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Bilingualism in America essay:

Should, English be the only language? That is a question that is argued over frequently, especially in the United States. Hayakawa supports that English being declared our official language can do no harm, stating this, “While it is certainly true that our love of freedom and our devotion to democratic principles help to unite and give us a mutual purpose, it is English, our common language, that enables us to discuss our views and allows us to maintain a well informed electorate” (Hayakawa 389). If any person is knowledgeable enough to talk on bilingualism it would be Hayakawa, his track record and life events speak for themselves.

Hayakawa is a well educated teacher of linguistics, an author on language theory books and a leader in the effort to make English the official language of the United States. Mr. Hayakawa knows a little about the subject having spent most of his time dealing with it, he is an established bonafide individual. Hayakawa believes strongly that English should be made as the official language in the United States and if that came to be our nation will be more unified.

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Robert D. King opposes Hayakawa’s views and believes that the English controversy is not a problem stating this, “We like to believe that to pass a law is to change behavior; but passing laws about language, in a free society, almost never changes attitudes or behavior” (King 386). King does not see immigrants as a threat, there will always be immigrants and sooner or later they will learn and become accustomed to the language. The first generation immigrant might struggle with English, but more than likely their American born children will learn English just fine. Mr. King is another gentleman with enough knowledge to speak on the maters of bilingualism. Mr. King a scholar and a teacher of linguistics knows more than most on the subject of English. King and Hayakawa make good points, although I see Kings point more clearly. I feel that Hayakawa is fighting a never ending battle.

Hayakawa’s main argument that English is a national unifier makes sense. English can serve as barrier breaker and common tool to unite different cultures. We are a nation of immigrants, so naturally we are not going to share the same language. English has risen as the common language and as I see it is the official language of the entire U.S., but just not officially declared by our Government. Just think where The United States would be if every immigrant back when we first colonized this fertile land stuck sternly to his/her own language. Our situation would be similar to the situation in India, a chaotic mess having a multilingualism system of ten languages. It is best to have one language as the nation’s language, but I disagree with Hayakawa’s attempt of trying to make it official. I don’t see the need for it to be declared officially. I believe that the immigrants who come to this country understand that English is the language spoken here. I understand that a common language is an essential part of togetherness and harmony. Language barriers do cause confusion and frustration and for the most part we all agree on English in the states. To prevent the confusion and frustration we need to concentrate our efforts on bilingual education. The U.S. is made up of immigrants and it is not fare to them to concentrate all efforts on English and leave behind their native culture. Paul Lang supports this theory in his book The English Language Debate with this quote, “Opponents believe that while English is important, other languages have their place in the United States too, and that lawmakers and teachers should encourage recent arrivals to America to keep their native language while they learn English” (Lang 6). Language is a huge part of everyday life and if we can realize that the diverse cultures in the U.S. make this country what it is today we can come together, communicate more affectively and become more peaceful. I agree with Robert King when he states, “Who needs a law when, according to the 1990 census, 94 percent of American residents speak English anyway” (King 386)?

The English-only movement goes back to the 1980’s. “An estimated four million legal and eight million illegal immigrants arrived in the United States from 1970 to 1980. Among the largest groups were Mexicans, Cubans who were fleeting from Castro’s communist dictatorship, and refugees from southeast Asia who came to the United States after the Vietnam War” (Lang 52). In some parts Americans speaking English became the minority, for example in southern Florida and communities in California. People called this the “immigration time bomb” fearing that illegal immigrants would blow Americans away taking jobs away and making them feel like strangers in their own territory. From the “immigration time bomb”, political actions were sprouting here and there to try and battle non-English speaking groups. Mr. Hayakawa a minority himself creates U.S. English in 1983 to try and push his idea of an English only society. “The group lobbied the federal government to pass Hayakawa’s Constitutional amendment. It would make English the official American language, repeal laws allowing ballots to be printed in languages other than English, and make sure that bilingual education programs were only short-term “stepping stones” that quickly prepared students for all-English instructions” (Lang 54). The immigration reform bill passed in 1986 strengthened the United States borders especially Mexico’s and made provisions that if you wanted to become legal you would have to pass a test to show you could speak and write some English. The passage of this bill has calmed some tension but most Americans are still uncomfortable with just listening to native people speak their own language. “A recent poll showed that six out of ten Americans want immigration to this country slowed down, with half the people agreeing with the idea that most immigrants cause problems in our society” (Lang 57). People in America will always dislike the immigrant, but why try to suppress them they are only trying to better their own situation.

Most would say that English dose not have to be declared as an official language because it has pretty much become the standard here in the U.S. English has become the accustomed language of the U.S., but has become more passive now because we are always trying to accommodate those who do not speak English. Accommodation is not bad, we just need to understand that better bilingual education can help this. “Over the last few decades, government has been edging slowly towards policies that place other languages on a par with English” (Hayakawa 390). I think our nation needs to be more assertive about pushing the English language on those who are not accustomed to it, preferably in the form of improved bilingual education.

Bilingual education students are referred to as language minority students and are in schools everywhere all over the world. Bilingual education is a highly researched subject and is given lots of political attention because of the continual arrival of numerous amounts of non-English speaking immigrants each year. These students are also called limited English proficient students or (LEP) students. Eugene Garcia researched the topic and found, “Estimates of LEP students range from 2.5 million to 4.6 million, which equals about 7 to 10 percent of the U.S. student population. These students represent more than 180 distinct language groups” (Garcia 1). This group of students is not huge, but do deserve to be given the same quality education as English speaking students. “Schools generally offer two basic kinds of educational programs to meet the needs of LEP students: bilingual education and English as a Second Language (ESL)” (Garcia 2). Teaching ESL the students are taught in English in a more understandable and easier to grasp way. Most schools who have ESL also have a bilingual education program too.

I strongly support bilingual education because nothing frustrates me more than trying to communicate with someone who does not speak English. “The hostility towards non-English speakers often goes hand in hand with hatred of anyone who is different” (Lang 24). The hatred is not necessarily my case but for most people it is true, people dislike what they do not understand. Most individuals see it as this is America we speak English. However, we must still realizes that the different cultures such as Asian, Latino and others add significantly to America and help make this Country what it is. If I had to describe The United States in one word it would have to be diverse, and that is why we are the most powerful and highly looked upon nation. Our government should stand up and support our language, but instead of trying to make the nation only English, understand that this could be offensive to many groups. A strictly English Country can be especially offensive to immigrants living here with there children struggling to learn the language in school. A Linguistics of America internet site claims, “Many bilingual people grow up speaking two languages. Often in America such people are the children of immigrants; these children grow up speaking their parents native language in their childhood home while speaking English at school” (Bimer).

A touchy subject in the U.S. is bilingual education, I am all for it, and do agree with Hayakawa that it definitely can be greatly improved. It is inevitable that we will have to accommodate non-English speaking children in the public schools, especially Hispanic children. Hayakawa explains about bilingual education programs explaining: “My experience has convinced me that many of these programs are shortchanging immigrant in their quest to learn English” (Hayakawa390). Shortchanging is right, no wonder there are so many Hispanics that drop out school, they are fed up with being left behind and segregated from there friends. Most bilingual education programs put English aside, and teach most the lessons in their native language. This leaves the child never developing their English fully and lagging behind. The programs need to concentrate more on integrating English, it won’t be easy but it needs to be done. The problem basically arises from laziness, it is much easier to just keep teaching them what they know and not trying to improve their English because that?s too hard and takes too much work. I support Hayakawa fully when he states: “I want to see immigrant students finish their high school education and be able to compete for college scholarships (Hayakawa392)”. When did our country get so lazy, and let our youth down, or maybe they just do not care about the minorities in the United States. One thing we have to realize is that the minority very soon could be the majority. In California the population of Latinos is at least half the state.

To better suite our bilingual population in the classes we need to find the right balance of English and whatever other language is being taught. If we can teach both languages simultaneously in a nice balance, hopefully the student can progress in English and also learn more effectively. Making this country strictly English speaking is not the key, trying to better bilingual programs and understanding the problem will help more. America will always have new immigrants, can you blame them we live in a free country with opportunity. There will always be problems that arise from Language, but here in the U.S. we have handled this very well. This Country has not had wars over Languages like other places. We all know in America English is the main Language, and if you want to survive you need to learn some.

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