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Designating an official Language of the United States

Essay by   •  March 12, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,202 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,752 Views

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There is an argument raging in this country regarding language and what the official language should be. Many state that since the United States is considered English speaking that the official language should reflect that. Obviously there is controversy on that logic, based on the fact that there are so many other languages spoken here. This has long been an issue, dating back as far as the 1800s. For matters of uniformity and cost effectiveness, many feel that a language designation should talk place, but because of the vast amount of languages spoken in this country, coming to an agreement on one official language could be a topic of controversy for many years to come.

Before the country was founded, there were many languages being spoken amongst the individuals populating the area, but none of the languages were English. "According to figures from the 2000 census, about forty-five million U.S. residents over the age of five speak a language other than English in their homes, roughly 17.6 percent of all people surveyed. This figure represents a 41 percent increase from the 1990 level (thirty-one million, or 13.8 percent of those surveyed), which was itself up 38 percent from the figure recorded in 1980 (twenty-three million, or 11 percent of those surveyed)." (US Census Report, 2000) The principal minority language of the United States is Spanish, which in 2000, was spoken by almost twenty-seven million people, or about 11 percent of all people surveyed. Even in the absence of Spanish-speakers, the United States would be a fairly diverse place where language is concerned. From 1990 figures, we know that twenty-five languages other than English or Spanish are used in the home by at least one hundred thousand U.S. residents and four are used by at least one million people.

Imagine the vast difference there would be if tomorrow another language was designated at the office language of the United States. What would change? Would everything now be written in say Spanish, French, German? How would we as English speaking individuals be affected if we woke up in the morning to find road signs, menu boards, cell phone screens, and our computer language being a language that we did not speak? Some states have mandated that any form of governmental documents being printed in a language other than just English. California, for example, had a state constitutional printed in both English and Spanish. Pennsylvania passed a law in 1837 requiring instruction in both English and German on school documents (National Education Association).

While it is not clear exactly how many languages are spoken in the United States, (Census bureau states over 300 languages within the US) it is clear that there are many that have migrated to the US who do not speak the primary language. In order to keep reform within the country, an agreement must be made on a common ground for communication. Many believe that if an individual is a citizen of the United States, then they should be required to speak the language of our founding fathers. However, history states that English was not necessarily the first language. Others believe that as a US citizen one is entitled to freedom of speech, the first amendment of the Constitution. (National Education Association)

Many site the need for English being the designated language for the purpose of unity. It has been stated that the common bond of one language would be the reference point of a unified nation. The thought is if the country was all one language it could possibly do away with racial tensions and ethnic conflicts. It is also being stated that the financial aspects of one language would be detrimental to cost savings. "The designation of official English will eliminate the needless duplication of government services

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