English Only Legislation Is 'English Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Language continually reminds one (or not), and underscores and reinforces (or not) one's roots, identity, and authentic self. That is, I believe, the real reluctance of those who would cling, too stubbornly, it has been argued by Hayakawa and others, to their first, original tongue. That is also why much of the intimacy, energy, comfortableness, and fun instantly evaporated from the Rodriguez family atmosphere the afternoon one of Richard's teachers suggested to the children's parents that the family speak more English, and less Spanish, at home.

Along with one's language of birth (whatever it is) come feelings of being understood and accepted; and from those spring a sense of one's own selfhood and identity. In my opinion, that is the main, underlying, reason why 'English Only' Legislation is not a particularly practical solution to multilingualism in the United States (if multilingualism needs a "solution"). This is not because such legislation (admittedly) might not have certain public benefits, such as everyone' speaking and understanding one another in one way. It is, instead, because language, especially one's first, whatever it is, is like the tip of a huge iceberg, beneath which lie identity; cultural heritage, first loyalties, and sense of belonging.

Therefore, to mandate 'English Only' in public is, in effect, to mandate 'mainstream American' only (whatever that now is) at least in public. But even in public, one can still truly only be who one is, however fluently - or haltingly. Therefore, passing 'English Only' legislation, at the federal, state, or any level, would not actually decrease multilingualism. Instead, it would merely drive it 'underground', effectively making publicly 'banished' languages (e.g., Spanish; Vietnamese; Japanese, and many others) all the more cherished (and defiantly spoken whenever and wherever possible) by their native speakers, as a private, intimate, comfortable languages of the authentic self.

An interesting paradox of past and present American life is that of why so many of yesterday's immigrants from places like Eastern Europe; Asia, and elsewhere were so much more eager than many of today's, to learn fluent English and assimilate into American culture. Perhaps, back then, there was simply more to look forward to in assimilating, and, maybe even more importantly, more of a mainstream culture to which everyone wished to belong, and thought they could belong, with English language being the ticket in. Perhaps also, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people in America felt more collectively bonded. In World War II, for example, almost every American of whatever background rallied around the flag to defeat our enemies abroad. That has not happened in any war since.

It is my own belief, then, that 'English Only' legislation is a band-aid solution (if even that). Somewhere along the way, America has lost its soul. We need to find ways to get our soul back, If we can, somehow, do that, it may well also be the case that everyone in America will once again want to speak English - publicly; privately; and as a symbolic expression of a way of life they once feel a part of - and personally cherish.

Works Cited

Crawford, James. "Introduction." Language Loyalties: A Source Book on the Official English Controversy. James Crawford (Ed.). Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1992. 1.

Hayakawa, S.I. "The Case for Official English." In A Meeting of Minds: A Brief Rhetoric for Writers and Readers. Patsy Callaghan and Ann Dobyns

Eds.). New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 446-452.

Headden, Susan, et al. "One Nation One Language: Only English Spoken

Here." In A Meeting of Minds: A Brief Rhetoric for Writers and Readers.

Patsy Callaghan and Ann Dobyns (Eds.). New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 452-456.

King, Robert D. "Should English Be Law?" In A Meeting of Minds: A Brief

Rhetoric for Writers and Readers. Patsy Callaghan and Ann Dobyns

Eds.). New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 456-465.

Rodriguez, Richard. "Public and Private Language." In A Meeting of Minds: A Brief Rhetoric for Writers and Readers.…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Crawford, James. "Introduction." Language Loyalties: A Source Book on the Official English Controversy. James Crawford (Ed.). Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1992. 1.

Hayakawa, S.I. "The Case for Official English." In A Meeting of Minds: A Brief Rhetoric for Writers and Readers. Patsy Callaghan and Ann Dobyns

Eds.). New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 446-452.

Headden, Susan, et al. "One Nation One Language: Only English Spoken

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