Saturday, March 31, 2007,4:32 PM
English Only
For those of you who recently expressed surprise that people in America advocate for "English only" laws, read this -
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich equated bilingual education Saturday with "the language of living in a ghetto" and mocked requirements that ballots be printed in multiple languages.

"The government should quit mandating that various documents be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up" to vote, said Gingrich, who is considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. He made the comments in a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women.

"The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. ... We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," Gingrich said to cheers from the crowd of more than 100.

"Citizenship requires passing a test on American history in English. If that's true, then we do not have to create ballots in any language except English," he said.

Peter Zamora, co-chair of the Washington-based Hispanic Education Coalition, which supports bilingual education, said, "The tone of his comments were very hateful. Spanish is spoken by many individuals who do not live in the ghetto."

He said research has shown "that bilingual education is the best method of teaching English to non-English speakers."

Spanish-speakers, Zamora said, know they need to learn English.

"There's no resistance to learning English, really, among immigrants, among native-born citizens," he said. "Everyone wants to learn English because it's what you need to thrive in this country."

In the past, Gingrich has supported making English the nation's official language. He's also said all American children should learn English and that other languages should be secondary in schools.

In 1995, for example, he said bilingualism poses "long-term dangers to the fabric of our nation" and that "allowing bilingualism to continue to grow is very dangerous."

Bilingual programs teach students reading, arithmetic and other basic skills in their native language so they do not fall behind while mastering English.

On voting, federal law requires districts with large populations of non-English speakers to print ballots in multiple languages.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

There's a part of me that groans at the thought that Gingrich is still around, much less considering a run for the Presidency (God help our country). But to see such racist and self centered talk coming from a person in a position of power is sad. America is full of itself, we are mostly monolingual in this global economy, and we think we can do whatever we want to the rest of the world. Besides helping us stop being complete jerks, how exactly is bilingualism dangerous? I desperately would like for my child to have a bilingual education. There are schools where she can be immersed in two or more languages - helping her learn language when she is most able to and broadening her knowledge of the world. I don't want her to be a self centered ugly American who thinks everyone else is beneath her. But if politicians like Newt force racism down our throats, she may not easily get that chance (or will be ridiculed for her tolerant global liberal ideas - but mommy gets enough of that and can teach her how to cope...).


posted by Julie at 4:32 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 4/01/2007 01:02:00 AM, Anonymous Harold

    "America is full of itself, we are mostly monolingual in this global economy, and we think we can do whatever we want to the rest of the world."

    Exactly, monolingualism is one of the things that's killing us as a modern country. Besides the arrogance and provinciality it entails, monolingualism also puts us at a fundamental information disadvantage-- they can "get" us, but we can't "get" them. So other countries have access to much more varied information than we do.

    Besides, the United States has never been, nor ever will be a monolingual country.

    In California, where I grew up, Spanish has long been not just *a* standard but *the* standard language of the state, predating English in official use by centuries. Whatever the English-only loudmouths try to proclaim, in the states the US acquired in the Mexican War-- chiefly California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and Florida for separate reasons-- Spanish has long been an established language, and it's protected as an established, public language by a long series of laws and treaties.

    IOW, in states like California, for someone seeking a public and/or professional posting (let alone for a business owner), you *have* to speak and write Spanish. Not only will Spanish boost one's position and salary, and business opportunities-- it's essential to being a part of the culture of these regions, where Spanish is elemental.

    For that matter, in Puerto Rico, very few people speak English, yet they're full American citizens. Likewise, Hawaiian has official status in Hawaii, as do native American languages in many jurisdictions, as does German in some regions of PA and the Midwest (where it was an original language).

    This is the reason the Founding Fathers never gave English or any other language official status-- there's a long tradition in the common and statute law of the USA, to provide special recognition and status to "original languages" that were in active use and central to public and urban life, in territories that were later incorporated into the USA.

    Naturally, Spanish by far predominates in this regard and in fact, Spanish rivals English as an "original language" of the USA-- IOW, Spanish is as American as the Constitution and apple pie. Especially in the SW and Fla, it's at the very least equal to English. With some other languages having such status in other niches. In fact, since Spanish so long predates English in these regions, and was the critical language of metropolitan centers like Los Angeles, Tucson, Miami, San Antonio, Santa Fe, San Diego and San Francisco for centuries before they ever became part of the United States, in these states in particular, Spanish is if anything *the* main language.

    Lo que es afortunado, es que el espanol si es muy facil para aprender! Spanish is very easy to learn, we should feel lucky that the co-equal language to English in the SW and Fla. in particular isn't something like, say, Russian. But I find it pathetic when fools like Newt Gingrich whine and complain about Spanish, when it's so easy to pick up. Thankfully, he won't be getting anywhere close to the Republican nomination, let alone the Presidency.

    BTW Julie, thankfully there *are* many opportunities to get your children enrolled in bilingual schools in the US, especially for Spanish! And it's nationwide. Here's a list (albeit in need of updating):

    My own kids went through one of these schools in Arizona, and I highly recommend them. Your kids will gain all kinds of advantages, both practical and less intangible, to help them later in their education and be more successful in general.


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