English – Does Anyone Speak English?

I found myself in a Starbucks on Saturday afternoon in the middle of this Outlet Mall that Susan was walking her way through.  I ordered my iced green tea, found a table and sat with my laptop surfing the web and writing off and on.

After about a half an hour I stopped reading and writing and simply took in my surroundings.  It was then that I realized that not one person who was seated around me was speaking English.  There was this brief moment when I had to stop and think if I was in the United States or in a Starbucks on one of the Philippine Islands.

Yes, it was also in that brief moment that I realized that I was thinking and sounding like a Republican… It was a sad, sad reality for me.

Yesterday I was at my Grandson’s Hugh School Graduation and again, I found myself surrounded by people who didn’t speak English. Well, maybe they did, they were simply choosing to speak Spanish, Tagalog… anything but English. I found it so disconcerting, sitting trying to listen to kids give their Commencement speeches while the people around me were talking amongst themselves in their chosen language.  I finally turned around and gave the people behind me the “look,” which in any language means: “shut the hell up.”

I hate it when that little Conservative English-speaking devil sits on my shoulder, I really do.  I can feel that frickin pitchfork he carries digging into my shoulder and I can hear that distorted voice saying: “If they want to live here, they need to speak the language…”  I hate it even more when I agree with this distorted voice.

There is also a little Liberal devil that sits on my other shoulder waving an American flag saying – we all need our freedom, we all need our individuality, we all need the freedom to be you and me! You can’t force someone to speak a certain language – you’ll take away their individual heritages their customs, their history.

At this very moment in time, the House Republicans are moving ever closer to voting on a bill that would make English the official language of the United States.  The bill would require official functions of the United States to be conducted in English, and would also establish the English language as a requirement for naturalization.  Don’t judge me – but I wonder if this really is such a bad thing…

The 2010 census shows us that 25.2 million, or 9 percent of the US population over the age of five is Limited English Proficient. This means that 25.2 million people do not speak English as their primary language and have limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English.  And for these 25.2 million people we spend tax dollars printing everything from cereal labels to ballots in the language they have chosen to speak.  Is this a good way to spend our tax dollars?  I’m having trouble dealing with the pitchfork and the American flag on this one.

I do, however, believe the whole melting pot era is long gone. Monetarily, we cannot afford this whole notion of multilingualism.  Printing ballots in 7, 8, 9 or more languages is an expense most counties in the nation cannot afford.  Bilingual education can cost taxpayers up to billions – yes, with a B – a year.

How can we possibly be a nation united when we don’t understand what the person standing beside us is saying?  Already we have 25.2 million people, 9 percent of the population who cannot speak, read, or understand English proficiently. What happens to us as a nation when that number reaches 10 percent, 15 percent, or 30 percent?

I’m not saying you should have to speak English all the time, and certainly I would never even dream of taking away a person’s heritage.  That’s not what this is about.  I just believe you should know enough to read a ballot, and be able to read and understand the labels on food. You should certainly be able to read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence of the County in which you are a citizen, in the language in which it was written.  You should have the ability to communicate with cashiers and neighbors, police officers and 911 operators.  I just believe if the people sitting behind me at my Grandson’s graduation spoke English, they might have shut up long enough to listen to what the kids were speaking about… then again – perhaps they did speak English, and they were just rude.  If that’s the case, this blog should really be about people not having manners…

Whatever the case may have been, I believe before we no longer understand the people with whom we have contact on a daily basis, before we no longer have the ability to communicate with one another, and before we go broke writing everything in 100 different languages; the subject of a universal language in the United States of America needs to be addressed.


About barbaraweicksel

My home is San Diego, CA - a most beautiful city. Mountains to the East, Pacific Ocean to the West, and the desert in between the mountains and the ocean. Beauty everywhere, but... The world is full of beauty, and I do love to travel. what I hope to share on these pages are my thoughts and some photos of the world as I see and experience it. I'd be happy to have you along on the journey - and then join me while I'm at home...
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13 Responses to English – Does Anyone Speak English?

  1. Also feeling conflicts on this issue, I find myself defending with righteous indignation those who are not English fluent and struggle in our society. Equally, it’s annoying and difficult to try and do business with them. I want to support the local small businesses in my neighborhood but the language and cultural difficulties become so hard to overcome. How to resolve that conflict, I do not know.

    • barbaraweicksel says:

      Cheryl – I’m not sure there is an answer. I hope we can find one before the percentage of people who can’t read, write or understand English goes above 50%. We’ll be totally screwed then. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  2. Kate Flannery says:

    You are not alone in your thoughts on this issue. I agree with you. I have zero problem with immigrants, so let me be clear. It’s no wonder people come to this country after the U.S. has ruined their own nations militarily, economically and politically. But the thing is, learn English. Really. If I moved to Paris, I would learn French. If I renounced my U.S. citizenship and became a citizen of say, German, I wouldn’t go to the voting booth and think, “Hey!! Why isn’t this also in English!!! I am entitled to be catered to!” I would learn German! Back in the days, of yore, when immigrants came to this country, some of them didn’t learn English, it’s true. My grandmother was one of those people. But usually, those were women or older people who basically didn’t leave the house, and could speak to their children in the language of their birth. But those who wanted to work and get ahead learned English. I just think in general, there are a lot of people, both native born and immigrants who feel a all-encompassing sense of entitlement. In essence, I don’t really think it’s a right vs left issue, but one of common sense and fiscal intelligence. I have no feelings of conflict really. I love other languages and admire those who can speak them – so of couse I’m not saying to erase your native language from your life, but when I make a call to the cable company and have to go through their LONG menu, I don’t appreciate an additional step that says to press “1” if I want to continue in English – that should be a given.

    • barbaraweicksel says:

      Kate – You Go Girl… I didn’t know your Grandmother didn’t speak English. Wow… thanks for coming here and reading and writing. Always love to see you here. ♥

  3. Wow…do I appreciate your candidness in this article. Just a few weeks ago I watched my youngest daughter receive her Master’s in Forensic Accounting and I commented to my wife that maybe 25% of the graduating class were Caucasians and the remainder were Latinos, Asians, Indians, Filipinos, etc. However…and this is the real question…could they have been mostly American citizens? After all, growing up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood with Italians, Polish, Irish, Germans, etc., many were US citizens, yet they spoke their native language when they were together. For instance, if I decided to move to Montreal, I would still speak English.

    • barbaraweicksel says:

      Dennis – the people behind me could have been Americans for all I know – if so, then it is a matter of teaching them some manners! I’m just sayin – I believe in matters of government – everyone should read it and vote on it in one language. It’s about the $$$ for me. I’d like to see the money spent on multilingual ballots spent in the schools for books and supplies…

  4. MaryAnn says:

    Again I applaud you for saying what so many have on their mind.
    My great grandparents came to this country from Portugual speaking NO English, but they knew to be able to make a new life for themselves in this country they struggled very hard to get to that learning english was a priority, because there was no other choice. I never knew them but I did know my grandparents and was especially close to my grandmother (who came here when she was 13 with her parents). She hardly ever spoke Portuguese around us. She was proud of who she was but it meant so much to her that she was an American Citizen. Every once in awhile a word or phrase would come out and we would ask what it meant and she would tell us, and when we asked her to speak more she would say,”In America, we speak english.”
    I believe you should embrace your heritage, but your priority should also be to embrace the country that you desire to live in and be a citizen of. When exercising your rights as a citizen such as voting and other things done on a daily basis you should speak the language of the country you are in.
    Congratulations on Cabot’s graduation you and Susan must be so proud!!!!

    • barbaraweicksel says:

      Thanks for reading and for the comment, MAryAnn. I didn’t know about your Grandmother. God love her… Cabot’s a very sweet young man, and yes, we are quite proud of him!

  5. k.e. loe says:

    I think the moment we ratify a national language, we fuel racism to a point that will cast neighbor against neighbor in a manner akin to race riots in the past. Immigrants (legal or otherwise) will be permanent second class citizens if we are not made to communicate in many languages, creating a legalized way of keeping opportunity from those who may need it most.

    • barbaraweicksel says:

      Kirk – the fact that people don’t speak English where I live makes them second class citizen. Opportunity lies in ones ability to communicate and in the US, that’s in English. Why must we spend tax dollars we don’t have, to accommodate the non-English speakers? It’s like we’re punishing the people who were born here and only speak English. If I moved to France I certainly wouldn’t expect them to print everything in English for me. I’d learn French so I could assimilate with the people, get a job, and have an opportunity to grow. This is all I’m saying…

      • k.e. loe says:

        I do understand where you are coming from…and I guess if indeed a national language was enacted for the purpose of helping people – that would be one thing. But if we are are enacting a national language to save money and avoid frustration…that is different to me. Looking at how Republicans want to purge voter rolls for the already disenfranchised, I can’t imagine how many people would be left out of their right to vote because content wasn’t available to them. I also cringe a little at your comment about punishing people who live here and speak english. Sounds a lot like conservatives who want to keep marriage between one man and one woman, because that’s the way their church says it is. Are you really being punished? (I hope you still like me!)

      • barbaraweicksel says:

        My sweet little Ken Doll – Obviously you and I do not agree on this issue. It appears to me that you help to make my point about speaking English when you worry about how many would be left out of their right to vote because content was not available to them… If they could read, write and speak English – not one person would be left out of anything. And what would be wrong with helping people while saving money and avoiding frustration? When our tax dollars are being spent on printing ballots in 9 or 10 languages and teachers are losing their jobs and kids don’t have school supplies – then yes, I believe we are all being punished. Speaking English = Gay Marriage? Really?

  6. Debi says:

    Blunt and to the point here my friend. You come to this country to live and one day become a citizen….LEARN THE LANGUAGE….this is my number one pet peeve. Great blog by the way 🙂

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