Officials don’t want to think about the cost of always giving bilingual education in schools, or printing all government documents in a different language. A more serious risk is seen in having government workers who speak only English, because this could hinder safety and expediency. What happens in the case of an emergency, and a person who doesn’t know English is unable to communicate?
Most Americans are so accustomed to this “English only” mindset that they aren’t even surprised when they travel outside the country and find Europeans who converse in English, or signs posted with English translations along with the original French, Italian, or other language.
I went to Mexico last year hoping to use some of the Spanish I had learned, but I did not utter one word en español during my entire trip - because every Mexican citizen I met spoke English. It was impressive and convenient, but I was disappointed that even in their home country, they were using English as often as their own language.
That’s why I’m flabbergasted by the idea that some Americans so adamantly want to establish English as the official language. Many other countries around the world have been willing to accommodate different language speakers, but the U.S. has not tried nearly as hard to help anyone other than those who speak English.
The 2000 U.S. Census revealed that 18% of our population aged 5 and over speaks a language other than English at home. That’s 47 million people. The continuing influx of immigrants has forced America to consider the idea of a bilingual country, but so far, we’re not handling it too well.