Bilingualism in America: English Should Be the Only Language



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Bilingualism in America:
English Should Be
the
Only Language
Rather than insisting that it is the immigrant's duty to learn the language of this country, the government has acted as if it has a duty to accommodate an immigrant in his native language. "
By S.I. Hayakawa


  1. DURING the dark days of World War 11, Chinese immigrants in California wore badges proclaiming their original nationality so they would not be mistaken for Japanese. In fact, these two immigrant groups long had been at odds with each other. However, as new English-speaking generations came along, the Chinese and Japanese began to communicate with one another. They found they had much in common and began to socialize. Today, they get together and form Asian-American societies.

  2. Such- are the amicable results of sharing the English language. English unites us as Americans-immigrants and native-born alike. Communicating with each other in a single, common tongue encourages trust, while reducing racial hostility and bigotry.

  3. My appreciation of English has led me to devote my retirement years to championing it. Several years ago, I helped to establish U.S. English, a Washington, D. C.-based group that seeks an amendment to the U. S, Constitution declaring English our official language, regardless of what other languages we may use unofficially.

  4. As an immigrant to this nation, I am keenly aware of the things that bind us as Americans and unite us as a single people. Foremost among these unifying forces is the common language we share. While it is certainly true that our love of freedom and devotion to democratic principles help to unite and give us mutual purpose, it is English, our common language, that enables us to discuss our views and allows us to maintain a well-informed electorate, the cornerstone of democratic government.

  5. Because we are a nation of immigrants, we do not share the characteristics of race, religion, ethnicity, or native language which form the common bonds of society in other countries. However, by agreeing to learn and use a single, universally spoken language, we have been able to forge a unified people from an incredibly diverse population.

  6. Although our 200-year history should be enough to convince any skeptic of the powerful unifying effects of a common language, some still advocate the official recognition of other languages. They argue that a knowledge of English is not part of the formula for responsible citizenship in this country.

  7. Some contemporary political leaders, like the former mayor of Miami, Maurice Ferre, maintain that "Language is not necessary to the system. Nowhere does our Constitution say that English is our language." He also told the Tampa Tribune that, "Within ten years there will not be a single word of English spoken [in Miami] -- English is not Miami's official language -- [and] one day residents will have to learn Spanish or leave."

  8. The U.S. Department of Education also reported that countless speakers at a conference on bilingual education "expounded at length on the need for and eventuality of, a multilingual, multicultural United States of America with a national language policy citing English and Spanish as the two 'legal languages."'

  9. As a former resident of California, I am completely familiar with a system that uses two official languages, and I would not advise any nation to move in such a direction unless forced to do so. While it is true that India functions with 10 official languages, I haven't heard anyone suggest that it functions particularly well because of its multilingualism. In fact, most Indians will concede that the situation is a chaotic mess which has led to countless problems in the government's efforts to manage the nation's business. Out of necessity, English still is used extensively in India as a common language.

  10. Belgium is another clear example of the diverse effects of two officially recognized languages in the same nation. Linguistic differences between Dutch- and French- speaking citizens have resulted in chronic political instability. Consequently, in the aftermath of the most recent government collapse, legislators are working on a plan to turn over most of its powers and responsibilities to the various regions, a clear, recognition of the diverse effects of linguistic separateness.

  11. There are other problems. Bilingualism is a costly and confusing bureaucratic nightmare. The Canadian Government has estimated its bilingual costs to be nearly $400,000,000 per year. It is almost certain that these expenses will increase as a result of a massive expansion of bilingual services approved by the Canadian Parliament in 1988. In the U. S., which has 10 times the population of Canada, the cost of similar bilingual services would be in the billions.

  12. We first should consider how politically infeasible it is that our nation ever could recognize Spanish as a second official language without opening the floodgates for official recognition of the more than 100 languages spoken in this country. How long would it take, under such an arrangement, before the U. S. started to make India 1ook like a model of efficiency?

  13. Even if we can agree that multilingualism would be a mistake, some would suggest that official recognition of English is not needed. After all, our nation has existed for over 200 years without this, and English as our common language has continued to flourish.

  14. I could agree with this sentiment had government continued to adhere to its time-honored practice of operating in English and encouraging newcomers to learn the language. However, this is not the case. Over the last few decades, government had been edging slowly towards policies that place other languages on a par with English.

  15. In reaction to the cultural consciousness movement of the 1960's and 1970's, government has been increasingly reluctant to press immigrants to learn the English language, lest it be accused of "cultural imperialism." Rather than insisting that it is the immigrant's duty to learn the language of this country, the government has acted instead as if it has a duty to accommodate an immigrant in his native language.

  16. A prime example of this can be found in the continuing debate over Federal and state policies relating to bilingual education. At times, these have come dangerously close to making the main goal of this program the maintenance of the immigrant child's native language, rather than the early acquisition of English.

  17. As a former U .S. senator from California, where we spend more on bilingual education programs than any other state, I am very familiar with both the rhetoric and reality that lie behind the current debate on bilingual education: My experience has convinced me that many of these programs are shortchanging immigrant children in their quest to learn English.

  18. To set the record straight from the start, I do not oppose bilingual education if it is truly bilingual. Employing a child's-native language to teach him (or her) English is entirely appropriate. What is not appropriate is continuing to use the children of Hispanic and other immigrant groups as guinea pigs in an unproven program that fails to teach English efficiently and perpetuates their dependency on their native language.

  19. Under the dominant method of bilingual education used throughout this country, non- English-speaking students are taught all academic subjects such as math, science, and history exclusively in their native language. English is taught as a separate subject. The problem with this method is that there is no objective way to measure whether a child has learned enough English to be placed in classes where academic instruction is entirely in English. As a result, some children have been kept in native language classes for six years.

  20. Some bilingual education advocates, who are more concerned with maintaining the child's use of their native language, may not see any problem with such a situation. However, those who feel that the most important goal of this program is to get children functioning quickly in English appropriately are alarmed.

  21. In the Newhall School District in California, some Hispanic parents are raising their voices in criticism of its bilingual education program, which relies on native language instruction. Their children complain of systematically being segregated from their English-speaking peers. Now in high school, these students cite the failure of the program to teach them English first as the reason for being years behind their classmates.

  22. Even more alarming is the Berkeley (Calif.) Unified School District, where educators have recognized that all-native-language instruction would be an inadequate response to the needs of their non-English-speaking pupils. Challenged by a student body that spoke more than four different languages and by budgetary constraints, teachers and administrators responded with innovative language programs that utilized many methods of teaching English. That school district is now in court answering charges that the education they provided was inadequate because it did not provide transitional bilingual education for every non-English speaker. What was introduced 20 years ago as an experimental project has become -- despite inconclusive research evidence -- the only acceptable method of teaching for bilingual education advocates.

  23. When one considers the nearly 50% dropout rate among Hispanic students (the largest group receiving this type of instruction), one wonders about their ability to function in the English-speaking main-stream of this country .The school system may have succeeded wonderfully in maintaining their native language, but if it failed to help them to master the English language fully, what is the benefit?

    Alternatives



  24. If this method of bilingual education is not the answer, are we forced to return to the old, discredited, sink-or-swim approach? No, we are not, since, as shown in Berkeley and other school districts, there are a number of alternative methods that have been proven effective, while avoiding the problems of all-native-language instruction.

  25. Sheltered English and English as a Second Language (ESL) are just two programs that have helped to get children quickly proficient in English. Yet, political recognition of the viability of alternate methods has been slow in coming. In 1988, we witnessed the first crack in the monolithic hold that native language instruction has had on bilingual education funds at the Federal level. In its reauthorization of Federal bilingual education, Congress voted to increase the percentage of funds available for alternate methods from four to 25% of the total. This is a great breakthrough, but we should not be satisfied until 100% of the funds are available for any program that effectively and quickly can get children functioning in English, regardless of the amount of native language instruction it uses.

  26. My goal as a student and a former educator is to see all students succeed academically, no matter what language is spoken in their homes. I want to see immigrant students finish their high school education and be able to compete for college scholarships. To help achieve this goal, instruction in English should start as early as possible. Students should be moved into English mainstream classes in one or, at the very most, two years. They should not continue to be segregated year after year from their English-speaking peers.

  27. Another highly visible shift in Federal policy that I feel demonstrates quite clearly the eroding support of government for our common language is the requirement for bilingual voting ballots. Little evidence ever has been presented to show the need for ballots in other-languages. Even prominent Hispanic organizations acknowledge that more than 90% of native-born Hispanics currently are fluent in English and more than half of that population is English monolingual.

  28. Furthermore, if the proponents of bilingual ballots are correct when they claim that the absence of native language ballots prevents non-English-speaking citizens from exercising their right to vote, then current requirements are clearly unfair because they provide assistance to certain groups of voters while ignoring others. Under current Federal law, native language ballots are required only for certain groups: those speaking Spanish, Asian, or native American languages. European or African immigrants are not provided ballots in their native language, eve in jurisdictions covered by the Voting Rights Act.

  29. As sensitive as Americans have been to racism, especially since the days of the Civil Rights Movement, no one seems to have notices the profound racism expressed in the amendment that created the ‘bilingual ballot”. Brown people, like Mexicans and Puerto Ricans; red people, like American Indians; and yellow people, like the Japanese and Chinese, are assumed not to be smart enough to learn English. No provision is made, however, for non-English-speaking French-Canadians in Maine or Vermont, or Yiddish-speaking Hassidic Jews in Brooklyn, who are white and thus presumed to be able to learn English without difficulty.

  30. Voters in San Francisco encountered ballots in Spanish and Chinese for, the first time in the elections of 1980,mch to their surprise, since authorizing legislation had been passed by Congress with almost no debate, roll-call vote, or public discussion. Naturalized Americans, who had taken the trouble to learn English to become citizens, were especially angry and remain so. While native language ballots may be a convenience to some voters, the use of English ballots does not deprive citizens of their right to vote. Under current voting law, non-English-speaking voters are permitted to bring a friend or family member to the polls to assist them in casting their ballots. Absentee ballots could provide another method that would allow a voter to receive this help at home.

  31. Congress should be looking for other methods to create greater access to the ballot box for the currently small number of citizens who cannot understand an English ballot, without resorting to the expense of requiring ballots in foreign languages. We cannot continue to overlook the message we are sending to immigrants about the connection between English language ability and citizenship when we print ballots in other languages. The ballot is the primary symbol of civic duty. When we tell immigrants that they should learn English -- yet offer them full voting participation in their native 1anguage -- I fear our actions will speak louder than our words.

  32. If we are to prevent the expansion of policies such as these, moving us further along the multilingual path, we need to make a strong statement that our political leaders will understand. We must let them know that we do not choose to reside in a "Tower of Babel.” Making English our nation's official language by law will send the proper signal to newcomers about the importance of learning English and provide the necessary guidance to legislators to preserve our traditional policy of a common language.



Dr Hayakawa, formerly a U.S. Senator from California, is honorary chairman of U.S. English, Washington D.C., a public interest organization working to establish English as this nation’s official language.


QUESTIONS



Previewing the Text.
Thinking about what you know about the topic of an article can make your reading easier.

1 What is the topic of the text?


……………………………………

  1. According to the title, is the writer in favor of bilingualism? YES / NO

  2. What word shows his opinion? ………………………….

4 Read the quotation under the title, then answer the following:

a) What is the policy of the U.S. government towards immigrants whose native language isn’t English?


……………………………………………………………………………………….
………………………………………………………………………………………..
b) Does Hayakawa agree (according to the quotation)? …………………………….

5 What do you think the writer's purpose is?


……………………………………………………………………………………….
………………………………………………………………………………………..

6 MONO (one) BI (two) MULTI (many)

A person who speaks only one language is ______lingual.

A person who speaks two languages is _____________.


A person who speaks many1anguages is ___________

7 Read the following three quotations from the text. Do you agree or disagree with them?

1) “By agreeing to learn and use a single, universally spoken language, we have been able to forge a unified people from an incredibly diverse population.” (par. 5)

agree disagree
2) “I am completely familiar with a system that uses two official languages, and I would not advise any nation to move in such a direction unless forced to do so”. (par.

agree disagree

3) "Making English our nation’s official language by law will send the proper signal to newcomers about the importance of learning English and provide the necessary guidance to legislators to preserve our traditional policy of a common language. " (par. 32)



agree disagree

  1. What point of view do the three statements from the text support?
    ………………………………………………………………………………………..

9 Read the first page of the text.
a) What is the reason for the importance of English to United States society?
……………………………………………………………………………………..
b) How does Hayakawa know this?
……………………………………………………………………………………..

10 One way in which a writer can support his argument is by presenting an opposing point of view and arguing against it. In pars. 7and 8, Hayakawa mentions two opponents. Who are they?


……………………………………………………………………………………..
What do they claim? ………………………………………………………………..
………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. A writer may also support his argument by giving examples which prove his point. In paras. 9 – 13, Hayakawa refutes the argument for a multilingual society by giving a number of examples.
    a) What are the examples that illustrate his argument?
    ……………………………………………………………………………………….
    ……………………………………………………………………………………….
    ……………………………………………………………………………………….
    ……………………………………………………………………………………….
    ……………………………………………………………………………………….
    ……………………………………………………………………………………….
    b) What do they show you about the effect of bilingualism or multilingualism on a country? ……………………………………………………………………………………….
    ……………………………………………………………………………………….
    ……………………………………………………………………………………….



  2. In paras 17 and 18, Hayakawa refers to the California program for bilingual education.
    a) Does he think it was a good program? YES / NO
    b) What is his reason? ………………………………………………………………….
    …………………………………………………………………………………………
    c) What mistake was made, in his opinion? (para 18)
    ………………………………………………………………………………………….
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………

13 In paragraph 19, Hayakawa describes typical bilingual education in the U.S. What are the two main features?
a)……………………………………………………………………………………..
b) ……………………………………………………………………………………

14 An argument is often presented in the following way:


Expression of the writer's opinion, followed by examples or facts which support or illustrate the writer's opinion.

  1. In paragraphs 19 – 23, what is Hayakawa’s argument?
    …………………………………………………………………………………………
    …………………………………………………………………………………………
    b) Write the main points of the two examples he gives.

  2. …………………………………………………………………………………………
    …………………………………………………………………………………………
    …………………………………………………………………………………………
    …………………………………………………………………………………………
    …………………………………………………………………………………………

15 In paragraph 25 Hayakawa criticizes “native language instruction”. What does he want, instead? (look at para. 26 as well) ………………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………

16 From para. 27 onward, Hayakawa shifts his focus from education in schools to the use of English for voting. What is the first argument presented by Hayakawa against bilingual ballots?

…………………………………………………………………………………………

What two facts does he use to support his argument?


a) ………………………………………………………………………………………
b) ……………………………………………………………………………………….

17 In para.28, he presents his next argument against bilingual ballots.


a) What is the argument?………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………….
b) What point does he make when he compares Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, American Indians and Chinese with Hassidic Jews?
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What are the two alternatives to bilingual ballots presented by Hayakawa?


a)………………………………………………………………………………………..
b)………………………………………………………………………………………..

18 EV ALUATING the writer's argument.

You can decide whether or not a writer's claim is valid by evaluating his arguments according to the following questions.


  1. How does the writer know this information?

  2. Where does he take his facts from?

  3. Is his source of information reliable?

  4. Is his claim valid?

On the basis of the examples and or facts that he presents, do you think that the argument against bilingual education is a valid one? YES / NO

Why? (Explain your opinion)



………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

  1. What are the sources of Hayakawa's information about bilingual ballots?
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  2. On the basis of this information, do you think that the argument against bilingual ballots is valid? Why or why not?……………………………………………………………

………………………………………………………………………………………….



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