Language


Howzabout a little controversy?

There was a bit of a stir over some supposed comments by Ted Nugent a while back.  Seems the Motor City Madman had a comment attributed to him that was further perceived as fairly racist in this ultra-PC world (well, in the US anyway - most of the world has bigger concerns than hurting someone's feelings).  He didn't say it (though has made similar comments in the past), but is in favor of officially acknowledging and affirming the US to be an English-speaking nation.

The United States has done a lot to cater to the linguistic needs of our immigrants.  We're an immigrant nation.  And in spite of wacko policies that are going into effect along our borders lately (ostensibly a reaction to the dangers pointed out by the terrorist attacks of 9/11/1), we welcome immigrants (it's right there on the base of the Statue of Liberty*), and our economy needs immigrants.  So trying to provide product labels in multiple languages and having interpreters available is a really good thing.

Isn't it?

I have to admit, I'm a one-language guy.  I speak English.  I know a smattering of words in Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, German and French.  A smattering.  I certainly couldn't carry on a conversation in any of those languages.  But I figure that's okay - I have no plans to move to Japan, Spain, Mexico, China, Germany or France.  I'm not even planning to visit them, but if I were planning to visit or live in any of these countries, I would endeavor to learn the language.  It just makes good sense, doesn't it?  Makes it hard to order food, ask directions or function in the local society otherwise.

Most street & traffic signs in the US are in English.  Rather than cluttering up the landscape with multiple versions of signs in various languages, wouldn't it make sense to encourage people to learn to read the existing signs?

I'm not saying "If you can't speak the language, get out of the country".  I'm saying "You decided to move here, you should learn the dominant language".  And I'm certainly not saying that no one should speak anything but English, just that English would be pretty useful to know as a second language in a predominantly English-speaking country.  If immigrants know the basics of the language, they could communicate with anyone else here.

Here's another bit of going overboard in this area:  bank cards.  Put your card in the machine and what's the first thing it asks?  Right, which language you want to use to conduct the transaction.  Shouldn't that be hard-coded on the card?  That would be something of an additional security feature, no?  If your card is stolen and your bank transactions are conducted in Mandarin, your accounts are probably fairly safe.  At the very least it would eliminate an annoyance and allow your business to proceed more quickly.  After all, you don't want to spend too much time at an ATM, especially at night, no?

Arnold Schwarzenegger (da Governator) said that Mexican immigrants should watch regular TV to learn English, the way he did when he emigrated from Austria.  "You've got to turn off the Spanish television set."  He knew this opinion would cause him some trouble, and even prefaced the comments with that acknowledgement, but he voiced his opinion.  And I have to agree with him on this.  Not to say there should not be services or information available in Spanish, just that there should be an attempt to integrate into our society.

I've heard so often that the easiest and fastest way to learn another language is to immerse yourself in it.  I've heard this from people who've done this, going to France and Japan.

But our government and law-restricted businesses are spending too much time and money on something that really shouldn't have to be addressed.  In a society were people are losing the facility to read or spell (largely because of netspeak, all those lame-ass abbreviations used for email, bulletin boards, instant messaging and text messaging), education is very important.  And if educational programs are available, then that's another way of helping immigrants brush up on or learn English.  And doesn't that promote independence?  Doesn't that help them to be better citizens, more productive citizens, and more able to help themselves and prosper?  Or is it that we believe these immigrants are too stupid to learn?  Now that is prejudism.

Communication is the key, but if we're going to maintain the status quo of Babel then can there be any real communication?

Most extraterrestrial aliens learn English… (At least, on TV and movies...)


* Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

From "The New Colossus", Emma Lazarus.