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When I was a little girl and I heard people around me abusing the English language or speaking in a not so proper English vernacular, I used to silently translate what they were saying into proper English.

Even today, sometimes I still find myself doing this, some habits are really difficult to break, I guess. So when a frequent reader of my columns sent me some information stating that a handful of US Senators voted to not have English as America’s official language on June 6th 2007, I stopped and pondered for a moment. Below are a few of those things I pondered about.

Say, for example you are in a city in which the Hispanic population accounts for major signs and notices being in both Spanish and English or bilingual. What does that say about the society in which you are?

That it caters to those non English speaking foreigners. Because it might be easier than telling the non English speaking foreigners to learn English if they are and want to succeed in an English speaking country.

And while there are a few persons in our midst who might want those non English speaking foreigners to learn English since they happen to be in an English speaking society, it’s also easy to observe how tolerant America is or can be.

And it might be tolerant because it does not want to cause stress and strife to anyone to learn English, if his/her native tongue is not English. Have you tried to fill out a form lately? Or try dialing a number for information about whatever. There are Spanish/bilingual options everywhere, it seems.

Now I do not have a problem with non English speaking foreigners who come to the US and want to speak their native language, but if you want to stay permanently and want to live and succeed here, then you should learn English.

Americans should not have to learn your language if they are in their own English speaking country just so they can communicate better with you. You should want to communicate better with them because you are in their country.

America is probably too tolerant. Try visiting a place like France or Spain and not being able to converse in their official language. They might feel insulted that, even though you cared enough to visit their country, you did not respect it enough to learn a word of their official language.

Peace and unity begin with all of us- Judy Ramsook

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The following comments are for "Is English The Official Language Yet?"
by JudyRamsook

On to a more basic point : isn't it high time it was called 'American'. This would be entirely in keeping with the US' standing as the world's sole hyper-power ( for generations to come ) -and therefore the master of all it surveys.

The Brits , for their part, are not likely to have very much use for English , in the forseeable future. The way things are going ,they ( like the Euros ) are slated to become a minority in "Blighty' in the years to come.

Thanks to their policy of multi-culturalism ,immigrants ( soon to become the majority ) have ,by and large, been able to get by without learning English : as they've never been required to learn it in the first place. The long and the short of this is that Britain should end up polyglot -with native English speakers in a minority.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: August 15, 2008 )

Hi RJKT, thanks and speaking of American, when I came here in the mid 80s, I was asked by an American if I spoke American.

( Posted by: JudyRamsook [Member] On: August 15, 2008 )

Judy, let's tell it like it is!
Bravo Judy...I agree with you completley!

My Grandmother couldn't speak a word of english when she arrived here as a young bride in the late 1800's. Education for imigrants here was not as available as it is now, but she was determined to try, albeit she spoke broken english all her life, but insisted her children be well educated and they were assimlated into our culture without any problem.

Although she missed her family, she and most other immigratns were so grateful to be here, and eager to embrace all that was AMERICAN. Many joined the Army in WW1 as their duty to their new country.

I say this, because it is not like that today...many immigrants come here so they can send money back home...and others to make enough money to go back to their old country. In other words...they are only interested in what they can take out of it...not what they can do for it!

JFK would not be proud! I expect to be inundated with cries of "prejudice" which...if you know an anomaly for me. well as most of us I expect...come from a long line of immigrants who respected this country and were thrilled to be here and WANTED to be assimilated into the culture, not the other way around!

I rest my case!

( Posted by: Beatrice Boyle [Member] On: August 16, 2008 )

Bilingual isn't just for the other folks
Having done some consulting in industries where there are public/bureaucratic requirements, the idea of bilingual signs, customer service reps, forms, etc. being for the sole benefit of the non-English speaker is something of a myth. Of course it makes it easier for Spanish speakers to hear/see things in their own language, but the point is that the organizations (governmental or corporate) need to get input and/or correct activity from these folks, and so provide the translation in order to facilitate the requirements of the organization as well as the individual. It is, as they say, only good sense.

Take a simple sign that warns of some kind of construction/danger. It is infinitely less expensive to product the sign in two languages than to deal with the mess of an accident and possible heath/legal effects. Companies provide options so that they can *make money* from people that don't speak English, or not as well. If the folks who are more comfortable with Spanish make up a sizable portion of your customers base, it makes sense to talk to them in that language. If you don't, you lose their business.

I don't think anyone moving to America from a foreign country would argue that learning English is a good idea. Even in the best of cases, though, it takes time, and, sometimes, preference can be a strong motivator, even when options are available.

I think it also signals that we are a country that values immigration and diversity, which is not the case in many other countries.

( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: August 16, 2008 )

Eric is right if the theory of learn the native language is correct shouldnt we all be speaking Navajo right now??? hehehehe Navajo say that out loud...navajo....hehehehehehe words are funny...lighten up...learn Navajo or else your point is an empty conch shell...We Destroyers and Usurpers have no right to tell the conquered to do A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G....

( Posted by: kilgoretrout [Member] On: August 16, 2008 )

My first language is English/American but I am completely fluid in Spanish. I am happy I speak two languages but understand that I should (common courtesy) speak English in public when others around me don't understand Spanish. I agree that people who "Live" here should speak our language. Hopefully it won't become an issue that divides us. When out with my mom people would speak to her in English realizing she didn't speak spanish but the second I walked up behind her they'd switch to Spanish. Hmm, maybe the big butt gives away my ethnicity?


( Posted by: nae411 [Member] On: August 16, 2008 )

Re: English-Shminglish
Navajo is known to its own speakers as Diné. I do not quite grasp the rather uncommon idiom of empty conch shell. Why not say the point is a blunted arrow?

( Posted by: poeteye [Member] On: August 17, 2008 )

Hi Judy

A belated thanks for your thanks.

Just been re-reading your post , and was struck by one phrase in particular " speaking in a not so proper English vernacular." What exactly do you mean by this 'not so proper ..vernacular.' As a non Caucasian , I can tell you that this does conjure up some less-than-delightful memories - all having to do with the way we'd regularly get talked down to by our Caucasian 'betters'.

Nonetheless i think some of us might have ended up having the last laugh .

Many of my relatives ,especially the women , who could hardly pull off the clipped Brit accent bit - could nonetheless 'wipe the floor' with the best of 'em when it came to writing . An aunt of mine ,and an uncle of my mother's ( both of whom have since passed on )used to write the most exquisite letters i've ever read - I mean the sort that quite literally gives one goosebumps. Whereas if you'd heard them speak -well they spoke 'vernacular'.

I ,for my part, don't live in the West -nor do I want to. I speak 'vernacular' . Though , hopefully, write better than i speak.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: August 22, 2008 )

Hi RJKT, thanks for your question. What I meant by the 'not so proper vernacular' was what is commonly known as broken English.

And you are right, some people I also happen to know write quite eloquently even though they speak this broken English or vernacular.

( Posted by: JudyRamsook [Member] On: August 22, 2008 )

Eric et al
Hi Eric

Yes I did watch that link but practically threw my hands up . Couldn't make very much headway through that gibberish .( And here I was thinking that I had a handle on several Brit accents. )

As a non English , who furthermore doesn't have the benefit of the 'exposure' of being in the West , one tries as far as possible to listen to the Brits . And thus 'improve' one's English. Listening to the BBC should be the most natural and the 'best' option. However one has quite rapidly been disillusioned - as the Beeb has turned out to be far too dumbed-down for one's taste .

When all seemed lost , lo and behold , who should 'ride in to the rescue' but youtube. It has turned out to be quite a mine of excellence : in particular speeches by the likes of Pat Condell , Tariq Ali and Robert Fisk . Speeches that both inform and entertain.


( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: August 23, 2008 )

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