Speak English!

“87% say English should be U.S. official language.”

-Rasmussen Reports-


The English language in the United States has a unique and varied history. During the American Revolution it was considered by many influential Americans as the tongue of the Enlightenment the ideal language for democratic societies. To their discredit the Founders espoused the racist notion that English could be utilized to exclude non-English speaking groups from mainstream American politics and policies.

In the latter part of the 18th and early 19th centuries there was an influx of non-English speaking immigrants the majority of whom were German. These Germans settled mostly in Pennsylvania. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin in 1751 infamously quoted: “Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our settlements and by herding together establish their language and manners to the exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying (Americanizing) them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion?” (Above source: Professor Dennis Baron’s PBS special ‘Do you speak American?’) Sounds familiar? It should be; the Germans back then were the ‘Mexicans’ of today; feared, hated, and discriminated against. They were seen as ‘un-American’ intent on Germanizing the early Americans.


There are some practical considerations for making English the common tongue for the U.S. I’m of the opinion that English should be made the official language because:

If everybody spoke a common language it would solve a lot of communications problems. If legal documents, books, newspapers, magazines, TV News reports, and other modes of communication were written in English, all Americans would be able to understand them. Case in point: India is the world’s largest democracy. India has 27 primary languages and hundreds of dialects. English is second only to Hindi. America like India is a diverse country. A single language would unite Americans linguistically. If everybody spoke a common language I don’t think you would loose your ethnic identity. If you’re Filipino, Chinese, Mexican or anyone else, you won’t loose your heritage. We would all know who you are. No one will stop you from speaking Tagalog, Visayan, Mandarin, Spanish; whatever your native language is at home, church services, ethnic neighborhoods, and so on. Other racial and ethnic groups will be able to share their culture with you more readily in a ‘national language’ English. You’ll become a better person if you share your culture with people different from you. They would also benefit from your cultural experiences. Think of the many people who’ve never tasted Crispy Pata, Tripe and Noodle Soup, Tostadas or other ethnic delicacies but will taste them for the first time because of your generosity? Meeting people of different races and ethnicity socially is much easier if everybody can understand what the other person/people are saying don’t you think? If people spoke a national language (English in our case) job search hassles would be minimized. An English Only language policy would better prepare immigrants to blend in with the common culture. Another case in point: How can people find jobs if they can’t fill out a job application or answer the interviewer’s questions if they don’t know the language? Reader you just can’t do it no matter how you try. I’ve listened to Canadians complain about their nation’s two language policy. The ones I spoke with don’t like it. Two languages mean two sets of government documents, two sets of street signs, currency printed in two languages English and French plus two sets of school books; a single language would halve all that. The thing that gets me is why some non-English peoples living in the United States vehemently insist that ‘native’ English speaking Americans learn their language while at the same time will never making any attempt to learn English?

A lot of APA’s (Asian Pacific Americans) are opposed to any proposed legislation to make English the official language. They fear this would make it easier for the primary culture to discriminate against them. This opinion may be true for some APA’s but to my knowledge not many Fil-Ams (Filipino Americans) are averse to making English the official language of the United States.


Unlike some non-English speaking immigrants from Hispanic countries many of whom insist that ‘native’ Americans speak Spanish, Filipinos are eager to learn English to better blend with the common culture and advance professionally. Despite their numerous attempts at assimilation, Filipinos and other Asians have suffered in the past for being ‘different’ as did the aforementioned early German immigrants.

Asians suffered similar if not worse discrimination than those early German settlers. During the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries they had to endure many deprivations; most were based on color and language. It wasn’t until the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that things changed for the better for APA’s (Asian Pacific Americans). Asian-Americans have Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement to thank for that.

Very recently a group of Filipinos sued the Delano Regional Medical Center in California. Hospital officials were accused of using punitive measures to force their Filipino staffers to speak English even during their personal time (lunch breaks, conversation among peers, etc.). This writer believe that such ‘terror tactics’ are clearly racially discriminatory. This issue is being currently being addressed through the courts


The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is adamantly against any laws that would make English the official language of this country. That organization said that ‘English-only policies stigmatize U.S. workers including Latinos, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Caribbean’s, Native Americans, and other language minority groups.’ (Source: www.aclu.org) The ACLU further stated that non-English speakers risk loosing their livelihoods once the provisions of the proposed bill is enforced if it becomes law.

Both the ACLU and this writer whole heartedly concur that as long as non-English speakers are competent at their jobs language at the work place shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

ACLU further criticized Congress for not establishing a sufficient number of adult literacy and English as a Second Language (‘ESL’) programs. During the latter part of the 1980’s I taught ESL at the South Chicago Learning Center. The SCLC was part of Olive Harvey College of Chicago City Colleges. My classes were generally packed with adult students from a variety of non-English speaking backgrounds all eager to learn our common language. During faculty meetings what distressed me most was that our coordinator’s primary focus was on funding. We needed money in a bad way to keep our programs going. How can people from non-English countries learn English if so few places teach it? The answer is they can’t.


Ms. Baby Santos (not real name) is a native of the Philippines. She works as a private nurse, a long time American citizen, and is fluent in English. She’s agreed to sit down with me to answer a few questions relating to the English Only controversy:

Mr. Wilson: “Ms. Santos in your opinion do you think that Congress should press forward the proposal to make English the official language of the United States?”

Ms. Santos: “I think that Congress should make English the official language of our country. English is the world’s language. When I lived in the Philippines we were taught English. It’s also the second language of the Philippines. People immigrating here from abroad should learn English.”

Mr. Wilson: “As a Filipina have you ever faced ostracism from the English speaking majority Americans whenever you spoke Tagalog (Pilipino) or Visayan at work, in social settings, or any other place?”

Ms. Santos: “I have never been ostracized by native English speakers for speaking Pilipino but then whenever I’m at work or in mixed company I always speak English. When Filipinos try to converse with me in Visayan or Tagalog I tell them, ‘Say it in English!’”

Mr. Wilson: “In your opinion do you think that a country should even have an official language? Could you state your reasons?”

Ms. Santos: “Of course; here in the States English is the primary language spoken and written. English is the language of the job market, banking, business, hospitals, and the government; it makes good sense to speak English. Back home I speak Visayan on a regular basis though rarely here. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of being Filipina but I live and work in the United States where the English language is the primary tongue.”

Mr. Wilson: “What advice would you give to people coming to the U.S. from non-English speaking countries?”

Ms. Santos: “Whenever people from back home come to the States I urge them to learn English; it’s makes good sense.”


It’s been my observation that Asian, European, and African immigrants to the United States on the whole appear eager to learn English. By the same token many people from Hispanic countries, Mexico in particular, appear to actually expect native born English speaking Americans to learn Spanish! Case in point: I worked in a department that had a large number of Hispanic persons. During their coffee and lunch breaks they would gather as a group and speak Spanish. I didn’t have a problem with that. Trouble started was when I said ‘Good morning’ to them. A rather stout Mexican-American woman shouted at me and said, “You no speak to me in Espanol you no speak to me!” I shouted back, “Then I no speak to you!” and kept on walking.

And it gets worse; this sad scenario took place in a crowded room. This room only had a single table. I sat down to do my work when Carla (not real name) told me in no uncertain terms that the table was reserved for Spanish speakers only that I should leave. I casually ignored her, started my work, scanned the people at the table and dared them to tell me anything. After I made my point we all got along quite well. In the course of my teaching career I’ve spoken with other people who had similar negative experiences.

Prejudging people ain’t cool and it wasn’t my intention to do so in this article. However these are my experiences and I won’t lie about them. Where I live we have a large Hispanic maintenance crew. I can ask them at all hours of the day and night for favors. In my three years of living at my current address these guys have been overly hospitable and generous to a fault. At restaurants Spanish speaking staff workers show that extra measure of kindness that some others don’t. As a lay minister I’ve worked at Hispanic parishes here and in Southern Mexico where most of my fellow Catholic-Christians have been portraits of uncommon human kindness. Most of the countries I’ve visited, it was the Mexican people who opened their hearts to me the most in my three visits to their pretty country.

There are horror stories; a Spanish speaking missionary priest friend of our family once sent me some photographs of a high school in southern California where parents, students, and teachers lowered the American flag and raised the Mexican flag in its place!

My clerical friend spent most of his adult life working in some of the worst places in that impoverished country. As a patriotic American it galled that man to no end to see the flag of his country being pulled down and replaced with the flag of a foreign country. This happened on United States soil! Its stories like this which inflame anti-immigration groups.

The late great author and social commentator James A. Michener in one of his massive novels, I forget which one though I think it was ‘Texas’ who wrote of a little known movement that has plans to retake Western territories seized by the United States during the Mexican War. The strategy is for couples to make as many babies as possible, militantly promote the Spanish language, and repopulate former Mexican lands with Spanish speaking inhabitants. Is this true or merely jingoistic propaganda; time will tell.


During my 32 years as an educator I was privileged to have taught at over 1,000 kids and hundreds of adults of every racial, ethnic, and religious persuasion. Occasionally students would ask me for my views on Immigration. I would answer them as truthfully as I could. I told them that I believe in a policy of Open Immigration. Our country should be open to all persons who want to make better lives for themselves, their families, and uplift America. Persons with marketable work skills make our country prosperous. These people should be processed in and given a set time in which to learn our language. Proficiency in spoken and written English should be primary factors in the Naturalization process. If immigrants want citizenship badly enough they will learn English. If after a certain grace period immigrants who refuse to learn our language should be asked to return to their countries of origin.

Reader you think I’m hard Iceland has an open immigration policy. From what I’ve read their method requires that immigrants learn Icelandic and adapt Icelandic names! This is part of their overall assimilation process. In many countries if immigrants don’t learn their chosen country’s language they can’t work. In Mexico they use subtle but coercive methods to force outsiders to speak Spanish and that’s if they like you.

On the ‘downside’ persons who come to America with malice on their minds should be deported ASAP. In the event they attempt illegal entry and or engage in criminal activities after prior deportation these undesirables should be given their constitutionally mandated ‘fair and speedy trials’ then promptly imprisoned.


This writer is realistic enough to realize that in the future as more Spanish speaking peoples pour in from Latin America the English Only policy would be rendered moot. When that happen Spanish would become the official language once the English speaking population became a minority but until that time please speak English.

“First it was ‘Whites Only.’ Now it’s ‘English Only.’ Stop the hate.”

-Aunt B (Enclave-Nashville)-

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *