“Learn English: Your In America”

My playful title is inspired by what I just heard Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Republican of Virginia, say on the PBS News Hour. He was explaining the plank in the proposed 2012 Republican platform endorsing English as the national language (carried over from the 2008 platform). He stressed how important speaking “good English” is to the American dream.  He concluded: “so that was the collective, uh, thoughts of the committee.” Me agree.


You may also like...

13 Responses

  1. Brett Bellmore says:

    Laugh all you like, it’s still true: If you want to have one polity, you need people speaking the same language.

    Not everybody wants there to be one polity; Being able to say one thing to one group, and another to a different group, and not easily be caught at it, can be very convenient in politics.

  2. EB says:

    Really? Like Switzerland? Which has been around in one form or another for hundreds of years? Long before the US?

  3. India, the world’s largest democracy (i.e., it is one polity), has an interesting manner for handling its many languages:

    “The principal official language of the Republic of India is Standard Hindi, while English is the secondary official language. The constitution of India states that ‘The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script.’ Neither the Constitution of India nor Indian law specifies a national language, a position supported by a High Court ruling. However, languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution are sometimes referred to, without legal standing, as the national languages of India.

    Individual mother tongues in India number several hundred; the 1961 census recognized 1,652 (SIL Ethnologue lists 415). According to Census of India of 2001, 30 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers, 122 by more than 10,000. Three millennia of language contact has led to significant mutual influence among the four language families in India and South Asia. Two contact languages have played an important role in the history of India: Persian and English.”

  4. Jim Maloney says:

    It’s foreseeable that AI technology will someday reach the stage where virtually instantaneous and wholly accurate translations among all the world’s languages will be an everyday reality. Such a phenomenon would allow full participation in linguistically diverse systems of government (the EU comes to mind) and would facilitate the preservation (and even, over time, the proliferation) of “obscure” languages and dialects with relatively few speakers. And then what would happen if some cybercataclysm were to wipe out or disable the network of translation computers? The story has already been told: it’s the Tower of Babel.

    As for languages spoken in the US, there is really no need to “officialize” English as it already has the critical mass.

  5. I have heard about a bumper sticker on a car with AZ plates: “Welcome to America! Now speak Navajo.”

  6. Jordan J. Paust says:

    The Gov. should “learn English” — and should have used “you are” instead of “your”

  7. AF says:

    Are you suggesting that “good English” is ungrammatical?

  8. John Steele says:

    actually, he said:

    “so that was the collective, uh, thoughts . . . .”

    switching number after an “uh” where he was searching for the next word is pretty weak sauce for a grammar snark. and if you’re going to snark someone’s grammar, shouldn’t you quote him accurately?

  9. Zakiyyah says:

    A great site for learning English as a Second Language online is http://www.eslexclusive.com ! Great teacher and great classroom !

  10. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    Thanks for the interesting comments, though this was meant as merely humorous. Funny how we take things so seriously in this country anymore. 😉

    Anyway, as to two comments:

    (7) I did not intend to suggest that “good English” is ungrammatical, but to juxtapose that with the American dream; and

    (8) John Steele, adding “uh” makes it sound even worse to me (I’ve amended the original post to reflect the quote precisely as you captured it).

  11. For better and worse I suppose, humor today is frequently the favored if not predominant vehicle (at least in some quarters or some segments of society) for serious political analysis and critique: witness The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, The Onion, or more than a few late-night talk shows. Political satire of course has considerable pedigree, but we appear to accord it pride of place in a manner such that (politically and economically) serious things can only be expressed in humorous terms (so much so there’s a fear of the ‘serious’ demeanor and expression).

  12. I meant to say in the last parenthetical remark: “a fear or suspicion of the ‘serious’ demeanor and expression”

  13. john chung says:

    the post was funny. law prof blogs could use more humor.