"The gift of a common tongue is a priceless inheritance and it may well someday become the foundation of a common citizenship." --Winston Churchill
Should English be the official language of America?
Just think ... without an official language, government could be required to have all publications and documents available in every language. With 322 languages spoken in the United States, that could be an avalanche of paper -- marriage licenses ... vehicle registrations ... disaster instructions ... IRS filing papers ... voting ballots.
The Democrat mayor of Nashville recently vetoed a bill that would have made English the official language of that city, saying it was "unconstitutional, unnecessary, and mean-spirited."
The Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared any law to make English the official language "racist."
A Zogby poll from 2006 showed:
- 84% of Americans say English should be official language of government operations;
- 77% of Hispanics say English should be official language.
- 28 states including Virginia (1996) have English as their official language.
- Ninety-two percent of the world's countries have at least one official language.
- English is the sole official language in 31 nations. An additional 20 nations recognize English as one of two or more official languages.
- California leads the nation in the number of limited English proficient persons, with 6.3 million, or one-fifth of the population of the Golden State. Texas is second with 2.7 million, followed by New York, Florida and Illinois. New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, Georgia and Pennsylvania round out the top 10.
- Since 1980, the number of U.S. residents who are limited English proficient has more than doubled, from 10.2 million to 21.3 million. In 1980, fewer than 1-in-20 Americans struggled with English. Now, nearly 1-in-12 do.
- In 2000, 11.9 million U.S. residents lived in linguistically isolated households, meaning that no one in the household spoke English at home or spoke English "very well". This figure is up 54 percent from 7.7 million in 1990. In all, more than 1-in-25 households in the United States is linguistically isolated.
- California has the most languages spoken at home of any state with 207. New York is second with 169, followed by Washington, Texas and Oregon. Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Arizona round out the top 10 states.
- English proficiency rates among immigrants vary widely by ancestry. More than 80 percent of the immigrants from several ancestry groups speak English "very well," including Egyptians (90.4 percent), Lebanese (89.5), Pakistanis (87.7), Romanians (86.5), Iranians (86.1), Thais (83.0) and Argentineans (81.6). Other ancestry groups lag far behind the overall average of 71.4 percent English proficient, including Cambodians (65.7), Vietnamese (64.4), Hondurans (53.5), Guatemalans (52.8) and Mexicans (49.9).
- In 1999, the average employed immigrant who spoke English very well earned $40,741, more than double the $16,345 earned by immigrants who did not speak English at all. The increasing scale of English proficiency and earnings was recorded at every education level from less than high school through master's degree and beyond.
- The ability to understand English was so crucial to immigrant success that foreign-born workers with moderate-to-high levels English proficiency had higher earnings than native-born workers with the same degree of English proficiency. More important, data from the National Adult Literacy Survey found that immigrants with a low degree of English proficiency earned one-half of what those with a medium degree of proficiency earned and less than one-third of highly English proficient immigrants.
- Immigrants who speak English "not well" or "not at all" have median weekly earnings approximately 57 percent of those of U.S. born workers. The weekly earnings of immigrants who speak another language at home, but speak English "very well" or "well" are nearly 90 percent of those of U.S. born workers. Immigrants who speak English at home are best off, with median weekly earnings 20 percent higher than U.S. born workers.
- The U.S. Department of Education found that those with limited English proficiency are less likely to be employed, less likely to be employed continuously, tend to work in the least desirable sectors and earn less than those who speak English. Annual earnings by non-English proficient adults were approximately half of the total population surveyed.
- The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute found that, "far and away, the most commonly cited obstacle to gaining college knowledge was the language barrier." While 96 percent of the Latino parents surveyed in the nation's three largest cities expected their children to go to college, nearly two-thirds missed at least half of the questions on a "mini-test of college knowledge."
- Effective English language instruction is an essential antipoverty tool for working immigrant families. Poverty and the need for public benefits, such as food stamps, are more closely related to limited English proficiency than with citizenship or legal status.
- The Canadian Government spends $260 million annually to do government business in both of the nation's official languages. This figure was 0.16% of the Canadian federal budget. If the U.S. was to spend 0.16% of the federal budget to do government business in two languages, the cost would be $3.8 billion.
- The Canadian Government spends $24 per Canadian resident per year to do government business in both of the nation's official languages. If the U.S. was to spend $24 per person per year on government multilingualism, the cost would be $5.7 billion.
- There are 25 nations and 20 official languages in the European Union, yielding 380 translation combinations.
- In June 2004, facing a backlog of 60,000 pages awaiting translation, European Union officials were asked to limit their documents to 15 pages to avoid further burdening the system. The average document size prior to this request was 32 pages.
- There are 1,800 translators, representing eight percent of the entire staff, at the European Commission.
- In 2004, the cost of translation and interpretation at the European Commission was $720 million. It is estimated that by 2007, the cost will have risen to $1.06 billion.
- The cost of multilingual ballots and translations represented one-eighth of Los Angeles County's $16 million expense in the Nov. 2004 general election.
- The City of San Francisco must spend $350,000 for each language that a document is translated into under the city's bilingual government ordinance.
- The total annual cost for the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to provide language services is $2.2 million.
- Of the 3,600 Chinese ballots prepared for the Sept. 2002 primary election in King County, Wash., only 24 (or 0.67 percent) were used.
- The total cost of providing multilingual services for the Immigration and Naturalization Service would be between $114 million and $150 million annually.
- It costs $1.86 million annually to prepare written translations for food stamp recipients nationwide. The cost for oral translations skyrocket to $21 million nationally per year.
- 79 percent of Americans, and 81 percent of first and second generation Americans favor making English the official language of the United States. Majority support for official English was recorded among every subgroup, including age, gender, race, and political affiliation.
- A 2001 Gallup poll found that 96 percent of Americans believe that it is essential/ important that immigrants living in the United States learn to speak English.
- 85 percent of Americans believe it is very hard or somewhat hard for immigrants to get a good job or do well in this country without learning English.
Nearly two-in-three foreign born adults say that the United States should expect all immigrants to learn English.
- 68 percent of Hispanics say that the goal of bilingual education programs should be to make sure that students learn English well.
- Three-in-four foreign born adults believe that schools should teach English to immigrant students as quickly as possible, even if it means that they need to catch up in other subjects.
- Nearly 90 percent of Latinos believe that adult Latino immigrants need to learn English in order to succeed in the United States.
- 86 percent of Americans call the ability to speak and understand English an absolutely essential or very important obligation for all Americans.