Some of the first casualties of the English only program would be the immigrant children who are in the process of learning English. America values its legal immigrant population and children need to be assimilated into the language as well as society. Bilingual education allows the children to continue to learn in both languages and allows them to keep pace with their classmates. An English only system would ban bilingual education in the public classroom. While a bilingual class could teach the child US History in their native tongue, an English only program could offer them no chance of learning about America's past. If the educational system fails to adequately support these students at this point in their education it will decrease their potential for success and increase the chances that they will become an economic burden to the system sometime in the future.
States such as California and Arizona have debated and implemented bans on bilingual education, but Utah has gone farther by considering a bill that would require most all public business to be conducted in English only. When public notices and records are printed in a foreign language, it helps the non-English speaker to fully understand their rights and obligations. The requirement that all public paperwork be printed only in English would not only restrict the rights of the non-native speaker, but would also place an unwarranted burden on our public institutions. This would be especially true in areas that have concentrated numbers of immigrants. Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of an English only advocacy group, contends that the program would unite Americans by the use of a common language (Making English, 2008). The law may unite the English speaking population, but it would drive a wedge between the natives and the immigrant population.
America has a long tradition of valuing diversity and language contributes to our cultural fabric. In fact, our concept of the world may be based in our language. Linguistic scientists believe that our language shapes human thought (Biever 2004). Many cultures have words for concepts and meanings that are lost in translation. As an example, the Inuit Eskimo has over 100 words for 'snow' (Mendosa 2005). If they were subjected to an English only system, they would lose the many fine nuances that they use to describe the vast differences in their winter precipitation. The diverse languages spoken in America help create the rich cultural differences that we value.
There is little fear of English becoming a minority language as it has become the international language of choice for business. Most immigrants arriving in this country are anxious to learn English and become a part of our culture. They want to shop in American stores, watch American TV, and listen to American music. Placing an English only barrier may actually impede their progress towards that goal. The global view of English as the universal language makes it unnecessary to place limitations on the use of other languages.
In conclusion, the hope that an English only America would help unite the people is a short-sighted and misguided effort. The children who currently have English as a second language would be left behind in the educational system. Bilingual programs could prevent these people from turning to public