English as state language slipped into W.Va. billSome people have this notion that there are cities in America - Miami, Los Angeles, San Antonio, El Paso - where English is now a foreign language. Having been to all four on numerous occasions, I can attest to the fact that there are parts of each of these cities where one is hard-pressed to hear anyone speaking English.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Two days after the end of the legislative session, state lawmakers are discovering something few were aware of: They voted to make English the official language of West Virginia.
The language amendment was quietly inserted into a bill addressing the number of members that cities can appoint to boards of parks and recreation. Among mundane details about record-keeping, the amendment adds the provision that "English shall be the official language of the State of West Virginia."
Efforts to make English the state's official language have been introduced annually since the late 1990s. (link)
But I don't think it's anything to get worked up over, for several reasons.
1. Not being bilingual, I am always fascinated by the fact that most Hispanics in these cities are able to converse with me in my native tongue. They simply choose to communicate with each other in that language more familiar to them.
2. This prevalence of another language in certain locales is not a new phenomenon here in the USA. You might be surprised to learn that English was not my father's first language when he was young. And he was born right here in the good old USA. He couldn't speak or comprehend English until it was time for him to attend a public school in northern Wisconsin, where English was the only language in use. Prior to that, he spoke the language of everyone else in the small community in which he resided - German. People in "Little Havana" experience the same social forces. In order for a student to prosper, or a businessman to conduct business, he or she must be able to communicate in English.
3. English is becoming - unofficially - the universal language of the entire planet. Regardless of the efforts of the French to eliminate the propensity of Parisians to crave Le Big Mac, they will continue to déambuler the Golden Arches. The advent of the internet has spelled inevitable doom for all other languages on earth - in time. It only makes sense for people to be able to communicate with one another. Now they can. And must.
So I say take a breath and calm down. This non-problem is solving itself. We are not going to be overrun by a horde of Hispanics with whom we are not going to be able to converse.
Unless you find yourself in Hialeah and your car breaks down ...