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English-Only Movement

As the son of a couple who immigrated to this country I continue to be disappointed by the reasoning or lack of those who oppose the English-only movement. The article by Nichols has also led me to wonder if these people really represent the views of immigrants or if they are just bleeding hearts looking for an issue.

As a director of an organization whose name implies that it defends constitutional liberties, Nichols is not at all clear about what constitutional liberties are being compromised by the English-only movement or how the introduction of a polyglot culture will make us a better society. Instead she concentrates on implications that supporters of English-only are somehow un-American and lacking in tolerance and brotherhood.

My parents came to the Seattle area from Norway in the 1920s; neither understood English. My father learned the language quickly so that he could pursue his living as a fisherman so I have no memory of how he did it. Some of my earliest memories do, however, include scenes of my mother returning from her evening classes in English and history with anecdotes about the curiosities of the new language and American heroes like George Washington.

I shall always remember the great pride she took in completing her lessons and then being accepted as a full-fledged citizen of her adopted land. She was well over 30 when she took on the new tongue so she never lost a heavy accent.

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But the important thing was that she had learned to read English and she was able to keep herself informed so that she could participate in the American political process. This would be difficult or impossible to do if a person neither spoke the tongue nor read the language.

It should be obvious that English is the nation’s language. Thus to form a unified community it seems clear that we should all use it as the basis of our communications. With this logical goal in mind, it does not seem too much to ask potential citizens to become fluent in it as a condition of citizenship. As a matter of fact it seems a small price for such a large return.

JOHN B. ONA

San Diego

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