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Monday, October 6, 2014

Language Diversity

For John, BLUFDo you expect employees to speak English?  Do you give credit for speaking other languages also?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

When I was young and in public school there was a concern that American Students only spoke English.  That was then, this is now.  Way back then immigration was down and now it is up.  In the 1950s legal permanent resident status was about a quarter million a year, like the 1850s.  These days it is in the area of a million, more like 1905-1914.  This is not counting illegal immigration.

This Washington Times article has a misleading headline, "An eye-popping 20% of U.S. residents abandon English at home".  The sub-headline has it somewhat better, "Cultural changes prompt surge in foreign languages".  Here is the lede:

One-fifth of people in the U.S. speak a foreign language at home, according to a report being released Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies, which found Arabic and Urdu — the national language of Pakistan — among the fastest-growing.

The report found that nearly half of all California school-age children speak a language other than English at home, as do a third of Texans and Nevadans, according to the report, which is based on Census Bureau numbers.

It is an issue of what immigration means to language and culture.  In the past there have been dozens of ethnic groups with newspapers published in their native tongue.  But, those groups have tended to blend into the overall American mix and lose their fluency in their mother tongue.

The question is, does this make a difference to the governance of our nation?  Perhaps more important, does parents speaking English at home help their children learn English or deprive them of learning a second language?  Does a dollar for English as a second language mean a dollar less for disabled children?  Or does it mean a dollar more in taxes for federal debt?

Will this diversity of languages improve commerce or stultify it, or will it make no difference.  Will hiring by larger businesses be limited based upon language limitations?  Will communication within industry facilities be harmed?  Will safety signs in English and Spanish be sufficient?

As a larger question, if you bring your culture with you and fail to adapt it to the larger melting pot, at what point will the culture of America drift away and be replaced by the culture of this or that other nation, or perhaps cause the United States to disunite into several different cultures?

I reflect on my wife's comment that in the Main Post Office here in Lowell she notices Southeast Asian Mothers talking to their little children in English and apparently Hispanic Mothers talking to their little children in Spanish.  Which of these approaches is better, or are they both equally effective in preparing those children to succeed in these United States?

Regards  —  Cliff


Neal said...

One must consider that nothing is forever, even the good ole US of A. In my many travels around the granite planet, I noted that Americans are among the few who are not at least bilingual if not trilingual or more. What is it that we are afraid of that we can't indulge ourselves in the language of others?

American, IMHO, is already in the process of dis-unification and it will continue to the bitter end.....and then we will discover something perhaps much better.

Perhaps the Latino woman couldn't speak English.

BTW.....WHAT....pray tell is English??? Many have argued this point with no clear answer.

C R Krieger said...

For sure, English is NOT that diversity of accents spoken in England, and especially not in Scotland.

Regards  —  Cliff