In September, multiple GOP presidential candidates made public statements saying that English is the official language of the United States. Three months later, these comments still cause my blood pressure to increase, because the individuals quoted don’t seem to realize the cultural harm that would stem from having English as America’s official language, if it were true.
Language is one of the main components of any specific culture and a major part of who people are. When someone tries to force people to learn another language and abandon their own because the new language is viewed as correct or better, it robs the people of an enormous part of who they are. It changes how they perceive their environment and how they communicate.
Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and current presidential candidates Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina all separately called out Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush for answering a question in Spanish while campaigning. They all applauded his bilingual skills but were not pleased with him using them.
“Let’s speak American,” Palin said in a CNN interview Sept. 7. “Let’s speak English, a kind of unifying aspect of the nation is the language that is understood by all.”
Carly Fiorina made a similar statement when she said she admires the skill of being multilingual and the fact that Bush is, but she “also think[s]that English is the official language of the United States.” These statements were made after Donald Trump said speaking English is “more appropriate” and “will bring better success to people.”
“I think that when you get right down to it, we’re a nation that speaks English,” Trump said to ABC’s Tom Llamas. “I think that, while we’re in this nation, we should be speaking English.”
The United Sates does not have an official language. English is the most widely spoken and the primary language used for legislation, regulations, executive orders, federal court rulings and all other official government pronouncements. Every one of those can and will be translated into another language if it is ever needed.
According to multiple reports from the Instituto Cervantes and census data, the U.S. has 41 million native Spanish speakers and 11.6 million residents who are bilingual. This makes the U.S. the world’s second-largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico, and those numbers are expected to grow greatly within the next 40 years. Looking forward, 138 million Spanish speakers are expected in the U.S. by 2050.
Spanish has been ranked as the second most important language on earth, right behind English and ahead of Mandarin, according to a report in the Guardian.
When the United States was founded—through colonization and the oppression of the original inhibitors of this land—the various and widely spread Native American tribes were forced to abide by the white men’s rules. This caused the native people to conform to the new lifestyle put on them and watch their own culture disintegrate, unless they fought to keep it alive through younger generations.
Language has been squandered over the years through colonization and discrimination. Too many people think their beliefs or ways of life are the correct way and, through a missionary-like sequence of events, seek to change those who are different.
The United States should be a melting pot for the numerous cultures represented within its borders. The 320,090,857 people who call America home come from many backgrounds, belief systems and cultures.
Instead of belittling those who differ from the majority in the country, Americans should be accepting of the cultural differences and be excited to learn about the people around them.
If Trump, Palin or Fiorina want to make the argument that English is the official language of America because that is what the land was founded on, then the official language should actually be one of the several native languages—such as Navajo, Cherokee, Quapaw or Choctaw—which were squandered by colonization’s boot.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2, 2015 print edition of The Echo.
image via businessinsider.com