DUCK SOUP: Ofishul Inglush

I am a celtic-russo-saxon-American. My ancestral mother tongues include most of the Indo-European language groups. It is a tempting thought that I could legitimately demand that government and businesses provide for my information needs in Gaelic or Cyrilic, not to mention French, Dutch, German and probably Portuguese. If Highland Scottish was good enough for my great-great-great-great grandpa, it is good enough for me. Any bureaucrat who won't take the time to translate my parking ticket into Russian obviously doesnt' respect my colorful ethnic roots. See you in court, pencil-breath. I am really up to here with all of these do-gooder Pollyanna types who want to make English the official language of our country. It's as if they think that people should be able to communicate with each other or something. Where are they coming from? Outer space? People don't want to communicate with each other. They want to sue each other and play Nintendo and have phone-sex on cellulars and eat junk food. Let the lawyers learn English, or who knows, maybe Latin. Latin's supposed to be very precise. Literacy is for losers. If a book is any good they make a movie. Everything in a morning newspaper was on the eleven o'clock news the night before. Multimedia doesn't need language it just happens. So why the fuss about English? Some folks say immigrants should have to learn English to become citizens. Are they crazy? If immigrants learn our language they will compete with us for jobs instead of working in sweat shops and bean fields. Do you want to sew clothes for a couple of bucks an hour, sixteen hours a day or risk skin cancer picking broccoli? The less they know, the better. Our whole way of life depends on a work force that doesn't know we are taking advantage of them. As for our own kids, I don't see any reason to force language skills down their throats either. With ATM cards they won't even need to write checks, let alone complete sentences. Video games will provide them with the job skills they need to cross the creek to the next century and the only thing they need books for is to stack under a monitor to get it up where they can see it from the couch. Teenagers traditionally speak a language of their own to keep parents safely out of the loop and what we should really do is encourage them. Knowing what they are up to would only make us nervous. Stress is not good. Instead of wasting time trying to ensure that everyone understands everyone else, we should focus on understanding ourselves. We should let the inner child teach us the nonsense syllables that we gurgled in our cribs. Your own innate language is your link to the real you. We are a nation of a quarter of a billion unique individuals, why can't we have a quarter of a billion unique languages to let us express our profound differences in a self-affirming way?Frankly, I think we have misunderstood the business about the tower of Babel entirely. When the tower reached up near heaven, God didn't confound humanity with multifarious tongues, not at all. God graced them with a taste of the joyful babble of babies and let them shed the burden of trying to communicate with other grownups who probably disagreed. Understanding someone else is hard work. Do you hear anyone offering to pay you to try to understand each other? So do you think you should work hard for free? Right.This issue is very important. There really are people out there just full of mischief who want to make English mandatory. I say if they really want a better educated, more efficient and productive society with really meaningful multicultural communication, in which we might actually understand the ethnic and social context of other human lives, then go right ahead. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close