Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Multilingualism is Our Strength

by Greg Pulte

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Debate over making English the "Official" language of the United States has gone on for longer than the United States as been a sovereign country, all the way back to at least 1750 (PBS). Yet after more than 250 years, the United States of America has functioned without making English the official language of this country. We are a nation of immigrants, and as such we must value the languages and cultures each of us brings to this country by not officially privileging one language over another, after all, we did fight a brutal revolution against the English. Why should the language of England be revered by making it the official language? The founding fathers must have understood this and must have recognized, then as now, that this country would be filled with speakers of many different languages by the very nature of our country's great experiment with democracy.

In spite of the outrage expressed by so many "Americans" who demand that non-English speakers immediately drop what they are doing, forget what they are speaking, and instantaneously learn and produce English, (here is a smart clip describing this dumbfounding outrage:, research suggests that first-generation children of immigrants learn English rapidly. Bilingual education researcher Dr. Sergio Garza at Texas A&M International University suggests that first-generation children learn English quickly because they choose English in order to be accepted and to succeed in an English dominate society (Reichard, May 22, 2017). Presumably, this choice is suggested through the cultural cues exerted at home and in schools.

However, while these social cues are strong, they are not carved in stone. The social constructs that impose these language limitations upon us may also liberate us when they evolve to include and value the use of many languages. We can choose to remain constrained by xenoglossophobia (fear of other languages) or we can embrace knowledge, understanding, and skills, of the type that empower us and make us stronger.

For our young students to succeed and to feel valued within our collective society, we must not force everyone to conform to a contrived archetype, a monolingual one at that, but to allow for the languages and experiences all people bring to illumine each of our lives. We can learn from each other and indeed we must.

PBS (2005). Do you speak American? Half the countries of the world have an official language.               Retrieved from:

Reichard, Raquel (May 22, 2017). Spanish use slowly fading among new LatinX generations.                   Retrieved from:

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