HomeQ&ADebate! Topic #1:Should we make Spanish an official language in the United States?

Debate! Topic #1:Should we make Spanish an official language in the United States?

8
votes

So here is it is! I had a positive response in the question thread "Controversial Topics" so I'm hoping that people will participate in these weekly debates. We'll choose a new topic to discuss based on suggestions.

Anyone have any suggestions about rules or format please share them!

Topic #1:

Should we make Spanish an official language in the United States? Canada has French and English, why can't the US officially be a bilingual country as well? What would be the repercussions? The benefits? Who would want this... who wouldn't... why or why not?

Lay it on the line people, lets get to the bottom of this.

S

36124 views
updated SEP 23, 2011
edited by 00494d19
posted by shanelynch_12
hi Shane, if you put the topic into the title, we will all know what this is about;) - 00494d19, NOV 10, 2009
Thank you, will do for next time. - shanelynch_12, NOV 10, 2009

32 Answers

13
votes

With all due respect, I am starting to not like this concept of a "debate" too much.

One of the things that I love about this forum is that it is a learning community. I see a potential danger in starting any sort of "debate" in that when we start to voice our personal opinions about questions that are political, moral, or otherwise deeply held convictions, we run the risk of hard feelings.

I know that a person does not have to click on this thread - and I will not in the future - but my experience from being on a political forum is that the damage can be done in a short time.

Having said that, I will respectfully take my leave from this thread, and if it works for you - go for it.

updated NOV 10, 2009
posted by mountaingirl123
I do agree with mountain girl and that is why we have to be careful in our communication. We are all friends here and we do not want to offend people. - shanelynch_12, NOV 10, 2009
11
votes

With all due respect, I am starting to not like this concept of a "debate" too much.

One of the things that I love about this forum is that it is a learning community. I see a potential danger in starting any sort of "debate" in that when we start to voice our personal opinions about questions that are political, moral, or otherwise deeply held convictions, we run the risk of hard feelings.

My sentiments are the same as Mountaingirl's. Is not a debate a form of argument? I did not checked the dictionary, but that is how it feels for me.
I don't think you can have a successful debate without a moderator. My suggestion is to drop this whole idea before it gets out of hand.

updated NOV 10, 2009
posted by Zoltán
Well I am sort of acting as a moderator but also a participant. At the same time we are not children (for the most part) we should have self-control and moderate our comments. This is not a live debate so there is time to think before you post. - shanelynch_12, NOV 10, 2009
Make sure you are constructive and not destructive in your comments. - shanelynch_12, NOV 10, 2009
8
votes

First, there seems to be a problem with the basic premise of your question. It appears as though you are implying that English is currently the official language of the United States, but this is not so. The constitution makes no provision for an official language (although English, historically, has been predominant). In fact, in just about every session of congress there is an amendment introduced to declare English the official language of the United States, and every session of Congress, these proposal usually never make it out of committee.

updated NOV 10, 2009
posted by Izanoni1
Wow, I did not know this. - webdunce, NOV 9, 2009
d i t t o . . . ! Hmmm... - chaparrito, NOV 9, 2009
Yeah, there are actually many who oppose introducing an official language (formost among them is probably the ACLU) because they feel that it would impinge on the Constitutional right to equal protection under the law - Izanoni1, NOV 9, 2009
I don´t really care to have an official language. - webdunce, NOV 9, 2009
It actually has (in the past) passed the House of Representatives, but never the Senate. As a side note, the Articles of Confederation were written in English, French, and German. - Nathaniel, NOV 10, 2009
See we are learning already! - shanelynch_12, NOV 10, 2009
7
votes

Why only Spanish and not Chinese or Russian, Korean, Portuguese or any of the many languages from the many communities that live in the United States? I find that people have the tendency to not learn English when their native language is available for them. When I came to this country I had to learn English because we lived in a place that didn't have a Spanish community. I'm not against people having a second language, I think it is important for kids to learn the language of their ancestors. Keep their cultural roots. I think it would be prejudice to make only Spanish an official language but I also think that it would be prejudice not to allow people to use their native language including in the work place.

updated NOV 11, 2009
posted by 0068e2f4
Good point, robertico. - aloshek, NOV 9, 2009
I think Spanish probably gets that distinction in the US due to Mexico being our closest neighbor to the south, followed closely by Central and South America. That is not counting Puerto Rico and the DR. - Nicole-B, NOV 9, 2009
I don't know the numbers, but I would guess that Spanish speaking people are in the majority when it comes to speaking a language other than English. - Nicole-B, NOV 9, 2009
I do see your point, however. - Nicole-B, NOV 9, 2009
Spanish is the second most common language at 12% of the population. - aloshek, NOV 9, 2009
hey robertico please my statistics straight from the US Census Bereu, that's the answer to your question. =) - DJ_Huero, NOV 10, 2009
5
votes

In my opinion, making Spanish an offical second language is a rather hollow political statement. I would rather see the states (since education, I believe, is state controlled) make more effort to teach languages in public schools starting in kindergarden. Why can't elementary aged kids study Spanish or Arabic or Korean or Russian or any number of languages. Don't other countries start languages early in school? Wouldn't it be great if a whole generation of Americans grew up bilingual (or even tri-). In the school disctrict where I grew up, Spanish wasn't available until 10th grade (age 15 or so), French was available in the 9th grade (age 14).

updated FEB 8, 2011
posted by alice_m
Most schools have a hard enough time trying to teaching English. - 0074b507, NOV 10, 2009
Yea coz u no it endz up soundn lyk dis lolz!!! (BTW i dnt aktuly talk lyk dis) - EJClaire, NOV 10, 2009
5
votes

Why do things have to be official? Why can't we just speak what we want to speak and go on with our lives? It is true that English and Spanish are some of the most spoken languages but still. I think it would be wonderful if I could fully speak Spanish, but unfortunately, I'm still learning it in school....I probably won't be able to speak it well enough until the end of my tenth grade year...I go to an advanced school for "nerds" and I like learning Spanish...I'm glad that I can go IB in Spanish after tenth grade, which probably means I'll be extra good...cheese But seriously now, why make things official? Let's ponder on that thought a moment now....

updated NOV 10, 2009
edited by sarahjs
posted by sarahjs
4
votes

There are several points that should be made:

1) Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the US.

2) Many part of the US were originally Spanish territories and retain the place names to prove it.

3) Both Spanish and English were officially recognized as official languages in the Constitution of California, although it has since been amended to recognize only English--official materials, such as those for elections, are printed in several languages (English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese.)

4) People will speak whatever language they want, whether it is official or not. Trying to force people to speak a particular language is a totalitarian act contrary to the freedoms advocated by our nation's founders. However, there is a de facto standard of English maintained by both the government and business communities that is unlikely to change.

updated NOV 10, 2009
posted by lorenzo9
4
votes

I am a Hungarian. When I found home in the US, I did not want them to adapt Hungarian as a second language. I was glad to learn English.

updated NOV 10, 2009
edited by Zoltán
posted by Zoltán
3
votes

I also agree with some of the points made out by Mountaingirl and Zoltàn.

I also read the comments posted by Mountaingirl and Zoltán, and I voted for both of them because they were a good reminder to keep the discussions friendly. However, I also think that mature adults should be able to talk about the significance and merits/drawbacks of a potentially controversial subject without the conversation breaking down into mudslinging, provided everybody involved remember to be respectful, carefully consider the points of others before rushing to answer, and limit their arguments to facts rather than emotion.

Seems to me the idea behind these daily discussion-topics is more about gaining some reputation than anything else

As far as this assertion, I don't know what motivates others; however, for myself, my motivation for participating in this forum has very little to do with "earning points." If you only view debates as arguments where the parties involved yell at each other and sling mud then yes, it is probably best to avoid getting into a debate as often it is our expectations that color our responses.

I am of the opinion that reasoned debates are not necessarily a bad thing. Expressing our own views in a persuasive manner requires that we really evaluate our own beliefs. More importantly, listening to (or reading about) the opinions of others and assessing the justifications relating to these beliefs is a way to broaden our own knowledge and help us better understanding each other. Sometimes our views can be changed for the better by a well reasoned argument, other times thinking more deeply about a question really solidifies our understanding. By avoiding situations where we are forced to question our own beliefs and understandings we only limit ourselves.

I think that it was Plato that once wrote: The unexamined life is not worth living

updated NOV 12, 2009
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
Eloquent comment, Izanoni! De aquerdo. - 005457e3, NOV 10, 2009
I agree with you expect for the idea that we are doing this for gaining points. Unfortunatly we don't know each other so you'll have to take my word that I reputation is something of very littler concern to me. In life and especially on the internet. - shanelynch_12, NOV 10, 2009
The goal is to learn so I hope you will contribute to our collective learning in this thread and future discussions. - shanelynch_12, NOV 10, 2009
You have a beaufiful mind, Izanoni. - aloshek, NOV 11, 2009
3
votes

I do not think Spanish should be the national language of the US. Us was founded on English like how Mexico was founded on Spanish. Also, it would be pointless to change the national language when most people here speak English already. Furthermore, if i'm correct, English is the worldwide business language so why get rid of a country that speaks it.

updated NOV 12, 2009
posted by nodnerb93
You got my vote but China has probably already taken over as the most powerful world economy. This is why I think everybody should learn Eng. Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. I don't know about the census but Asians will probably end up surpassing the rest - 0068e2f4, NOV 10, 2009
That's why the debate says "Spanish as our second official language" instead of "changing our official language". Please read the topic next time. - DJ_Huero, NOV 12, 2009
3
votes

I am not sharp enough on this matter to debate it quite yet. I would like to get an understanding of what it means to officially be a bilingual country. Presently, almost everywhere you go there are English/Spanish signs, instructions, etc. Even when you are on the phone, you are instructed to press one for English and two for Spanish.

So what I have to figure out is, how many more changes would be made if both languages were official in the US. I will do my homework and get back to you. smile

updated NOV 10, 2009
posted by Nicole-B
2
votes

The situation of Canada is a lot different. Put simply, France and England both colonized Canada. At one point they went to war and England won. The French were allowed to stay and so Canada became bilingual that way.

As a Canadian, I love that our country is bilingual but it makes things a lot more complicated. Everything has to be translated in both official languages and it cost a millions if not billions to do so. Solely on an economic point of view ( and in time like ours) it is not worth the fight.

updated NOV 22, 2009
edited by EBGDAE
posted by EBGDAE
Just remember that US also won wars agains Spain and Mexico and got territories where Spanish was the main language. Not all Hispanic nor Latinamericans are newcomers. - Mokay, NOV 9, 2009
VERY strong point Mokay, that is the case with a mass amount of the US actually. - DJ_Huero, NOV 12, 2009
2
votes

there is a de facto standard of English maintained by both the government and business communities that is unlikely to change.

To me, it seems like it is already in the process of changing already in both the business communities and in government. Granted, this change is proceeding at a snails pace, but in my lifetime, I have seen a shift by businesses to incorporate Spanish into their advertising campaigns (billboards, radio, TV) and in their packaging of products (bilingual packaging on products and I have even seen products that have only Spanish on there labels).

In government, there has been an effort to print many documents in Spanish as well as to provide signage in Spanish in many public buildings. It should not be surprising, however, that the English language remains predominant in this sphere because although there is a strong Spanish cultural heritage (especially in many of the southern states), governments pedigree is rooted largely in English culture. Meaning simply that the founders of the United States based much of the legal structure on English common law. The fact that many of the revered and important documents (such as the Constitution) were written in English will make many resistant to change.

My own opinion, is that it is not a national issue but a regional issue. In my own state there are many different areas where various languages might be spoken. For example in the southern part of the state, there is a large Spanish speaking demographic (I would venture to guess that it is much larger than the 12% that I have seen quoted elsewhere). In other parts of state there is a large German influence as much of Texas was settled by German communities. These settlements still bear German names (New Braunfels, Shiner, etc) to attest to there roots. Many of these communities were being settled by these immigrants while Texas was still a part of Mexico and long before any Mexican citizens had any desire to venture to these areas. Then again there is also a large Vietnamese population in some areas of the state and I have seen places where instead of seeing signs in Spanish and English, you will have signs in Vietnamese and English. I think that because of this diversity, it is best to allow communities to adapt to the conditions inherent to the communities themselves rather than make some sweeping blanket amendment that is bound to leave many out in the cold.

updated NOV 10, 2009
posted by Izanoni1
Sí, creo que tengas razón. - webdunce, NOV 10, 2009
Apparently I should say, "creo que tienes razón." - webdunce, NOV 10, 2009
One local predominantly Chinese community used to have street signs in Chinese only, which caused problems for the police and fire departments. An ordenance was enacted that required them to be in English as well. - lorenzo9, NOV 10, 2009
1
vote

Hi DJ Huero

Edit: slang removed

Must we really prove Mountain Girl and Zoltán right? Statements like these really have no place in a "reasoned" debate. I really doubt that name calling nor talking about the things "you'd like to do to someone" who happens to hold a different opinion than yourself is a good way to convince anyone of the merits of your position.

I love to prove people wrong and battle with facts in debates, so any opposition hit me with what you got.

If this is true then how about actually battling the merits of the argument rather than the people themselves. Name calling has no place in a discussion like this or on this forum.

My own opinion is that neither language should be an official language, but my opposition to this does not stem from any of the apparent reasons that you give (and especially not from some sort of xenophobia as your statements suggest). My problem with an official language of any sort is that the issue of language use is best left to the municipalities and counties where the need is there. Blanket proposals that would require duplicate postings in Spanish and English in every county/parish/municipality across the country would be wasteful in terms of tax spending. It makes very little sense to post signs in Spanish and English in a community that is predominantly Vietnamese, Korean, Russian or Indian. A proposal like this would do very little to help or benefit the people of these communities. If the purpose of this proposal is actually for the benefit of the people (as any such proposal should be) and not for the aggrandizement of the people who happen to speak a particular language (be it English, Spanish or what-have-you) then it makes little sense and even has the potential for wastefulness to make broad proclamations such as these.

I don't necessarily doubt the US census data (although this data is always an estimate at best and is bound to misrepresent some group or other), but the problem is that the numbers do not represent a homogeneous mixture across the entire nation. The need for any particular language varies from region to region.

I know that there is a saying that "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," and to some degree this is how I view this argument. Where I live, there are quite a few Spanish speaking and bilingual (Spanish and English) families and so in my Rome, I see the benefit of learning Spanish (there is also a large Vietnamese speaking influence here and I would love to learn this language as well). In my larger Rome - my state and my nation - I recognize that the laws and precepts of such have a strong English tradition and it makes no sense for me to try to be the pebble that changes the course of a river that has been flowing for so long in this direction.

To me, language is a tool that at its best brings people together not in opposition of others but in unity. I think language at its worst can also be used divisively. Your own comments seem to indicate that you have your own axe to grind on this topic and statements like "I could da un...que creen..." appear to me to be just as divisive and emphatic as some of those espoused by the other side of the debate "Learn English first." Neither of these statements is a reasoned argument nor shows much sympathy for the actual motivation behind either side's real motivations for such strong feelings: Frustration.

Yes it is clearly frustration that causes such a strong debate on this issue. I can see how it can be frustrating for both sides. Living in a country where the language spoken is not your own or that you speak that language imperfectly can be intimidating, frustrating and dangerous as well. It can be even more personal if the person who does not understand the (de facto) vehicular language is not yourself but a loved one (or loved ones) such as family members. On the other hand, if you can understand your own frustration on this issue then it should not be difficult to understand that the frustration of not being able to communicate is a two way street.

On a cultural level language is very much a part of heritage. The Spanish language is as much a part of your heritage as it is not a part of the heritage of millions of other Americans. Wanting others to share in your heritage is a noble ideal, but forcing that same thing upon others by some artificial mandate lacks the same luster. Would you think it fair, after all, if the argument were for four languages and none of the languages were your mother tongue - English, Chinese, Hindi, and French for example? A proposal like this might seem a bit overwhelming as undertaking to learn a single language in and of itself can be daunting and requires a lot more internal motivation, especially the older one gets. But by demanding that multiple languages be the "official languages" you are multiplying the demands on those who don't speak either. You wouldn't want anyone to mandate that your grandmother learn a language anymore, and for the same reason you should not demand it of anyone else by supporting such a short-sighted requirement.

On a side note, I think that it would be awesome if we could all speak multiple languages and communicate with one another seamlessly, and I have endeavored to teach my own children various languages and to engender a love of languages, but the languages that I find most distressingly lacking in American societies and schools is the language of math and science. I read somewhere that the number of doctorate level engineer graduates in India alone is greater than the total number of adults living in the entire United States.

updated NOV 12, 2009
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
Sadly, I believe the most lacking language is that of love, but that is a different debate all together. - aloshek, NOV 11, 2009
perhaps so. - Izanoni1, NOV 11, 2009
check your PM... - DJ_Huero, NOV 12, 2009
1
vote

it is the de facto official language

This statement is a bit paradoxical don't you think. Are you saying that English is "the unofficial official language?" smile

updated NOV 12, 2009
posted by Izanoni1
That's exactly right...it is official in the minds of the citizens, and probably the world, but it has no legal standing. - aloshek, NOV 9, 2009
Something cannot be "unofficially official". Being commonly used, or popular in people's minds, does not make something "official". It requires approval or adoption by an authority or public body. - jrey0474, NOV 10, 2009
That was what I was trying to emphasize jrey - Izanoni1, NOV 10, 2009
Now there's Americans at there best, writing things that don't make sense, building on it, and then trying to sell it. ROFL! We should be called, "Paradoxica". Iza you're great. - DJ_Huero, NOV 12, 2009
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