OTHER VOICES

English language unity

Posted Feb. 24, 2012, at 5:34 p.m.

If you go to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website, SBA.gov, you’ll see a “Translate” button in the upper right-hand corner. Proceed to the drop-down menu and click on one of the many languages there and soon you’ll be reading — or gazing at — the same SBA material in Greek, Italian, Yiddish, Malay or Maltese, among other possibilities.

We consider the translation service a neat use of advanced technology. Unfortunately, that’s not the view of those pushing legislation to make English the nation’s official language so that all “official functions” of government are conducted only in English. They’d outlaw that “translate” option. Indeed, their definition of “official” includes “any function that … is otherwise subject to scrutiny by either the press or the public” — so goodbye to the translation software.

The English Language Unity Act, which is supported by Colorado Republican Reps. Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn, is the sort of bill that probably sounds appealing to many voters but that mostly fails to address their actual concerns. For example, some voters no doubt worry about whether immigrants are assimilating fast enough to preserve a common American culture. We think the answer is yes, but even if we’re wrong, this bill won’t really help.

If Congress wants to toughen the English-language requirement for naturalization, so be it. That may be desirable. But is it really necessary that newcomers master 18th century patterns of speech as well?

The English Language Unity Act is a badly flawed bill that should never make it into law.

The Denver Post (Feb. 23)

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