If you travel to Greece or China, you would expect that any employee of a hotel, or a security officer, would speak Greek or Chinese. After all, it is their country. Same goes for any other nation in the world, except…of course, the United States, where every other language is okay and no one should have to speak anything but their mother tongue. Nowadays, it’s up to Americans to adapt to foreign custom and language, not vise versa.
Something wrong with that.
Take Miami, Florida. Beautiful city. I grew up there, schooled there, worked there, lived there for fifty of my seventy years. What was, is no longer. It must be the most changed city in America, especially since 1960.
We recently traveled there to attend a graduation and stayed at a hotel near downtown Miami. Our room needed another pillow, so I asked the maid in the hallway if she could get us one. “No peaky Engly,” she said, waving me off. Well…okay. I’ll go through the front desk.
The next morning, as the breakfast bar was being opened, I asked the employee, “Do you have decaf?”
“No peaky Engly,” she said. Wellllll, okay.
Later that morning, we arrived at the auditorium parking garage. We needed directions to find the James L. Knight Center. Sure enough, a middle-aged security officer was roaming about, so I asked for directions. “No peaky Engly,” was his answer.
Bottled inside of me, I felt like screaming: “This is America! How can this be? How audacious to work in a public setting in this country and not even try to learn English. And, how dare your employers hire you without being able to communicate to American citizens.”
I consider myself a fairly liberal minded person with conservative leanings. But there are limits. I was deeply offended. If you or I applied for a job in a foreign country, we would feel compelled to learn, at the least, the basics of that nation’s language. Not so here.
I’ve made some progress in learning Spanish. I had to, I was a cop in Miami for thirty years. I love the Cuban people, their food, their music, their vibrance and their diligence. All of my Cuban friends who migrated to America, have learned the English language while still maintaining an Hispanic tongue. And it’s good that they teach their children to be bi-lingual. I do believe more Americans should endeavor to become bi-lingual. I wish I had.
But there’s something about our nation’s identity that is dangerously at risk. That’s disturbing. Language is a major element of “identity.” When an American cannot go into an American hotel or an American city parking lot, and cannot converse in basic English, it’s beyond disconcerting. It’s rude. It’s offensive. It’s the beginning of the Babel mentality. It’s part of the slippery slope from which we may never return.
Writers often make reference to the wisdom of the founding fathers. Can you imagine what Washington, Jefferson or Madison would say if they came to a Miami graduation?
I can only imagine how it might be worse in the southwestern states where Mexican immigration — legal and illegal — is changing the culture of America, including language. Now, schools, government agencies, telephone directories, signs and literature, must adapt to the foreign tongue, rather than the foreign tongue adapting to us.
Don’t tell me about being a nation of immigrants. When Italians, Poles, Jews and Germans immigrated to the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries, they told their children, “Speak English. You are Americans now.”
Today’s immigrants are telling America, “We want signs, phone messages, government literature, and all other materials to be in Spanish.”
How dare they.
This is like inviting foreign friends into your house. Then they take over and decide it’s their house.
I love America and what it stands for. Yes, I voice complaints like everyone else. It’s not perfect. And, the multi-ethnic aspect of our country certainly enriches the culture. But there are lines and our immigrants are crossing them. We want to keep America the land of freedom and opportunity, and of harmony among the cultures.
That’s why this American votes for making English the official language of this country. It doesn’t mean other languages are illegal, that’s absurd. But it means our schools, our signs, our government communicates in one tongue, and immigrants are obliged not only to learn our language, but to ensure it’s taught to their kids.
In 2005, a Zogby Poll found that 82 percent of Americans favored making English the official language of the nation. An earlier Gallup poll found that 96 percent of Americans believe immigrants should learn English.
If anyone is interested in relevant statistics, just check out this link:
Meanwhile, for a good 3-minute song about America and the English Language, and some good old fashioned music, try this link:
Adios, Au revoir, Arrivederci and Sayonara.