Why English Should Be Official Language of US

By Hughes, John | The Christian Science Monitor, August 14, 1996 | Go to article overview

Why English Should Be Official Language of US


Hughes, John, The Christian Science Monitor


Most Americans favor a law establishing English as the official language of the United States. In an April Gallup poll, 82 percent voted in favor of it, 16 percent against, and 2 percent had no opinion.

Twenty-three states have already made English their official language. Legislation to make English the official language has passed the House and is headed for the Senate. If it emerges from Congress, the White House will have to decide whether to go along or to veto. President Clinton seems to be leaning against the bill. Bob Dole, should he become president, would approve it.

There may be wrinkles to be ironed out in the legislation as drafted, but the desire to preserve English as the principal conduit for business between citizens and their government is a worthy one. The motive of those who support this is not malevolent; those who will be affected by it should not take offense.

Every immigrant to the US who seeks naturalization as a citizen must prove proficiency in the English language. That proficiency enables immigrants - or should enable them - to evaluate the platforms of candidates for election, cast ballots, and generally exercise their rights as citizens. If authorities have to print ballots and conduct other government business in non-English languages for minorities who are citizens but cannot speak English, then the immigration laws are being defied.

Some critics charge that the bill to make English the official language is an attack on people's freedom to speak any language they please. Nonsense. Ethnic and minority groups across America - Poles, Puerto Ricans, Italians - treasure the culture of their homelands.

On St. David's Day, the national day of Wales, I fly a little Welsh flag on my office door to remind colleagues of the contribution that Welshmen have made to US society. But if I spoke Welsh - which I do not - I would not insist on voting on a Welsh-language ballot, nor would I demand in a court case to have my testimony translated from Welsh into English.

The proposed law imposes no disability on American citizens who wish to preserve their ethnic traditions and language. But it would require them to use English in official dialogue with their government, and in the case of states that have passed similar laws, with their state governments. …

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