With the battle for immigration rights being at the forefront of the news lately, there is a sideline issue that is a simple result of America being the world's melting pot. My friend and I were discussing it the other day over lunch. We were talking about how all of the DMV paperwork came in multiple languages, and how much that must cost to produce. He then exclaimed "Where are we? We are in America, right? So why do we accommodate so many other languages when our language is English?" I tended to agree with him, me being Filipino and he being a Polish immigrant -- neither of us being purely American per-se.
The question of why a society functions better when its native language is spoken is a very basic one, with obvious answers. So why then, do so many immigrants, many who have lived here for more than 5 years, not speak English? In many cases, it's because they simply don't find the need to.
In any other non-English speaking country, travelers are appreciated if they can speak at least some of the native language. Those who intend to live in that country are asked to learn the language in order to become productive citizens of the country in question. Sure, there is a unique culture that comes with a different language. Different languages and cultures breathe life and diversity into a society. Learning a new language can enhance a person's understanding of culture and of diversity.
But when that society finds itself having to accommodate another nationality, costing time, money and other resources, it starts to become a burden on that society. In effect, that society's citizens find themselves having to learn that other language just to communicate with that person or group. Multiply that times the many nationalities that exist in our country, and the task of simple communication becomes an enormous undertaking.
It's not to say that people of another nationality can't speak their language, at least not to other's of the same nationality. But in real-world everyday communication, being in a country that speaks English should obviate people who live in that country to be able to speak English.
If we look at this issue and recognize that the US is one of, if not the most technologically advanced societies in the world, the problem becomes a double-edged sword. On one edge, the task of supporting multiple languages creates a societal burden. On the other hand, the jobs that a high-tech society generates naturally attracts people from other places, countries included. In essence, we end up supporting the people that we attract, for better or for worse.
Communication is a basic, fundamental part of any functioning society. If a group can't communicate within itself, confusion and frustration can soon set in. It is not out of the question to ask someone who lives in America to be able to speak English, and so it is time that we begin to address the question of common language here in the US.
... Because a society that struggles to communicate, is a society that holds itself back...