Brace yourselves. Rant forthcoming.
Why is it that on the streets of my village, there are as many signs in Spanish as there are in English? Obviously, there are a lot of people in my community who don’t speak my language. But why? Does the fact that we have a large Hispanic population somehow make it unnecessary for them to learn English? I realize that we (Americans as a whole) usually expect to find someone who speaks English when we visit other countries, but I’m not talking about tourists. I’m talking about people who live here. Nearly everything I buy in the grocery store is labeled in two languages. Why are we not using the money that goes into bilingual labeling to set up English classes for these people?
Don’t get me wrong—I think it is a very good thing for us to learn other languages, and I actually enjoy picking up a few words from product labels. BUT I think people living in our country should learn to speak English. It is, after all, the language of this country. If I speak Swahili and move to Italy, I need to learn Italian. No one says I need to forget my first language, but it is a good thing to learn a second.
Keeping one’s cultural identity is good. I appreciate going to communities that are obviously Dutch or Norwegian or whatever, because their local color, customs and history are interesting to see. However, acculturation is also important to a certain degree. America’s greatness is based on the fact that it is the “great melting pot,” but we are beginning to lose that distinction. As more and more people groups identify only with themselves and not with society as a whole, we are splintering into many different groups rather than the wonderful amalgam that has made America unique in history. I think that we can celebrate our unique differences while still maintaining unity of spirit, but you can’t have unity of spirit when you’re all speaking different languages. Remember the tower at Babel?
I realize that with the current emphasis on multiculturalism, this is not a popular view, so I’d welcome comments and discussion. Maybe I’m just not seeing the whole picture?