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Official English

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Last summer, William Donald Schaefer, former Governor and present Comptroller of the state of Maryland, made the news when he groused about a worker at McDonald’s who couldn’t take his order because he couldn’t speak English.

“I don’t want to adjust to another language,” Mr. Schaefer grumped in public comments. “This is the United States. I think they ought to adjust to us.” [Transcript, Listen]

“They,” of course, means “immigrants,” and “us” means—well—us,Americans.

Predictably, Mr. Schaefer took some gas for his frankness, but he probably should get used to that. Thanks to mass immigration, he should also start learning Spanish, if not several other languages.

What Mr. Schaefer was complaining about is the obvious result of allowing millions of immigrants from dozens of different countries and cultures into your own country in the course of a generation, and it’s a result that even slow learners like the Washington Post are starting to absorb.

Last week the Post visited the problem of multilingualismin the workplace in its Business Section, since employers are also starting to figure out that the predictable consequences of mass immigration aren’t always good for business. [Multilingualism Is a Necessity In Many Jobs By Rita Zeidner, Washington Post September 5, 2004]

That is why a number of companies are effectively making their employees learn English—to deal with customers like Mr. Schaefer as well as to expedite simple administrative processes like safety and health. The National Restaurant Association has developed a program to teach immigrant employees English, and so has Allied Domecq, the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins.

Optimists will say, see, that means the free market will solve the problem of multilingualism. Since employers realize it’s good business for employees to speak a common language, they will encourage linguistic assimilation, and cultural assimilation will follow.

The truth is less simple and less rosy. Sometimes that may be the case; sometimes not.

Other companies don’t encourage English among employees and in fact encourage American employees to learn foreign languages.“Some employers maintain that teaching workers English doesn’t make sense,” the Post reports, “in part because demographics are shifting.”

Target, for example, started offering Spanish classes to its managers in Virginia and Maryland two years ago and encourages them to take them. The chain now offers the course in all its outlets in 47 states.

“‘It really has to do with serving our guests,” smirks a spokeswoman of the effort to get the employees to learn what the Post calls the “language of Cervantes,” “It’s a way to get them to feel comfortable at our store.’”

Presumably it is too much to ask that the chain might feel some attachment to the language of Shakespeare and Jefferson and wish to preserve or encourage it.

What does matter to the chain, as to most other businesses, is how much they can sell. As one businessman quoted by the Post remarks , “‘You can sell more widgets to someone in their language than you can in yours.’”

The truth is that the market doesn’t help solve the problem. The market is the problem.

It does not seem to have occurred to some managers that the problems they have already created by encouraging mass immigration in the first place and refusing to encourage assimilation in the second are only going to get worse—as more and more immigrants from more and more cultures, countries and linguistic traditions invite themselves here.

The problem does occur to some who have to live with it.

Carlos Figueroa, maintenance crew member in Arlington VA, says that “from time to time he finds himself at a loss when trying to communicate with employees who speak Arabic and Korean. His work-team partner, Aron Jones, said he has resorted to drawing pictures in the dirt to get his point across.”

That’s one thing when it’s a maintenance crew. It might be another when it’s a hospital, as it is at Arlington’s Sibley Memorial.

“‘We do a lot of show and tell,’” says one manager at the hospital, where workers are shown videos in Spanish and English about “the handling of infectious materials and working with hazardous chemicals… ‘And then we show and tell again so that basic communication isn’t an issue. Repetition is very big around here.”

Patients can only hope the staff shows and tells correctly.

What employers, from food services to hospitals, are starting to discover is what customers like Mr. Schaefer found out years ago—that mass immigration causes far more problems than it solves as the common culture—not just language but also manners and morals—that defines and disciplines a society crumbles under immigration’s impact.

For many, including those who can make money from the crumbling, it’s good business.

For everyone else, it’s the chaos that the collapse of a common civilization always causes.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Classic, Immigration, Official English 
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It probably occurs to very few Americans that when they visit an ATM machine or put together some gadget bought at K-Mart or Wal-Mart, they are witnessing the cultural disintegration of their own country. The reason is that ATM machines and the assembly instructions for most mass-marketed products now come in at least two, maybe more, languages. Ten or twenty years ago, that wasn’t so. Back then, there was only English—because back then there were only Americans.

Today, thanks to the mass immigration of the last three decades, there are plenty of non-Americans here and therefore plenty of non-English languages—raising the interesting prospect that some day you may have to wade through assembly instructions several hundred pages in length. The 2000 Census found that the percentage of “Americans” speaking a foreign language at home had increased in the last decade from 13.8 percent in 1990 to 17.6 percent in 2000—close to one-fifth of the nation. The Census also reported that there are now 329 different languages spoken in the United States.

The linguistic Tower of Babel that the Open Borders lobby has built is the logical consequence of the immigration invasion. When there are millions of immigrants, they form distinct communities in which assimilation to American habits, including the American language, is at least unnecessary and may even be counter-productive. It is difficult if not impossible to maintain a national unity of any kind, political or cultural, if a common language does not exist as a means of communication and also simply as a protective umbrella that covers the whole population.

Hence, a good many people advocate making the English language the official language of the country. One such advocate is Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who has introduced a bill in Congress to do just that. If passed, it would require that “all laws, public proceedings, regulations, publications, orders, actions, programs and policies”be conducted in English, with some appropriate exceptions to protect public health, national security, commerce, etc.

So far the bill has the support of 75 co-sponsors and of one of the main organizations pushing the concept of an “official language,” U.S. English. The chairman of the group, Mauro Mujica, says, “With so much diversity, we need something that can spread unity”—a noble sentiment.

I have some problems with the concept of the federal government imposing cultural unity. The culture that binds a nation together is supposed to come from the society itself, not the central state, but it’s now clear that the central state, through its refusal to control the mass immigration its own laws and policies (and non-policies) created, is seeking to impose a cultural unity radically different from the authentic American one. Mr. King’s bill, if nothing else, will challenge that act of imposition (really an act of revolution) and commit the government to protecting the real civilization of the nation and the language that helps bind it together.

Just how serious is the threat of linguistic (and therefore cultural and therefore political) anarchy? Mr. Mujica, himself an immigrant from Chile, notes that the New York Times reports that in the city of Hartford, Connecticut, where the population is now 40 percent Hispanic, “half of Hartford’s business owners do not speak English.” As the Times itself reported, a local baker (himself Hispanic) says, “In the bank, they speak Spanish; at the hospital, they speak Spanish; my bakery suppliers are starting to speak Spanish. Even at the post office, they are Americans, but they speak Spanish.” The Census Bureau reports that almost half the city’s Hispanic population speaks English “less than very well.” The official web page for the city is bilingual and a phone call to the mayor’s office after the close of business receives an answer in Spanish. The mayor, Eddie Perez, says, “We’ve become a Latin city, so to speak. It’s a sign of things to come.” You bet. This is Connecticut we’re talking about, not El Paso.

The obvious solution to the Babelization of America is to stop immigration now, send back the illegals, take a hard look at least some “legals” and cleanse the culture of the Open Borders lobby and its lies and foolishness. Unfortunately that won’t happen this week. In the meantime, the best recourse is to support Mr. King’s legislation.

If there’s any real problem with the King bill, it is that some will imagine that making English the nationally official language will solve the problem of national disintegration. It won’t, but it may send a signal that many Americans and most lawmakers are not in favor of disintegration. There haven’t been too many such signals in recent years. It’s more than time for the real America to send one and for its elected leaders to pay attention.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Hispanics, Official English 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”