Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We speak English hear: if you don't like it, to bad!

I was interested to read a story in the Post-Star whereby a board member in Jackson proposed making English the Washington County town's official language.

At first, I was skeptical of the proposal. Phrases like "shameless grandstanding," "culture warrior in search of a crusade," "cheap populism" and "solution in search of a problem" immediately sprung to mind. I doubted that the tiny town had much demand for public documents to be translated into Swahili or Mongolian. In fact, the town board member did not even mention any problem at the municipal level, only his dissatisfaction that English-only has not been made the official federal policy.

My skepticism was further entrenched after reading the following rant on a forum. I'll publish it below verbatim in its entirety. See how many grammar and spelling errors you can spot.

This is AMERICA and we do speak English. More power to those that choose to speak a second language just in case they travel abroad and are forced to speak another language other then English. If I go to a local store and they don’t speak English…I’m out of there. If you want to live here…you have to learn the English language…period.

There are those that “butcher” the English language…and I’m sure they were born and raised here…and I’m sure they understand better then they speak. Are there other more pressing problems…yes but if we don’t pay attention to these “little things”, before long they become BIG THINGS and then it’s too late. God Bless America …if you can’t say it…you certainly don’t understand what it stands for…learn English and you will appreciate more the “host country” your living in.

My personal opinion is that if you are going to demand others be required to speak and write English, you should take the time to learn how to do so properly yourself.

In fact, at last check, there were four comments on that forum from four different people demanding English-only... ALL of which had grammar/spelling errors.

I also denounced former GOP presidential candidate Tom Tancredo for telling the Tea Party convention that he supported the return of Jim Crow-era literacy tests.

But upon further reflection, maybe these things have some merit.

Maybe the Jackson town board member's proposal is just PR. When I read the article, my instant reaction is that if this is one of the most prominent issues to require the time and resources of town government, then Jackson must be a pretty awesome place to live.

It also occurred to me that English-only laws would prevent people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin from ever becoming president.

Finally, the English literacy test proposal is an idea worth considering. It wouldn't have much impact on immigrants, most of whom place a high value on education. But it would no doubt purge at least 75 percent of bigots from the voter rolls.

Que la police linguistique me pourchasse!

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