Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Willkommen bei Lino Lakes!

Yesterday, a local city council passed a courageous measure, wholly in keeping with the spirit that both founded the United States of America and continues to keep it strong: an "English Only" ordinance.

They say it's a "budget measure" meant to save city funds, which will no longer be spent to translate city documents into any language.

Plus, it's great PR!

Ah, you have to love a nation of immigrants that seeks to actively exclude immigrants (not to mention others). A diverse country that attempts to squash diversity. To be fair, it's not a new thing. It seems not a congressional year goes by when a bill to make English the official language of the United States is not introduced. Other municipalities have similar ordinances. Some states have English as the official language.

It just seems silly to me, and yet another waste of time and resources. It's estimated that 19.6% of Americans speak a language other than English at home. Here in Minnesota, it's 9.6% of the population. They work, they go to school, they participate. They speak Spanish, Somali, Hmong, and Mandarin. They speak French and German. They are neighbors and friends. That was my grandmother, when she was a child, speaking Pennsylvania German at home.

I think it's pretty cool. I love seeing multiple languages in the instructions at a hospital. I like hearing conversations in other languages on the bus and trying to figure out which language it is. It's the shaping of American culture that started centuries ago, and continues to this day. We can think wistfully about days gone by, but the people living in those days were also thinking wistfully of days gone by. And in days gone by, in places like Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware, a whole heck of a lot of people were speaking German. Or Dutch. Or Swedish. Not to mention Mohegan, Anishinabe, and Tsalagi. Or Wolof, Mandink'a, and Yorùbá.

The United States of America would not be The United States of America without the contributions of all these people, and more. The English we speak here would not be the same. All languages absorb and trade from other languages. They change and grow as they are influenced by populations and cultural changes. What is English now was not English even decades ago. Come to think of it, Lino Lakes may have quite a job on their hands. Are they English-only as it exists today? As it was 10 years ago?

This may be a whole new budgetary issue.

2000 Census Brief: Language Use and English-Speaking Ability

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