Language "wars" are fascinating. No one knows for sure what the future holds, but in this country the future for Spanish looks very strong. So strong, in fact, some genius saw fit to proclaim, en español, "Spanish Spoken in Several Languages". (Photo, above.) A flexible language! ¡Qué interesante!
A small village in upstate New York is making headlines thanks to a councilman's fears. It's English Only all over again. How else to explain why in a rural setting with a very small immigrant presence, where English is already the norm, a town council would see fit to proclaim that all official business will be conducted in English? They might as well proclaim that all official business will be conducted by the living. You know, just in case any of the dead start getting ideas. (This morning's coffee conversation: Daniela's health teacher talks in class about his belief in ghosts. And you wonder about our kids' education!) The man behind this local legislation, Roger Meyer, has bigger goals in mind: he wants this to be the start of a grass roots movement to proclaim English the official language all over the country. One can make reasonable arguments for such a policy. (And if the US were to designate English as the official language it would hardly be exceptional; most countries, in fact, do designate a language, and often multiple languages, as "official".) But there should be honesty in the debate regarding motives. The idea that immigrants don't want to learn English or can't learn English is simply false. And in fact, for the most part they do learn English. Language discrimination is rampant and is often linked to xenophobia and racism. No, we are not a country of ignorant bigots. (It just seems that way on occasion.) Most Americans are basically tolerant. Yet, it is also true that many Americans still harbor some fears about change and these fears are often linked to historical and deep-seated prejudices. A rather benign but nonetheless unsettling example: at our local GIANT grocery store they now have hand-held scanners so that you can tally up your bill as you shop. When you are done you simply scan your card and the bill is ready. It's an honor system. Kind of: I have never been audited. Asun is audited every time. Coincidence? Absolutely not. What's up? Asun presses "Spanish" so the machine talks her through the steps en español. The kid at the stand hears this and... audit! (Spanish, ergo, immigrant, ergo, less trustworthy.) A colleague has corroborated this -the same thing happens to him. But Asun doesn't mind, nor does my colleague, because you agree to the quick check, your honesty is confirmed, and you get rewarded with a two dollar coupon.