Tuesday, July 25, 2006

English Only

Every semester in my HEL class I do a one-day lecture on the English-Only movement, its origins and its racism and how it has class-warfare at its roots ("It's all class-issues!" I yell at my students, until they are sick of the words, but it is, it is), and here we are again:

The mayor of a small Bergen County town is calling for a McDonald's boycott if the fast-food chain does not take down a Spanish-language billboard advertising iced coffee.

Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan said the advertisement is "offensive" and "divisive" because it sends a message that Hispanic im migrants do not need to learn English.

"The true things that bind us together as neighbors and community is our belief in the American flag and our common language," Lonegan said. "And when McDonald's sends a different message, that we're going to be different now, that causes resentment."

"We are a very ethnically diverse community and we're proud of that," said Lonegan, the grandson of Italian immigrants. "But I happen to think the billboard is divisive. I think there's resentment from some parts of the community.

Bogota councilman George Shalhoub said he agreed with the mayor. "Something like this doesn't really help the Latino community," said Shalhoub, the son of Lebanese immigrants. "If they're going to assimilate they need to utilize the language of the country they're in.


(Via the Language Log: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/)

The fact is, of course, that Hispanics as well as other immigrants in this country are learning English just as fast as -- some studies show them learning it faster -- than any previous generations of immigrants learned English. Despite anything any talk radio host or any Right Wing Politician (which seems to be what Lonegan is, btw) wants to claim, neither Hispanics nor any other political or religious or linguistic group, with the possible exceptions of the Pennsylvaia Dutch, those Chinese folks out in California, and them Mormons in Utah, and those Religious Right who are always, well, you know them and their home-schooling enclaves, except for those folks, no one in this country is going to separate off into Balkanized groups.

Really. They aren't.

And we don't have to worry about those groups, do we?

How important are they, really?

1 comment:

CB said...

okay, just a note: we don't have an official language.

Besides, remember that the Hispanic population in general is poor and can't really afford to learn English except for on-the-job. Taking time out of the work week to go to an ESL class would cost them money they can't spend--even if the class is free.

Anywho, you know I hate Spanish, hate learning it, but still, give the ppl their signs; life's much easier on everyone. We have them at my place of employment and you know what, problems with returns, checks, and payment options have declined.