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Efforts Have Been Continuing for Years to Legally Make English the official Language of the United States

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Efforts have been continuing for years to legally make English the official language of the United States.

Recently, politics of the right have made statements denigrating bilingual education and even bilingualism as somehow un-American and divisive.

More than a dozen states have declared English as their official language, among them, ironically, are Arizona, Colorado, Florida and California - states that are Spanish names for cities, rivers or mountains.

Those forgetful monolinguals should be reminded that Spanish speakers were the first Europeans to discover, explore and settle vast territories of our nation.

Yet this means little to the proponents of a movement that is supported as much by ignorance as it is by sheer prejudice and xenophobia.

Notwithstanding all the political attacks against bilingual education, the English-only alternative will do nothing to enhance the cause of English education.

In fact many professional educational organizations, including the National Council of Teachers of English, which knows more than most of us about teaching English, has four years opposed all legal measures declaring English official.

The fact that Spanish is the most widely spoken language other than English in the United States directly links this issue with those of us who speak Spanish. For Latinos, language issues relate not just to education, but also to a whole range of social, cultural and historical factors.

Our knowledge and use of Spanish does not imply a disdain for English. The vast majority of Latinos speak English and have a higher percentage of their population in the work force than any other group.

Successful bilingual Latinos in every field of endeavor have proved that we can assimilate and speak English well, without having to deny or reject Spanish and the civilization of our ancestors.

And that civilization contributed much to the economy and cultural characteristics of the West and Southwest that are still evident today. An entire Western style of eating, dressing, dancing, riding and living, and that great American cowboy culture came from the Spanish and Northern Mexican vaquero traditions of ranching.

Mexican Spanish words such as bronco, lasso, rodeo and corral reflect the ranching arts and sciences Anglo cowboys learned or plagiarized from vaqueros and more sophisticated charros.

The United States is the fifth-largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world. No other language in our nation, besides English itself, has a wider use and dissemination than Spanish in both print and electronic media. This is enough to frighten most xenophobes, but they needn't be alarmed.

English is overwhelmingly predominant in our nation, almost to a fault. Americans

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