Why Speaking Another Language Is Not Illegal Or UnAmerican

AstridSinai / shutterstock.com
AstridSinai / shutterstock.com

Aaron Schlossberg, a lawyer in New York, sparked outrage when a video surfaced showing him yelling at restaurant staff for conversing with clients in Spanish. He claimed that “they should be speaking English” simply because “this is America.” However, experts argue that such demands hold little legal basis given that the U.S. does not officially designate English as its primary tongue.

According to Dr. Wayne Wright, Professor of Language and Literacy at Purdue University, “the Founding Fathers didn’t see a need to declare [an official language].” At the nation’s inception, English dominated linguistic discourse; thus, protection seemed unnecessary. Moreover, declaring an official language risked offending non-English-speaking allies crucial to gaining independence.

Throughout history, various ethnic groups within the thirteen original colonies spoke diverse dialects including Dutch, French, German, alongside numerous indigenous languages. Despite these facts, attempts to enforce exclusive use of English persistently emerge.

During slavery times, enslaved individuals faced prohibition from utilizing mother-tongues due to fears of rebellion instigation. Similarly, Native American pupils attending boarding school suffered punishment if found communicating in vernacular languages. Furthermore, Hawaiian-based Japanese educational institutions closed amid WWII tensions.

Wright notes that discussions surrounding language frequently revolve around speakers rather than linguistical aspects themselves. This sentiment resonates strongly in Schlossberg’s actions – linking foreign speech patterns directly to undocumented status.

Schlossberg ominously declared, “my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country”. By doing so, he correlated Spanish conversation with illegality.

Despite being unofficially recognized as the predominant language utilized across governmental documentation, courtroom procedures, commercial agreements, and daily life, several politicians strive to solidify English supremacy through legislation. Efforts dating back to Senator S.I. Hayakawa’s proposed constitutional amendments in 1981 consistently fail nationwide yet find limited traction locally.

Arizona currently enforces strict policies mandating predominantly English instruction methods whereas previously enacted regulations in California and Massachusetts eventually got overturned between 2016 and 2017 respectively. Critics contend that enforcing monolingualism can lead to racial discrimination considering correlations exist between ethnicity and preferred communication channels.

As per Dr. Beatriz Arias, Senior Research Scientist at the Centre for Applied Linguistic Studies, “there is a political equation of Americanness with speaking English.” She emphasizes that restricting access solely to English marginalizes citizens whose proficiency lies elsewhere.

Ironically, immigrant communities face greater threats regarding cultural preservation amidst widespread adoption of English among subsequent generations. While local authorities gradually shift towards reinstatement of bilingual curricula, sentiments echoing ‘Speak English!’ continue dominating social narratives – especially following presidential endorsements promoting xenophobic rhetoric.

Ultimately, the ongoing debate highlights the importance of embracing diversity and recognizing equal citizenship regardless of chosen means of expression.