Richmond World Affairs Council

Should English Become the United States’ Official Language?

The question of whether or not English should become the official language of the United States has been debated by Congress for many years. While the debate dates back as far as the 1750s, members of Congress are still attempting to pass bills regarding this today. Unlike the majority of the countries in the world, as of now, the United States does not have an official language. There are several advantages and disadvantages of making English the official language of the US.

 

On one hand, making English the official language could help to unite the American population. The law would push the twenty percent of Americans who don’t know English to learn it and, in turn, strengthen their democratic participation and economic progression. In addition to this, an official language would reduce the need to provide translators and government documents in over three hundred and fifty different languages, saving the government quite a bit of money. People who support the use of English as an official language also point out that this is only a limitation on the US government and has no effect on the languages spoken in private businesses. Furthermore, English is already the most widely spoken language in the US. Perhaps most important, however, is the fact that over eighty percent of the US population is in favor of making English the country’s official language.

 

On the other hand, many people think that making English the official language of the United States would contradict the values of the country. As a country of immigrants, opponents argue that linguistic minorities should be protected and have the right to government services in their own language—arguing that if they do not have this right it is discrimination. In fact, some contend that the need for translators actually provides jobs for Americans and has not proven to be a financial issue for the government. In addition, making English official may discourage learning an additional language, creating negative implications for both international trade and diplomacy. This is especially detrimental due to the fact that we are living in an increasingly globalized world. Finally, if there were to be a public emergency the government may not be able to effectively help all citizens if they are constrained to only the English language.

 

Despite the fact that the federal government has been unable to come to a consensus on this issue, around twenty three states have already declared English the official language in their respective states. However, it seems that this debate is likely to continue for many years into the future, as both the supporters and opponents provide valid arguments.

 

 

Zoe Chandra