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Should the USA declare an official language?

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GTASAddict
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#1

Posted 15 May 2013 - 03:13 PM Edited by GTASAddict, 15 May 2013 - 08:59 PM.

In comparison to many other countries, the United States of America is without a sanctioned language and should remain without one. Here is my justification:

The United States has prevailed as a melting pot (of diverse races, religions, cultures, etc) for more than 2 centuries. Declaration of an official language would be as infringing as declaring an official religion. So far, the nation has fared well with English as the de facto language, thus an official language is a waste of legislation.

Language is immersed by nature at a budding age, but immensely complex to acquire once the brain reaches a midlife threshold. This creates a burden for older immigrants; this would essentially amount to the concept of yelling at a deaf person to listen. Making English the official language could obstruct foreign language learning; embracing diversity and foreign languages will aid us in international trade & diplomacy.

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#2

Posted 16 May 2013 - 05:14 AM

I DO NOT think the U.S. should announce an official language. That conflicts with the American nature. The country is pretty much a mixture of all nationalities and religions and should stay that way. It keeps America the way it is: The Nation of Every Nation.

We should seriously focus on fixing other things rather than trying to fix something that is already in good condition.

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#3

Posted 19 May 2013 - 08:07 AM

They might as way make English the Official Language. It won't change anything really. As far as I know, they use English in the Government anyway.

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#4

Posted 19 May 2013 - 09:22 AM

the answer is definitely no.

the OP provides most of the best reasons as to why this is.
but namely it's about the fact that language is also a living and breathing entity with English being THE most evolved language of them all. it's constantly changing. even if you were to declare English as the official language, it would still be an English that is littered with Latin/Spanish, German, French, Italian, Polynesian, and all manner of other speech influences. we adopt so many variants of foreign words and create so many slang words of our own that trying to pin down the English language as "official" is absurd in any regard.

especially for the United States.

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#5

Posted 19 May 2013 - 04:58 PM

Wanting to make English our official language has no real practical purpose. Those who support it are really just spreading xenophobia since they don't like the fact that Spanish is becoming a prevalent language in the US. The idea that we need to "declare" an official language is just ridiculous.

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#6

Posted 24 May 2013 - 01:30 PM

I agree with GTASAddict that the US is, or should be a melting pot. The phrase melting pot is used frequently when describing the US. However, people tend to forget the "melting" part. Melting, should mean to blend together, not remain with areas cultured to other countries.

I think if the US did declare an official language, it could help unite the people, save money on publications, hiring of bilingual employees, and it may even get some people off their butts and learn another language.

A language barrier only promotes division. If someone wants to come to the US, they should also want to experience the "USA" culture.

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#7

Posted 28 May 2013 - 10:04 PM

QUOTE (The Pizza Delivery Guy @ Thursday, May 16 2013, 00:14)
I DO NOT think the U.S. should announce an official language. That conflicts with the American nature. The country is pretty much a mixture of all nationalities and religions and should stay that way. It keeps America the way it is: The Nation of Every Nation.

We should seriously focus on fixing other things rather than trying to fix something that is already in good condition.

Beautifully typed and beautifully executed.

I kind of like a mix of several languages.. keeps me intrigued enough to try and learn some as I go throughout my experiences. I've managed to learn Spanish (not perfectly but enough to get by) over time. The Marine Corps has a lot of Hispanics, so it became useful at times, especially during engagements or simple arguments on barracks. I learned a bit of Arabic during service as well. My focus in on Portuguese at the moment, I have a couple friends on here who speak it and it's confusing to say the least.

Melchior
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#8

Posted 02 June 2013 - 01:15 AM

QUOTE (El_Diablo @ Sunday, May 19 2013, 19:22)
the answer is definitely no.

the OP provides most of the best reasons as to why this is.
but namely it's about the fact that language is also a living and breathing entity with English being THE most evolved language of them all. it's constantly changing. even if you were to declare English as the official language, it would still be an English that is littered with Latin/Spanish, German, French, Italian, Polynesian, and all manner of other speech influences. we adopt so many variants of foreign words and create so many slang words of our own that trying to pin down the English language as "official" is absurd in any regard.

especially for the United States.

I'm not really sure what you're getting at, but it sounds like you're saying English is too much of a mash up to be a real language.

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#9

Posted 02 June 2013 - 01:50 AM

QUOTE (Melchior @ Saturday, Jun 1 2013, 19:15)
it sounds like you're saying English is too much of a mash up to be a real language.

uh no.
what I'm saying is that English (more so than any other language) is constantly evolving and adopting and adapting. it's more fluid and expressive than any other human language today.

and in that sense, it's not fair to declare English as the official language of ANY country; let alone the United States.

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#10

Posted 02 June 2013 - 03:26 AM

QUOTE (El_Diablo @ Sunday, Jun 2 2013, 11:50)
QUOTE (Melchior @ Saturday, Jun 1 2013, 19:15)
it sounds like you're saying English is too much of a mash up to be a real language.

uh no.
what I'm saying is that English (more so than any other language) is constantly evolving and adopting and adapting. it's more fluid and expressive than any other human language today.

and in that sense, it's not fair to declare English as the official language of ANY country; let alone the United States.

You're still saying it isn't comparable to other languages and I'm not really seeing why. All languages borrow heavily from others, all languages adapt over time.

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#11

Posted 02 June 2013 - 12:35 PM

QUOTE (Melchior @ Saturday, Jun 1 2013, 21:26)
All languages borrow heavily from others, all languages adapt over time.

but not anywhere near to the extent of English.

there are - by far - more words in a modern English dictionary than any other language.

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#12

Posted 03 June 2013 - 12:57 AM

I'm sceptical that English has been influenced more by European languages than say, Japanese has been influenced by Chinese languages, or African and East Asian languages by English itself. Even if it was more of a mash-up than any other world language (it isn't), how would that preclude it from being the official language of a country? Especially in countries that have been speaking that language since their inception.

In terms of changing over time, there's nothing too remarkable about English.

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#13

Posted 03 June 2013 - 01:42 AM

ugh...

QUOTE (Melchior @ Sunday, Jun 2 2013, 18:57)
Even if it was more of a mash-up than any other world language (it isn't)

actually it is.

no other modern dictionary includes as many distinctive words and slang terminologies as the current English language.
you're free to try and prove me wrong, but you'll have a really hard time doing so.

QUOTE
how would that preclude it from being the official language of a country?

it doesn't technically preclude English from being an official language.
this is just part of my reasoning.

it's one of several reasons why English should not be the official language of the United States.

QUOTE
In terms of changing over time, there's nothing too remarkable about English.

agree to disagree, I guess.

in my humble opinion English is the most beautiful and descriptive language on Earth because we have more overlapping words and connotations than any other language.
generally speaking, most languages have 1 word to describe 1 thing. English usually has multiple words to describe the same things which means there's so much distinctive flavor to choose from.

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#14

Posted 03 June 2013 - 04:58 AM

QUOTE (El_Diablo @ Monday, Jun 3 2013, 11:42)
generally speaking, most languages have 1 word to describe 1 thing.

Yeah, apart from, you know, all the Romance languages. English doesn't have more redundant synonyms than say, Spanish or French.

QUOTE
you're free to try and prove me wrong, but you'll have a really hard time doing so.

Well, the burden of proof isn't on me. You made the claim that English is exceptional, and it's your role to substantiate it.

QUOTE
it doesn't technically preclude English from being an official language.
this is just part of my reasoning.

I was responding to your claim that, because English is such a mash up, it's inappropriate for a country to decree it an official language.

The fact is, English is only considered a hybrid language historically (a mix of Old French, Latin and Germanic language), and the borrowing of words to explain new phenomenon is not exceptional in the slightest.

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#15

Posted 03 June 2013 - 08:36 AM

QUOTE (Melchior @ Sunday, Jun 2 2013, 22:58)
English doesn't have more redundant synonyms than say, Spanish or French.

I'm pretty sure that it does.

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#16

Posted 03 June 2013 - 09:33 AM

Ask a native speaker of any Romance language to list the synonyms for "big." Better yet, ask an Inuit speaker to tell you how many words they have for "snow."

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#17

Posted 03 June 2013 - 01:02 PM

Yeah, I speak a Slavic language near-fluently and the idea that there is one meaning for one word in most languages other than English is a bit short-sighted. The Romance languages (along with a lot of other Germanic languages, hell, most Indo-European languages) would be no different.

I agree that it'd be pointless to make it the official language of the US, but furthermore isn't precluding it from other countries, simply because it's a very fluid and dynamic language, a bit redundant? It's not like when a language is "set-in-stone" as being official that the language is prevented from borrowing words or developing further.

I think it's important for a society to have a common lingua fraca which can facilitate universal communication between all members of that society (I don't think anyone will disagree here), but I think that the idea of legislating it for the purposes of making it "official" is both pointless, but a non-issue at the same time. Isn't the whole process of making a language official simply for symbolism? I mean, English isn't the official language of the US, but it's still the language used for 99% of both government and commercial communication. Personal communication is a bit different given the multicultural demographic of the US, but even then, most migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds inevitably learn English once they assimilate and settle. Am I a bit simplistic in thinking that absolutely nothing will change practically if they make English the official language of the US?

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#18

Posted 03 June 2013 - 09:44 PM

QUOTE

Am I a bit simplistic in thinking that absolutely nothing will change practically if they make English the official language of the US?


No, not at all. And that's why it goes to prove that the only people who want to make it our official language are those who want to do it for xenophobic reasons.

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#19

Posted 04 June 2013 - 02:40 AM Edited by El_Diablo, 04 June 2013 - 12:15 PM.

QUOTE (Melchior @ Monday, Jun 3 2013, 03:33)
list the synonyms for "big." Better yet, ask an Inuit speaker to tell you how many words they have for "snow."

we're not talking about individual words or specific languages.
in general, the modern English language includes more different words than virtually any other language, in spite of individual exceptions to the rule.

- http://oxforddiction...of-any-language
- http://www.vistawide..._statistics.htm
- http://wiki.answers...._the_most_words
- http://uk.answers.ya...13120502AAT63vT

it's beside the point. it wasn't the basis for my argument, just a piece of it.
and it appears we agree in principle; the US does not need an official language.

added some sauce material.

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#20

Posted 01 July 2013 - 12:40 AM

What would declaring an official language even do? Make it so all official government documents have to be printed in English only?

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#21

Posted 01 July 2013 - 02:04 AM Edited by rudy., 01 July 2013 - 02:11 PM.

QUOTE (Stefche @ Monday, Jun 3 2013, 13:02)
Yeah, I speak a Slavic language near-fluently and the idea that there is one meaning for one word in most languages other than English is a bit short-sighted. The Romance languages (along with a lot of other Germanic languages, hell, most Indo-European languages) would be no different.

I agree that it'd be pointless to make it the official language of the US, but furthermore isn't precluding it from other countries, simply because it's a very fluid and dynamic language, a bit redundant? It's not like when a language is "set-in-stone" as being official that the language is prevented from borrowing words or developing further.

I think it's important for a society to have a common lingua fraca which can facilitate universal communication between all members of that society (I don't think anyone will disagree here), but I think that the idea of legislating it for the purposes of making it "official" is both pointless, but a non-issue at the same time. Isn't the whole process of making a language official simply for symbolism? I mean, English isn't the official language of the US, but it's still the language used for 99% of both government and commercial communication. Personal communication is a bit different given the multicultural demographic of the US, but even then, most migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds inevitably learn English once they assimilate and settle. Am I a bit simplistic in thinking that absolutely nothing will change practically if they make English the official language of the US?

This is pretty spot-on! I agree with everything said here.

I must admit, I never understood the desire for an official language. Official communications must come in the language of the community they serve, if they are to be any good. It's why the court system uses interpreters, and why public health announcements are distributed in three dozen languages. Because even if you concede that people who come to a country should learn its native language, not all of them are going to be fluent in it at any one time; not all of them are ever going to be fluent in it, or as fluent as they are in their home tongue.

Also, wouldn't it raise the question, "Why not make Spanish the official language of USA?" I mean, Spanish is like the second most widely spoken language in USA, right?

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#22

Posted 01 July 2013 - 02:30 AM

QUOTE (gtamann123 @ Sunday, Jun 30 2013, 18:40)
What would declaring an official language even do? Make it so all official government documents have to be printed in English only?

you're right. basically.

it would ensure that all official US documents for financial / legal / government purposes appear in English print. forever! or until the law is changed...
aside from all tax and administrative documents, this would apply to national databases and registries (like your drivers license and other ID's). I think something even like national textbooks and other standardized education material would be required to print in English.

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#23

Posted 01 July 2013 - 02:58 AM

So, really, the status quo will be preserved? Except it'll be statutorily enshrined in law.

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#24

Posted 01 July 2013 - 07:56 PM

QUOTE (rudy. @ Sunday, Jun 30 2013, 20:04)
Also, wouldn't it raise the question, "Why not make Spanish the official language of USA?" I mean, Spanish is like the second most widely spoken language in USA, right?

That in its own right would probably open a can of worms. To give an example, I'll use Canada. I know it's not the same as the United States, but hopefully it makes my point clear.

Up until the 1960s, the only official language in Canada was English, by virtue of us being a British colony (as Britain had beat France in the Seven Year War back in 1763). However, we had a significant portion of our population whose first language was French (about 20%). In 1969, the government passed the Official Languages Act, which proclaimed that English and French both have equal status in Canada. If it had anything to do with the federal government (forms, publications, printing of laws, et cetera), it had to be, from this point on, written in English and French.

The government's justification for this was to protect the linguistic rights of the francophone minority in Canada and to allow them to feel at home anywhere in Canada (keeping in mind this was also at the same time when Quebec nationalism was really starting to come to fruition; the government wanted to try and put those tensions at bay).

Now, today, one of the main issues with The Act is that if you want a job with the federal government, a significant majority of them require you to be bilingual (speak both English and French with fluency), but in certain regions in Canada, a knowledge of French might not be overly necessary. For example, in Vancouver, which has a large Asian community, knowing Mandarin or Cantonese would be a real plus. Now, if you want a job with the federal government and you speak English and Mandarin (or another Asian language), you would be quite valuable in Vancouver, because of your language skills. However, because you don't speak French, the government might pass you over for the job, even though having French in that area might not be overly beneficial.

There are other criticisms of official languages, but I'd say that's the biggest one in Canada. You'll also hear a lot of people complain about the minority imposing their language on the majority, but I don't really consider that valid criticism.

So, the advantage of declaring an official language is that is protects the rights of that linguistic community in a country, but in the United States, English is the dominant language by far, so I'd say it's already quite well protected.

If, however, the United States decided to declare Spanish an official language, it would protect the linguistic rights of the Spanish speaking community, but my god, I have no doubt that would unleash a political can of worms no one wants to open. You already have to listen to enough people down there bellyache about Mexicans; imagine what would happen if all federal communications had to be in English and Spanish and a bunch of other things? Yeah, some people would go mad.

At the moment, I don't think the United States needs an official language. Honestly, for language issues, it should be looked at on a more localized scale; evaluate the linguistic needs in your area and adjust accordingly. Don't shoehorn it to an entire country (because, for example, having Spanish as an official language might not help someone in Louisiana, where French would be more useful).

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#25

Posted 02 July 2013 - 12:19 AM

QUOTE (Stefche @ Sunday, Jun 30 2013, 20:58)
So, really, the status quo will be preserved?

yeah... more or less.

right now the "status-quo" is to publish official documents in English because it's just common sense. for all basic intents and purposes the US is an English speaking country and so most things are printed in English by way of pure economics. for instance, if you want to sell textbooks in the US, you'll sell the most by publishing in English. but it's not technically the law of the land.

if we actually DECLARED an official language by law, then official documents wouldn't be published in English because it makes sense.
they would be published in English because they have to be.

that's the only difference.

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#26

Posted 02 July 2013 - 05:21 AM

QUOTE (Icarus @ Tuesday, Jul 2 2013, 05:56)
At the moment, I don't think the United States needs an official language. Honestly, for language issues, it should be looked at on a more localized scale; evaluate the linguistic needs in your area and adjust accordingly. Don't shoehorn it to an entire country (because, for example, having Spanish as an official language might not help someone in Louisiana, where French would be more useful).

I agree. That's how the system is run in Australia, basically; I can't remember off the top of my head if English is actually enshrined in law as an official language (for some reason, I have my doubts, and if I wasn't in a rush to head off to work soon I'd do some research), but I've noticed that for federal and state government-provided services, the information for these services provided in booklets, pamphlets, websites etc. is provided in different languages, selecting languages which have high-enough use in the wider community to warrant extra communication in that language for the elderly amongst that group who would struggle with English. For more localised pamphlets (i.e. for services provided by the local city council covering a few suburbs, for example), then these languages are more accurately adjusted to the languages spoken by people in the council.

Like, when I voted in an election a few months ago (state by-election), the "how-to-vote" pamphlet was written in at least twenty languages. The state seat I live in is very multi-ethnic and has a high immigrant population, so I think this is warranted; they also had interpreters for Turkish, Serbian and Farsi at the booth standing around in case they were needed.

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#27

Posted 02 July 2013 - 07:35 AM

QUOTE (Icarus @ Monday, Jul 1 2013, 19:56)
If, however, the United States decided to declare Spanish an official language, it would protect the linguistic rights of the Spanish speaking community, but my god, I have no doubt that would unleash a political can of worms no one wants to open. You already have to listen to enough people down there bellyache about Mexicans; imagine what would happen if all federal communications had to be in English and Spanish and a bunch of other things? Yeah, some people would go mad.

Nail on the head, man. To me, having English or Spanish as the official language would just be a slap in the face to diversity. It would certainly be an issue in some states or territories where another language is spoken by the majority, not to mention Native Americans and their languages. Having an official federal language doesn't seem to actually do anything either, other than feed into the current wave of anti-foreigner feelings. Just like closet racists can now be openly anti-Hispanic by being for "immigration reform" instead, this would open up all kinds of "acceptable" discrimination against anyone speaking another language in public.

I think it's safe to say that Americans would just end up opening a pandora box of issues if they're gonna follow the footsteps of countries like Canada or France.

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#28

Posted 02 July 2013 - 09:40 AM

QUOTE (Stefche @ Tuesday, Jul 2 2013, 16:21)
in Australia, basically; I can't remember off the top of my head if English is actually enshrined in law as an official language

Yes, English is the official language of Australia.

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#29

Posted 02 July 2013 - 12:10 PM

QUOTE (rudy. @ Tuesday, Jul 2 2013, 17:35)
France

France, I feel, is a bit different since, as a federal nation, they're ethnically and culturally homogenous. It's not a multicultural, fully heterogeneous melting pot like Canada, the US and Australia, so having French as the "official" language of France wouldn't be out of the ordinary, in my opinion. I also don't think it'll aggravate the behaviour of racist xenophobes, either, since its official position does nothing to discourage minorities from migrating to France and speaking their own language amongst themselves, nor does it stop the French authorities from accommodating large pockets of migrants with material in their own native language (particularly Arabic)... but, I mean, it's France, French is still going to be the official federal language. Just like German in Germany, Spanish in Spanish, Italian in Italy etc. The pandora's box opened by making French the official language of France would be minute compared to making it the official language of the US.

If I'm not mistaken, it would already be "official" in France. As far as I know, the US is one of the few countries not to have an official, statutorily-enshrined official language.

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#30

Posted 04 July 2013 - 06:16 AM

QUOTE (Melchior @ Saturday, Jun 1 2013, 22:26)
QUOTE (El_Diablo @ Sunday, Jun 2 2013, 11:50)
QUOTE (Melchior @ Saturday, Jun 1 2013, 19:15)
it sounds like you're saying English is too much of a mash up to be a real language.

uh no.
what I'm saying is that English (more so than any other language) is constantly evolving and adopting and adapting. it's more fluid and expressive than any other human language today.

and in that sense, it's not fair to declare English as the official language of ANY country; let alone the United States.

You're still saying it isn't comparable to other languages and I'm not really seeing why. All languages borrow heavily from others, all languages adapt over time.

I'm pulling this out of my ass, with that being said:

Perhaps its because English is spoken THROUGHOUT the world. Japanese? Only in Japan. Well, mostly in Japan.

But English is spoken in practically every state, even if it isn't the primary language. Mostly due to the West's financial dominance and cultural spread. Which means the language is global, whereas Korean is...well, only Korean.

Which means English is added to and expanded due to the wide usage of it by people speaking it as a second language.

again, out of my ass.

Just a guess.

Anyway, official language? It might as well be. Everyone who comes hear adapts to the land and learns it. But I don't see what practical purpose it would serve in making it the official language.

Which reminds me of a joke. A comedian once said something along the lines of:

''Canada is weird. They all speak...French. I wanted to go back to America, where everyone spoke Spanish''




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