An official language is something the United States does not have and most likely never will. Declaring an official language (or languages) is something that I believe should not be America’s main focal point at the current moment, we have many more difficulties that are of higher importance. Although, I’m not entirely sure that declaring a language will have real benefits, if any at all.
Last week, Carissa from the BU Republicans made a great point in her article, that the U.S. has no official language and that bilingualism benefits everyone. What most people are not aware of is that the U.S. has no official language at the federal level. The government left that to the states to decide if they want to declare one, two or no official languages. Most states in the U.S. have declared English as the official language (like California and Arizona) and some states have no official language.
Carissa also mentioned that in Los Angeles there was $15 million used to print out ballots in multiple languages in 2002 elections. English has been the official language of Los Angeles, California, since 1986. Declaring English obviously didn’t affect much of anything, and printing out ballots in multiple languages only makes sense. Some first and second generation immigrants may be mostly bilingual in English and their native language, but ballots can have obscure political vocabulary and can be difficult to fully grasp. We are a nation of immigrants, and so printing out ballots in multiple languages is only natural, especially in a state like California.
There is also the point that learning English (or any other second language) is significantly more difficult for adults. As a German language double major, I fully understand the difficulties that arise when learning a second language. It takes multiple years, continuous hours of practice and it can be very discouraging to learn. It’s something that you forget quickly if not practiced every day. There’s the root of the problem. Most first generation immigrants are coming here to work, with little or no time to learn a second language, let alone have enough money to do so.
For example, if you are an immigrant from Mexico and find a job with mostly Spanish speaking employees, then learning English would be close to a waste of time and money that you don’t have to begin with. This is an entirely possible situation in some places in the U.S., and no, it’s not a crime. I do believe that most people should learn basic English to get around, but then again, we do have Google translate at our fingertips.
I do think the U.S. should provide more adult programs that are subsidized for immigrants to have the ability to fully learn English, which yes, could lead them to receive better jobs, but this is only a dream under the current administration. Budget cuts as a result of reallocating money towards the military and Trump’s gracious tax cuts, will not allow enough room for these sort of programs. Also, most cities with a high density of foreign speakers happen to be “sanctuary cities”. In other words, cities that the current administration is now threatening to take away all federal funding from. So unfortunately, we would most likely have to rely heavily on volunteer teachers, which can only go so far.
It is extremely difficult to learn a language on your own, and can be very costly to find ways to become fluent in it, so programs or classes like this would be a requirement (if declaring English as our official language). In the end I don’t believe that declaring English would be saving revenue, but rather spending more of it.
Last week Carissa also stated that liberals believe declaring English is racist. Once again, generalizing a whole group of people will get us nowhere. I don’t believe that having English as our official language is racist at all, but I have actually heard people say, “We only speak English or American here. So pick one or leave the country.”
I mean… that is not only the result of absolute ignorance, but also intolerance. I think that most people left of center would be referring to comments like those when referencing racism in this debate.
For the United States, I think it could possibly be beneficial to declare BOTH English and Spanish as our official languages, but I’m not entirely sure doing so would change anything. Canada has French and English as their official languages, and Switzerland even has four, so I will say that America could follow in those footsteps of declaring more than one in the future.
But as our friends on the right would say, maybe we should leave it up for the States to decide.Chloe Devitis is a Anthropology and German major. She is the BU Democrats Communications Coordinator, German Club Vice President and a staff writer for The Voice