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Local city votes to go English Only

I'm curious what other people think about this situation - I'm sure it'll hit the national news wires if it hasn't already in light of the Arizona immigration status checking situation...

One of the area cities somewhat nearby mine has passed a resolution to only present city information in English and therefore, have essentially declared English to be the city's official language.  As I understand it, it was passed as a cost saving measure because aid to cities from the state government has been drastically slashed due to a number of factors.  The city then doesn't have to pay for translator services at the government center, nor do they have to pay to have all their city materials translated for residents. People are obviously allowed to speak whatever language they choose but city business will be conducted in English only.

What do you think of that?  

Re: Local city votes to go English Only

  • What percentage of the city in question speaks a language other than English?
  • I have super mixed feelings about this.  I listened to a discussion about this on the radio and I don't think I could choose one way or another if I had to.  California is so far in debt that I definitely think it would help cut some costs.  However, to not offer other options when there are so many people who don't read or speak English fluently is reallty hard for me to accept.  I'd love to hear what others think!
  • image Karen2905:
    What percentage of the city in question speaks a language other than English?

    I think this would be a big deciding factor for me as well.

  • Weirdly enough here in Asheville, NC there are a ton of spanish speaking people and when I was looking for a job in an office I couldn't find anything because it was a requirement that you had to speak English and spanish fluently.

    I understand the cost cutting but I have a hard time agreeing with this since so many people around here speak spanish. I feel that it is ignorant for people to just be like "oh well, learn English if you want to live here". I think that in areas where there is a large portion of the population not speaking English than they shouldn't cut it.

  • image wittyschaffy:

    ...it was passed as a cost saving measure because aid to cities from the state government has been drastically slashed due to a number of factors.  The city then doesn't have to pay for translator services at the government center, nor do they have to pay to have all their city materials translated for residents.

    I wonder how much money they are truly saving by doing this.  I tend to think that there are better cost cutting measures they could take then potentially alienating their non-English speaking residents.

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  • I, too, have mixed feelings. As a (generally) bleeding heart liberal, I want to say that is wrong...but my H has really swayed me the other way.

    His argument (and keep in mind he is a first-generation American born child of Spanish speaking parents), is that English is the language of the United States. Our government is run in English, all of our documents are in English, English is taught in schools, etc. If you are going to come to the United States you need to learn how to read/speak English. We would not move to France, China, Russia, or any other country where English is not the main language and expect everything to be done for us in our native language.

    MIL can not speak English fluently. She can ask me about 7 questions and understand about 40% of what I say to her in English. She has lived in the United States for more than 30 years. This is a constant annoyance for DH. 

    I am 2nd generation born American on my mother's side, my mother's family is from the province of Quebec - everyone who came to the US learned English. My grandfather had to, as a businessman, in order to communicate with his customers. There is a HUGE French-Canadian American community in my hometown - and my mother did not learn English until she went to school since she was only allowed to speak French at home. But, everyone did learn English and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in my hometown who cannot, regardless of what language they speak to each other.

    So, I suppose my final answer is that I support the city's decision to print all documents in English exclusively. As a librarian of government documents, I do know that that is the federal standard as well, unless the documents are specifically for the immigrant population. I will be interested to see how this evolves over time, though. 

  • My opinion is that this country was not founded on exclusionary practices, and establishing regulations such as these goes against those foundations.  There are several enclaves throughout the country that only use non-English languages (not only Spanish); setting this precedent could be a very dangerous social experiment (kinda like legalizing racial profiling).  However, the city can establish the laws/regulations it wants, and if someone wants to challenge those laws/regulations, that's what the courts are for.

    Matt loves Munkii!!!
  • image juangela:

    His argument (and keep in mind he is a first-generation American born child of Spanish speaking parents), is that English is the language of the United States. Our government is run in English, all of our documents are in English, English is taught in schools, etc. If you are going to come to the United States you need to learn how to read/speak English. We would not move to France, China, Russia, or any other country where English is not the main language and expect everything to be done for us in our native language.

     

    Generally speaking, this is where my mind is as well.  However, in the name of playing devil's advocate, the question goes back to numbers.  

    If I move to Poland (for example), I would not expect the government or private sector to cater to my needs.  However, if the entire state of Illinois were to move to Poland, I think there would be a social and ethical liability and a duty on the part of the Polish government to ensure proper communication is established.  Lack of communication = societal problems.  Whether help comes in the form of a language competency test, free Polish language lessons, or  translated documents, something's gotta give.

  • The city in question is sort of an outer ring suburb so I guess I'm not sure how many of its residents would be speakers of other languages and don't live close enough to guess.  It could sort of be a blur between 'burb and rural because of how far out it is from the nuclear city. 

    Over all, we have a decently large population of Hmong, Somali and Hispanics but I would feel safe in saying that the vast majority of those folks who would need the service of an interpreter live primarily in the city proper rather than out in the 'burbs.

    Right now, I'm sorta thinking about how much more money they're going to spend if someone doesn't understand what is being told to them by the city government.  For instance, a non-native english speaker get cited for overhanging tree branches but can't read the citation and don't take care of the work.  Then the city is sending out a crew to do the work and billing the homeowner who doesn't understand the bill and ends up in court (or jail!) because they haven't paid and on and on.  On the front end, it seems like it could save some money but taking every day situations to an end point, it seems to have the potential to be more costly.  Not to mention that they could potentially lose revenue due to people leaving the city limits because they can't understand their city government representatives.  

    I am torn too because I, much like juangela, feel that we have already sort of unofficially adopted English as the language of preference here.  We don't have street signage in 8 languages.  The President takes the oath of office in English.  But I can understand that learning the language is complicated and not a short task and feel that we owe it to our legal residents to help them along a little too. 

  • I completely agree with everything Angela said, and couldn't have worded it better so I won't try.

    Although this country states it was not founded on exclusionary principles as Munkii says, the US has unofficially adopted English as its language. Just as we have unofficially adopted Christianity as our national religion. We state that everyone has the right to their own religion, but then if you look at our federal documents (the Pledge of Allegiance), money, everything has the Christian "God" on it. We even swear on a Bible in court. What I'm trying to get at is that even though we don't specifically state that English is going to be the language we speak, that doesn't mean it isn't inherent in the majority culture of our country.  Yes, there are a lot of Spanish speaking people that have legally migrated here. But there are also a lot of illegal immigrants here. By the time we have grandchildren are they going to have to learn Spanish as a second language because of the huge numbers of immigrants? Sorry if I've offended anyone.  I know you some of you ladies are Hispanic/have Hispanic hubbies and relatives, so I took the risk of offending you to voice my little opinion.  My apologies if I did.

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