their official language – 30 states, to be exact, officially recognize English as the official language. In May 2006, the congress voted to make English the official language by 63-34 votes. This amendment though was mainly symbolic and has not been officially passed to date. The current economic debate has taken center stage and the new government has not stated its stand in the efforts to make the English the national language though Democrats usually oppose such initiatives. Bills passed independently in individual states generally focus on the following:

  • Make English the sole language used to conduct government business.
  • Prohibit use of state funds on foreign language initiatives and also provide for return of such funds.
  • Provide regulations to the State Board of Education rule making authority on the use of foreign language.
  • The bills also indicate that they place no restrictions on the language citizens speak privately.3

Multilingualism is seen as to have contributed to a growing lower class and segregation to foreign language speakers. In metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and Miami, a substantial number of people have Spanish as their first language. Majority of Spanish speaking people do not know any other language apart from Spanish which is also the most widely taught foreign language in the United States. It is also officially recognized in some states such as New Mexico and Puerto Rico. Majority of those speaking Spanish as their only language are confined in the ghettos and find it hard to assimilate with the rest of the society. This serves not only in alienating them from the rest of the society but also makes it exceedingly difficult to find well paying jobs. English, though still not officially recognized in the United States, is the most important language and most spoken in the American society.4

Making English official is seen as a major step towards sensitizing the foreign speaking communities the importance of learning English and the added benefits that obtained from its knowledge. Most specifically in relation to job acquisition and maintenance, a standard language among the whole population is seen as a major step in guaranteeing everyone a job. Employers mainly take advantage of non English speakers and make them entirely dependent on them; they thus exploit them by paying them low wages. Learning English will not only help foreign language speakers assimilate in the United State’s education system but also diversify their opportunities in the American society. 5

Schools of thought, pro and anti US English have a conflicting view on whether other languages pose a threat to English and whether bilingual services prevent immigrants from learning English. Those who argue against making English an official language say that bilingualism is the use of two languages and not major use of one at the expense of the other. They also say that it is actually the dominance of English that poses a threat to the other languages and not the other way round. In light of this argument bilingualism should not be a question in this matter but whether a foreign language speaker is able to use English as well as he/she can use his native or first language. That is what is important in the American society and not whether any language is under any threat. 6

In this era of globalization, English has become a very important language internationally. Considering that the United States is a superpower and has one of the biggest English speaking population, and with more than fifty countries having it as their official language, it is perhaps time the nation formalized the language in its system. English occupies a superior position globally and is used in communication even between and among non speaking countries. World bodies and institutions as well use the language as the official mode of communication, For instance, the official language of the soccer governing body FIFA is English, and the international language for aviation too is English. If the current trends are anything to go by, English is set to be the most spoken language either as a first or a secondary language. English is the dominant language not only in communication but also in science, aviation, business and diplomacy. There are more than a billion people who speak the language at least at the basic level. English is the official language of the United Nations and has also come to be referred to as the world language because of its dominance. This has prompted some English proponents to ask why the government has not declared the language official if global bodies such as the United Nation have already made that step. In European countries such as Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark more than eighty percent of their populations are able to speak In English. It is therefore ironical that an English speaking country like the United States has more than ten percent of its population unable to speak English. The United States has enough resources to ensure that this situation is reverted. 7

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More

Conclusion

Making the language official is however seen to contravene with the United States’ pride in its diversity and not respecting the cultures of the ‘foreign’ communities. If the proposals are entrenched in the constitution, then the vast majority of non English speaking would not be able to access government services, since formalizing the language would mean that they would not have the right to demand government services in another language other than in English. This move will serve to alienate non English speakers even more than most of them already are. However such outcomes can be countered if the right, all inclusive and well researched for legislation is enacted.

In conclusion, the debate on whether the United States should make English official is set to continue. With the Democratic Party set to assume power, it is unlikely it will feature as an issue of relevance and might not come to law in the near future. With the growing population of immigrants, it is unlikely that pro English lobbyists will make any gains on that front.

Bibliography

  1. A. J. Califa (1991) Language is not the barrier. The Washington Post, A19.
  2. Albert C Baugh (2002). A history of the English language: Routledge.
  3. Barbara Burnaby: Language and Politics in the United States and Canada: Myths and Realities. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998.
  4. Dicker, Susan. “Ten Official English Arguments and Counter-Arguments.”
  5. Draper, Jaime B., and Martha Jimenez. “A Chronology of the Official English Movement.”
  6. Michael Macmillan “Judicial Activism vs. Restraint: The Role of the Highest Courts in Official Language Policy in Canada and the United States.” American Review of Canadian Studies (2003).
  7. S.I. Hayakawa (1985). The case for official English. In J. Crawford (Ed.)
  8. SENATE BILL NO. 1172.
  9. U.S. English, Inc. Making English the Official Language. Web.

Footnotes

  1. Albert C Baugh (2002). A history of the English language: Routledge.
  2. Michael Macmillan “Judicial Activism vs. Restraint: The Role of the Highest Courts in Official Language Policy in Canada and the United States.” American Review of Canadian Studies (2003)
  3. SENATE BILL NO. 1172.
  4. A. J. Califa (1991) Language is not the barrier. The Washington Post, A19.
  5. Dicker, Susan. “Ten Official English Arguments and Counter-Arguments.”
  6. S.I. Hayakawa (1985). The case for official English. In J. Crawford (ed.)
  7. Albert C Baugh (2002). A history of the English language: Routledge.

Cite this paper

Select style

Reference

StudyCorgi. (2021, October 16). English as the Official Language of the US. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/english-as-the-official-language-of-the-us/

Reference

StudyCorgi. (2021, October 16). English as the Official Language of the US. https://studycorgi.com/english-as-the-official-language-of-the-us/

Work Cited

"English as the Official Language of the US." StudyCorgi, 16 Oct. 2021, studycorgi.com/english-as-the-official-language-of-the-us/.

1. StudyCorgi. "English as the Official Language of the US." October 16, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/english-as-the-official-language-of-the-us/.


Bibliography


StudyCorgi. "English as the Official Language of the US." October 16, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/english-as-the-official-language-of-the-us/.

References

StudyCorgi. 2021. "English as the Official Language of the US." October 16, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/english-as-the-official-language-of-the-us/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2021) 'English as the Official Language of the US'. 16 October.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.