US moves to speak in only on tongue - by Abdullah Ahmad

11 August 1996

The US, - New York in particular - projects a good image of a dynamic mosaic society. Then why so suddenly the "mother" of all multiculturalism and ethnic diversity wants to make English her only tongue?

For the first time, the House of Representatives of the 104th Congress voted to declare English as the sole official language of the US government.

Again, why 214 years after English recognised the American independence in 1782 and 207 years after the American Constitution was adopted in 1789?

In a vote that almost followed the Party whip, the congressmen, before their summer recess, passed a Republican-sponsored bill calling for the establishment of English as the sole official language of the US.

This measure is a desperate attempt, but a significant move, towards committing the federal government to halt the US from becoming a country of separate linguistic-cultural enclaves such as Canada, the former Yugoslavia and that of several other Afro-Asian nations.

One thing good about this bill is that it does not aim to stop bilingual education.

However, it will require the government to conduct its business in English only, thus ending the present practice of printing publications or documents in their languages, such as Spanish, Russian, Chinese and several other languages.

Actually the writer was told it was a waste of money, as most immigrants filled up their forms in English or had other people to do it for them.

Exceptions would be made only for the teaching of the languages, the conduct of international relations, public health and safety, and also in some judicial, and also in some judicial hearings.

Before the bill becomes law it will have to be passed by the Senate and signed by President Bill Clinton if he is reelected.

And it does seem, at this point in time, that he will or Bob Dole will.

Dole, Clinton's presidential opponent recently announced a bold tax plan which would free American tax payers from-the-tyranny of paying too much tax. This latest gimmick or give-away promise may well have not Dole back in the presidential race.

What piqued older Americans and pukka Yankees, and rightly too, is that new immigrants are allowed to opt out not to learn English.

As a result the country now contains a growing immigrant population who do not speak and write English at all. Worse, children of immigrants born in the US are attending public schools where they do not learn English.

Their medium of instructions are either Spanish, Russian or other languages. When these children are sometimes compelled to attend English classes their parents are not amused.

It is estimated that about 40 million people - out of the current population of 260 million - speak their mother tongue at home, which is not English.

The argument against multi-lingualism is that the nation does not want future generations of Americans to speak to one another through interpreters and translators.