The national language is a powerful symbol of national identity, the reflection of national self-consciousness and a means to unite all people in a common cultural medium. At this point, the United States is in need of an officially designated language. While English to this moment effectively functioned as the national language without formal designation, it is time to give it an official identification with the nation to preserve unity and enhance the American spirit. People need to know that they identify with a multicultural background where different ethnicities are bound together in one common cultural sphere. This designation can aid in the development of the American nation and make it a viable and thriving entity enjoying full national consensus.
Giving the nation one language is a critical step in preserving the national unity. The United States will not be a nation where many different groups co-exist in different spheres without forging bonds with each other. On the contrary, it is to become a nation where diversity does not mean disparity of interests or separation between different groups. Teenagers from different ethnicities are going to listen to music with English lyrics, children are going to study works written in this language, and people will share news in the language that will bind them together.
On no account does the designation of English as an official language mean that other languages are banned or excluded from public use. On the contrary, American policies always encouraged the preservation and development of different ethnic cultures inside the nation. However, if the US is to turn into a little Babylon where everybody talks a different language, there is a risk that people will become isolated from each other and retreat in their separate nooks to pursue their specific interests. The official language preserves the medium for interaction between different groups, improving communication technically and enhancing the United States culturally. Without it, the US can stay a united nation geographically, but will unavoidably be fragmented culturally and socially, turning into an agglomeration of various groups of immigrants. On the psychological side, this can increase tensions between different groups as people tend to be fearful and hostile toward those they do not understand.
The technical level matters too because the existence of the official language can make government and court proceedings easier and less costly. English will be used in provision of services to the all except cases where the use of a different language is mandated by federal law. Proliferation of the use of English can improve the situation in many local budgets, for instance, eliminating costs of bilingual education that in many cases is found to be less effective than English immersion programs. Mujica (2003) states that “Los Angeles County spent $3.3 million, 15 percent of the entire election budget, to print election ballots in seven languages and hire multilingual poll workers for the March 2002 primary”. Full-time translators working in the courts of the same county are paid $265 a day each. These are high costs for local budgets; for example, “financial officials in Washington, D.C., estimate that a proposed language access would cost $7.74 million to implement” considering the requirement to translate all documents into each language spoken in the city (Mujica, 2003). These costs can definitely be put to better uses, such as investment in education, affordable health care, local infrastructure, housing and other things. In fact, the funds will be used for the sake of the same people, but for a different purpose that can be much more important and meaningful for them. One can just ask oneself whether the regulation put in effect during President Clinton’s term in office in 2000 and requiring hospitals to hire translators to interact with patients does not present another financial challenge to the already financially overstrained medical system.
With the designation of English as the official language, the knowledge of English will become part of naturalization requirements. On the one hand, this may seem discriminating to residents of non-English speaking countries. On the other, this is a practice long used by many nations. It helps to create additional incentives for immigrants to learn the language that will help them adjust to their new country of residence. It is a fact that lack of knowledge of English acts as a serious deterrent in career progress of many newcomers who with their skills and professional expertise could have made a much greater contribution to the US economy and provide for themselves more easily, securing a more stable future for their children. Demanding the knowledge of English will compel immigrants to approach this task with more thoroughness and invest effort in learning the language that is their only way to success in the US. Designation of English in the official language can therefore be expected to be accompanied by a rise in the proficiency of the immigrant population. This will also be a boon for their employers and economy in general. Situations like that involving a truck driver who failed to understand colleagues’ warnings to tie the loose tailgate addressed to him in English and as a result accidentally killed a boy will be avoided (Mujica, 2003).
Thus, introduction of English as an official language is definitely associated with numerous advantages. Most importantly, it will reinforce the role of English as a national symbol, providing more binding material for interaction between different groups. National culture, national press, nation-wide discussions on political and social issues are unthinkable without a common language medium. In addition, the introduction of the official language will help cut the financial costs of multilingualism that are significant and tie up funds that can be used for better purposes. It will also create an additional stimulus for immigrants to learn the language that will help them blend into the mainstream community, succeed professionally and adapt psychologically to their new home. All these reasons make it imperative that English be given an official status as the national language of the United Stated of America.
Mujica, M.E. Why the US Needs an Official Language. Retrieved June 5, 2006, from http://www.worldandi.com/newhome/public/2003/december/cipub2.asp