2007/02/13

Learn Spanish, Live Longer

You know...I just love 'English-only' laws because not only are they a perfect example of American arrogance, but the assumptions they're founded on are just flat out wrong.

The latest is Nashville's resolution--recently vetoed by their mayor who called it mean-spirited--that all government communication be in English. Interestingly though, the presumably mono-lingual Metro Council members didn't have the courage of their narrow-minded convictions. Instead of staking out a clear position, they included a huge loophole that would accommodate federal multilingual requirements. So much for symbolism, huh?

But let's not cast aspersions. Let's look at the English-only argument. Supporters will tell you that English is so popular that it's OK for us to flaunt our position as the world's most shocking linguists. After all, English is 'the language of business', right? Well, English certainly is in the top 4, but Mandarin is spoken by double the number people who speak English, and the numbers for Hindi and Spanish are so close that the difference isn't worth mentioning. English will drop from numero dos to numero tres before the end of the next decade.

Supporters will tell you that we sabotage 'America as a melting pot' when we coddle people with their native tongues. They reminisce about a time when everyone learned English as soon as the reached our shores--which is, of course, a load of tripe! As a genealogist, I'm here to tell you that in every immigrant enclave I've studied, from inner city ghetto's to rural villages, immigrants continued to speak their native tongues sometime into the 2nd and 3rd generations.

And in the end, doesn't it just suck to be mono-lingual? It's embarrassing. It limits one's opportunities as world citizen. It just plain pisses people off--I mean...look at the French! And now it turns out that if you're bi-lingual you'll stave off the ravages of dementia. How do ya like them apples?

23 Comments:

This is law is only supported by those who can't afford the Rosetta Stone CD-Rom series ... poor babies.
Monolingual? I take it you're not counting Pig Latin?
CitizenBoo...damn I knew that somebody was jealous of something!

Julien...and I'm not counting Java, C, C++, Pascal, FORTRAN, Lisp, Prolog, ALGOL, COBOL, SNOBOL, PL1, Ada, blah, blah-blah, blah... ;-)
Can the redneck dialect spoken in Tennessee be considered English? Why is it that the people with the most atrocious grammar are the ones who think other people should speak english only. Only when you learn to speak it well, hillbillies, only when you learn.
I speak more than one language...and can affirm that the dementia thing isn't correct. I'm as demented as it gets.
Ditto on what Lew Scannon said.
We are one of the few countries in the world which don't REQUIRE the students to learn a 2nd language. Appalling, really.
Kvatch,

I haven't gotten the hyperlink thing down yet but here is the URL to a post I did about a proposed new ordinance in one of Atlanta's suburban counties. Nashville has nuthin on us.

http://ratherthanworking.blogspot.com/2006/12/more-things-change.html
Lew... I find the number of accents in this country fascinating, but you're right in pointing out that if I should have to strain to understand 'East Texas', how hard is it to accomodate a second language?

Sumo...but your's is the "good kind" of dementia!
Old Broad... It's even worse than that, in many schools systems they waste time with "non-immersive" language instruction before they allow the kids to give up at in junior high. If you're going to be mono-lingual don't bother with "playtime" language instruction.

Dave...clicked through. Thanks for the link. I commented over on your blog.
Kvatch, I was gonna say the same thing about how diligent systems are with language instruction. It's practical worthless the way it was done and almost no public schools require fluency.

Like burning tax dollars with the leaves...
I've always suspected that people who get upset at folks speaking other languages are mostly insecure losers who are afraid other people are "Talking about me!" and want in on what's being said. Of all the things that politicians waste their time on, this is one of the silliest things.

The reason New York City had Italian, Irish, Chinese, etc etc enclaves at the turn of the last century was to make it easier for new emigrants to get along in the new world by living amongst other who spoke the same language. It's why here in Minneapolis, the American Swedish Institute published a Swedish language newspaper into the early part of the 20th century. There were also two Swedish newspapers in Chicago.
Si, senor - those are the very best apples.
Hariseldon67... In fact, it was the Swedish settlers from Eastern Meeker Co., MN that would be a primary example in my mind--the Frogette's family. On these farms and in the towns, the 2nd generation immigrants often spoke Swedish to their parents and sometimes nothing else. Even third generation immigrants spoke Swedish.
Michael... Non-intensive language instruction certainly didn't work were I was from. Spanish for 45 minutes per day up through 6th grade just didn't do it. The German I had in high school and college stuck, but I never did get conversational.

Peacechick...makes me regret not learning more Spanish.
Coddling? Hah! I'd call it more like respect. If we want America to have a strong society, I think we ought to be bending over backwards to help people who want to become part of our society. Maybe that's too simple to make sense, I don't know...

I have always wanted to go to Croatia, and knowing that I may be able to stave off senility by learning such a difficult language gives me all the reason I need to learn it.

I think the English-Only crowd is probably largely composed of people who would also expect people in OTHER countries to know English too, and for those people to use only English with them once it was known the monoliugual tourons were Americans.

(Touron = Tourist + Moron. When I worked summers at Crater Lake National Park I noticed lots of tourons there, but all those from foreign countries, without exception, spoke passable English. Some of the American tourons didn't speak so well... let's see, Lew, I think they were from Tennessee! hehehehe)
I loved Lew's comment and I think Sumo has a point. My mother has always been bilingual and she has Alzheimer's, but like every rule in life there's always an exception. And I would never have guessed that Hindi was so high on the list!

I agree that's it's embarrasing to be monolingual though. Europeans speak several languages, as do many Canadians. It just makes sense to accomodate ourselves to a changing world that seems increasingly smaller.
I'm having lunch at a Chinese buffet yesterday. The owner is giving the chef some instructions; the owner is speaking Spanish with a heavy Chinese accent. There is a couple at the buffet line discussing the food in German.

That is quintessential America, and the part of America that the English-Only crowd hate most.
I actually think that intenstive bi-lingual education would enhance America's international reputation. On US Mexican border these days there is no question about what cultural influence holds sway, and it isn't Anglo-European. Knowing Spanish there is just a necessary skill for getting along on a day to day basis.
From a businessman's point of view, I can tell you that bilingual people can write their own tickets in the business world. In many ways its worth MORE than a college education.
I'm guessing the same people who required "Ebonics" to be taught for a period of time, came up with this thing!

And just to be a trouble maker, I'm in favor of a second language being required in our schools. Question: which one?
"Of all the things that politicians waste their time on, this is one of the silliest things."

My response to "English Only" chest-thumpers has always been, "Learn how to speak Cherokee, then get back to me, yonegv."
PhoenixNYC... I agree, it's an excellent quality in anybody you're looking to hire.

I'm in favor of a second language being required in our schools. Question: which one?

TFWY... I think it has to be a romance language or Manderin. Both for the sheer numbers. Learn Spanish, and you've got a leg up on Italian and Portugeuse--together covering about 700M people. Manderin, obviously because it's spoken by a billion people.

LC...agreed...at total waste of time.
Someone has a link to a t-shirt you can order that says "WHITES ONLY" across the chest, but the word "WHITES" has been crossed out and replaced with the world "ENGLISH."

That pretty much sums up how I feel on this issue.

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