I never took a foreign language class when I was in high school. I wanted to learn Spanish, but I never had time to fit it in my schedule, and it was only offered as an online course in my hometown. What little education I got in Spanish was given by my many Hispanic friends who went to school with me.
Eventually, in college, I did become fairly fluent in Spanish, and I’m extremely grateful for the experience. Learning a second language stretched my mind in new ways and gave me views into a different culture.
I remember my second-semester Spanish professor telling us something early in our class. She said, “America is becoming a bilingual country. Your communication skills will put you a step ahead of everyone else.”
What she said was essentially, true. The number of immigrants coming into America has grown steadily in recent years, and many of them are Hispanic and don’t know English. However, there are many in the U.S. who refuse to recognize this change.
“English only” movements have flared up several times in American history. French and Spanish were primary languages in North America when the U.S. gained the Louisiana Purchase and after the Mexican-American War, but these languages were usurped by English in the late 1800s. Most recently, in 2006, the Senate voted to designate English as our national language.
This begs the question: Does America need a national language?
It seems the government has taken a defensive posture with this move so that it will be able to avoid accommodating speakers of other languages (especially Spanish) as their populations grow. The proposal passed in 2006 as part of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act states that no one has “a right, entitlement, or claim to have the government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform, or provide services or provide materials in any language other than English.”