Any world traveler with a deep respect for other countries will make an honest attempt to speak the local language. It is, without a doubt, the best way to truly understand and appreciate another culture. Official or not, English is the main language spoken in the U.S., and speaking it is vital for every new American citizen. Making English the official language of the U.S. can only benefit immigrants as well as the country.
Many fear that if English were the official language, America’s diverse culture would be lost. Remember, this law would not effect visas; travelers would still be welcome to study and work abroad. But for true citizenship, fluency in English should be required. This is not to deter immigrants, but to help them.
Imagine arriving in Beijing and trying to secure a job, home, bank account, etc., simply by relying on the few English-speakers you found. It would be possible, perhaps, but wouldn’t life be easier if you had at least a basic knowledge of Chinese? New citizens settling down face situations every day where they need to communicate with native speakers, from setting up a phone line to asking for directions. Some services offer translation, but not all, and in a limited number of languages. And knowing English is crucial in an emergency, when immediate communication is necessary with no time to search for the go-between. With a law mandating English as the official language, immigrants would find it much easier to integrate into their new home.
In addition, some level of fluency in English would open many doors to immigrants for educational and job opportunities that would benefit them, their families, and the country in general. Sharing one language would also help dissolve conflicts and racial tension that are often simply the result of a misunderstanding in translation.
According to usenglish.org, there are over 300 languages spoken in the U.S. Are translation services available for every situation, in every language? Of course not. Despite the government’s best efforts to provide bilingual assistance to immigrants, many are left lost and confused. More focus is given to a few languages, while the thousands of immigrants that speak one of the hundreds of others are left in the dark. Rather than helping us maintain our diversity, this “assistance” is further dividing our country.
Making English the official language would in no way deprive the U.S. of its rich culture. English will never be the only language, and the study of foreign languages should be taken just as seriously in the U.S. as it is in Europe and Asia. But with English as an official language, and an appreciation for the language of others, the U.S. will better understand its neighbors both across the street and across the ocean.