T Nation

National Language?


OK, here in the US, our Constitution and National Anthem are written in English. Why is it acceptable for us to change the language of these things to appeal to immigrants?

OK, story time: One day I went to an auto supply store and was waiting in line to buy a car battery. In walks a Mexican (I live in south Texas, therefore that is a good assumption) and jumps to the front of the line and says "Excuse me ma'am, there wouldn't happen to be anyone here that speaks Spanish?" So the cashier stops what she was doing to go into the garage to get someone to satisfy this man.

Would this have pissed you off?

Anyways, with all the talk about immigration, I would like to see what experiences you have with this and how you feel about it.

Also, where I live it is very common to be approached by someone speaking Spanish while you both know that they speak English. I can understand Spanish but I will only communicate with someone like this in English. How would you handle a situation like this?


I honestly don't understand your question.

Yes. People cutting in line piss me off. I would have said something about it.

I assume though that you mean would I be update about him wanting someone to speak Spanish. Why on Earth would I get upset about something like that?

I honestly don't understand why you care that someone feels more comfortable speaking another language.


Speaking another language is fine. I just find it insulting when someone approaches you and expects you to speak to them in their own language. It would be like me approaching someone in Greece and expecting them to speak English.

Sorry about the grammar. I'm working long hours and studying even longer hours.

My question is: If our country has been an English-speaking country and has had immigrants from many other countries, why do we feel obligated to appeal to the Spanish speaking community?

Why do people,(English-speaking Americans) allow people who also speak English to approach them in Spanish and continue to communicate with them in Spanish. It happens all the time, especially around here.


People approach me and start speaking Italian all the time. It is what it is.

I am also in the "Learn English or go home" camp, don't feel bad.


That is not a bad camp. :wink:


Maybe you should wash your hair and shave your back. Oh - and give your mom back all the gold chains.

LMAO!!!! Damn...sometimes I crack myself up.


Here, here! I think we should take this one step further and outlaw all words that are not strictly derived from Anglo-Saxon languages; let's ban all French, Latin, and Spanish, cognates. I also think we shouldn't add any new words to OUR language just for consistency. Let's erase words like taco and spaghetti from our dictionaries and all memory, forever-and-ever, amen....ops that's Latin.

Languages constantly change. It is stupid to write a language into law as the de facto language because that language will cease to exist over a number of centuries. Our ideas of the English language are completely different than real English people from England. Have you ever heard someone from the seedier areas of London speak? that ain't English they're speaking.

Which language will be used in any country will determined by the market for that language.


Agreed in essence. I wouldn't call it insulting, but it definitely isn't respectful.

If you're in a country, you do your best to speak what the majority speaks, and if you can't, you apologize for being a dumbass.

Now, I'll have to remind you that you nicked Texas from Spanish speaking folks and that while land is conquered in instants, culture and collective memory cannot be erased in that short a time. The "six flags" are there to remind you of something, no?


Fair enough. I just don't find it insulting at all. The couple of times I traveled internationally I didn't know the language and sought out English speakers, and I didn't feel bad about it.

Don't worry about it.

I don't feel obligated to speak to anyone in a language I don't know, or to "appeal" to anyone in the Spanish speaking community. Do you really feel obligated to speak in Spanish? I've never been to Texas, but even in LA I've never felt obligated to speak to anyone in Spanish.

If you're talking about why the government feel obligated to appeal to a Spanish speaking community, then I agree with where you're coming from.

The reason I replied to this thread is because the title is "National Language", and I assumed you were trying to make the point the English should be the National Language of the US. I would actually agree with you. Our ability to communicate with one another is vital and having disparate languages makes that harder. I think any official correspondence with the federal or state government should require knowledge of English. It's my understanding that the citizenship test is already an English-only exam, so knowledge of the language is an implied requirement of citizenship.

However, your examples have been casual street conversation. Anyone should feel free to speak any language they want to out on the street. If a business owner wants to cater to a German-speaking crowd by posting signs in German, they can do so at their discretion. I don't feel insulted by it in it the least.


Irish, might I ask why you personally care so much when you are spoken to in Italian? Just curious.

I can understand the stupidity of requiring exams in say, Italian, when trying to get a driver's license. That's official communication with the local government and, obviously, street signs are in English. That makes no sense.

But I just don't understand the disdain for those that prefer to have a casual conversation in another language.



Why don't you ask the moderators to ban lixy or bota (orion)?

It might make you feel better.

Oh, cutting in line is bad. The solution is to get so jacked that no one dares try it.

Hope I've helped.



He was allowed to cut because he had a "special need" for someone to speak his language when he clearly spoke English.

If you are handicapped, you have all the right to get special treatment. If you are too selfish to speak the language, you should get no special treatment.

What is the deal with banning other posters?


Just the bad ones.



I dont know how I feel about some of the questions being asked here. It's very complex. However, in some ways, the flexibility on language we allow in this country (especially in California) is, in the end, not good for the immigrants.

Here at work I notice that most immigrants tend to hang out within their various communities. They only speak english at work. As a result, many of them never learn how to speak english really well.

I studied in France for a number of years and there is not this laxity towards the language. You either speak french, speak it WELL or that's your tough luck. As a result, most immigrants in France tend to integrate to some degree and speak french well,at least compared to the immigrants in the US (obviously there are a lot of marginalized immigrants stuck in HLMs in the banlieux rouges of Paris...but even they speak french well, albeit with their own colloquialisms).

I can understand why you would get pissed off by being cut off in line by the spanish speaker. I get pissed off when I hear some chinese immigrants around here (in the San Francisco Bay Area) refer to Americans as waiguoren (foreigners), as if people of all colors who have been here for generations were the foreigners.

I am sorry...it is true that there is the phenomenon called "the Ugly American" but when it comes to national chauvinism and airs of supremacism, it's hard to beat some of the chinese. I'm generalizing but it is a generalization that has some truth to it.


...or just become the craziest mother-fucker on your block and scare your neighbors shitless.


Hi, I was just browsing this site and really want to put in my 2 cents on the topic of a national language.
Stick with ONE national language.
I live in Quebec, which is a province of Canada, where we have 2 official languages, being French and English. Historically, it makes sense since our country was founded by both the French and British. It does not make sense today. In Quebec, your children may not attend an English school without meeting stringent guidelines. French must be the predominant language in businesses with over 15 employees, and you need to have a francinization certificate from the OLF, our government sponsered language police. The list goes on. All this because the population in Quebec is predominatley French. Does this benefit the francophones? No. Thier children do not get to learn the language spoken by the rest of North America, since the workplace is French, it is difficult for the unilingual franco to make gains in an international business world. The politicians have spent lots of money and wated countless hours trying to preserve a language, at the expense of it's citizens.


Way to over-exagerrate dick.

Most of our words are from Latin, although (which is a Gaelic word, you can tell by the "ough") we have many words from other languages.

The fact remains- you come here, speak English (or American, if that makes you happy) to communicate with me. My ancestors did it, so can you. It's called assimilation. You don't like it, go the fuck home.


I don't care at all. That's why I said, "It is what it is."

People in NJ see a guy like me, and alot of them will assume I either fluently know Italian or at least know a little. They are wrong, but it doesn't bother me- I'd do the same in another country.

What I am trying to say is that to live in America, you need to speak decent English. If you can't, then don't either expect special treatment or get pissy when people can't understand you (I had that happen, also. Apparently all Americans are supposed to be able to speak Russian. Who knew.)

I don't think this is out of line.


Educate yourself...English is derived from the Germanic family of languages and is one of the most bastardized languages on the planet--yes there are some Latin roots because the Romans conquered Britain.

I was exaggerating to make a point that languages change over time and are completely relative. Even in this country people that speak English speak it differently in various regions (for example, I have a hard time understanding people from New Jersey, including members of my own family).

If we are going to enforce that people learn English I am going to insist on grammar and pronunciation police to handout fines to the dumb-asses that cannot speak. After all, I care about the English language and do not want to see it degraded; and it is in one's best interest to speak it properly without idiosyncratic dialects or slang--like Nebraskans.

Bottom line, if someone chooses not to use the language being used in a country that is their choice and they will suffer the consequence of their actions. If someone tries to speak another language to me that I don't speak...oh well, I guess they won't be understood.

It takes at least 2 generations for am immigrant family to become "Americanized" and completely rooted in the culture and language. To think that someone is going to move here with their family already knowing English fluently is unrealistic and smacks of Western elitism. They are not going to learn English overnight.

I volunteer as an English teacher at my wife's work--she works for a non-profit that helps immigrants become part of the larger American community. For the most part these people are very enterprising and make a sincere effort to learn the language but it doesn't happen instantaneously. Adults that grew up speaking Hmong dialects aren't going to have the biggest grasp of the language their first week out of an internment camp in the good ol' US of A.

If you had to leave America tomorrow for a Spanish speaking country, for example, how do you think you would fare? Even if you took 10 years of Spanish in school you would still not have an easy time of it and you would want people to treat you with dignity and respect--not treat you differently because of your circumstances.

Instead of bitching about people you can't understand why don't you lend a hand and be part of the solution. I am so sick of uppity Americans who forget their roots. I am guessing you come from English speaking ancestry so you are forgiven for your ignorance of reality...dick.


I travel a lot. Before I go to a foreign country, I make sure to learn how to say simple things like, how much, excuse me, good afternoon, where is the...

Most of the places I have visited have been predominately English speaking.