The old ad at the left says, roughly, 'Put yourself in the vanguard. Learn English, the language of the age.'
How things have changed in the half-century since that ad was created. Now, rather than Spanish-speakers being encouraged to better themselves by speaking English, we are being told that the way to a future is to learn Spanish.
One nation, not just speaking English
Barack Obama says:
You know, I don't understand when people are going around worrying about, "We need to have English- only." They want to pass a law, "We want English-only."
Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.
You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], "Merci beaucoup." Right?
You know, no, I'm serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get ajob. You are so much more employable. You can be part of international business. So we should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age, because children will actually learn a foreign language easier when they're 5, or 6, or 7 than when they're 46, like me. ''
Andrew Leonard adds, predictably:
There's nothing particularly exceptional about Obama's position, unless you are an English-only partisan cowering in fear of your cultural identity being swamped by funny-looking people from strange lands. Or one of the similarly insecure patriots who believe any criticism of the U.S. is a sign of "blame-America-first" treachery. And I suppose the whole comment about "going to Europe" opens Obama up to more charges of elitism, and disconnection from the lives of those who, right now, can't afford to even think about going to Europe.
But to most people who actually grasp the fact that we live in a complex, interconnected global economy, being able to speak more than one language just makes a lot of sense. Maybe those of us who do feel threatened by Spanish-language signs in government offices would sleep a little easier if we understood what they they were saying.''
Look, Andrew, it isn't a question of 'cowering in fear of' my 'cultural identity being swamped by funny-looking people from strange lands.' What nasty condescension there in those words.
And the usual blather about how we live in a 'complex, interconnected global economy' which demands bilingual skills just doesn't cut it. That dog won't hunt here. First, presuming this inevitable, inescapable global economy is an accomplished fact, over which we have no control, why on earth is Spanish the language of choice for us to learn? It would make more purely practical sense to learn Chinese. Sure, a lot of people in this hemisphere speak Spanish, but are they the most important to us economically or culturally? And the fact is, most of us in this country will not have jobs in international trade or any field which will require us to speak Spanish. The only reason why we might have to learn Spanish is to deal with the tens of millions among us who recalcitrantly refuse to learn the language of the land, and who force us to provide, at our expense, interpreters and translators in order to carry out necessary communication with them. Otherwise, Spanish is a pretty useless language for most Americans.
Unless, of course, we are going to be herded into this 'North American Union' which is so vehemently denied by the media and our 'leaders.'
As for Leonard's hissing about 'insecure patriots' 'cowering in fear', I gather he sees absolutely no threat to American cultural identity by the massive influx of immigrants from every corner of the world, even if he were forced to admit that the vast majority of them, especially the arrogant Latino immigrants, have no intention of becoming fluent in English or of adopting our culture. Does Andrew not comprehend the simple numbers here? We will be outnumbered. We are being outnumbered. We are being rendered irrelevant. It's just simple math.
A few years ago, before this invasion accelerated to its present insane levels, I advised my own offspring to 'learn Spanish.' However I think this will be a waste of time, generally. The only advantage to becoming fluent in Spanish is that we might then be able to understand what our uninvited guests are saying about us in their native tongue, either in the media or in real life. The problem with that is the Spanish you learn in school, or the Spanish I learned in school, is not the Spanish spoken by the majority of our trespassers. They speak a rather degraded dialect which bears scant resemblance to what we learn in high school or college.
The other reason why it will benefit our children little to learn Spanish is that if we think they will then be more employable in jobs that require bilingualism, we may be deluding ourselves. Think about it: Hispanics, Latinos, whatever you wish to call them, are clannish and ethnocentric to an extreme, far more so than Whites who are constantly chastised for the least show of ethnocentrism. Notice any business in your area that is owned by a Latino or managed by one. They hire their own. Period. I have heard countless stories of Anglos being laid off from businesses which have gone to all-Latino labor. Those doing the hiring hire their own. They think (imagine this!) that a homogeneous work crew works better. I guess they never got the memo on how 'diversity is our strength' in Latino-land.
And if an employer wants or needs a Spanish-speaking employee to deal with the Latino immigrants, will they choose some Anglo who took Spanish lessons or will they choose a native speaker of Spanish who looks like the immigrants and who understands their culture? It's a no-brainer. The only bilingual Americans they will use are ones who have some scarce skill or professional qualifications to go along with the Spanish. For those few the Spanish knowledge may work, but for how long? As we continue to receive droves of immigrants who speak only Spanish, eventually native Spanish speakers, often the 'anchor babies' will be the skilled people who speak Spanish fluently. Again, ethnocentrism will come into play.
Those who think learning a little Espanol will ingratiate them with Latinos or put them in the catbird seat when this country is majority Latino are dreaming, I think. But some people think a few Spanish lessons will make all the difference for them; for those people, wishful thinking is a way of dealing with the unpleasant facts I suppose.
And am I the only one who thinks that the symbolism involved in us learning Spanish is troubling? It is very much like a capitulation, a surrender, a resigned admission that we've lost, that America will be no longer ours, and will be disconnected from our heritage which is solidly Anglophone.
Symbolism matters. We can deny that it matters but that does not alter facts.
About 20 years ago, PBS had a series on 'The Story of English.' It was fascinating to those, like me, who love the English language in all its variations. One theme of the series was the various varieties of English spoken in far-flung countries of the world. And the series concluded that English would grow in importance in the 'globalizing' economy because it was a kind of lingua franca in the business world. It was a language that was spoken in many parts of the world, and was kind of a meeting-ground for disparate peoples. Should this argument not still be valid? Is Spanish going to be the lingua franca of the Brave New World? Somehow I don't foresee that happening. The Latinos who think this land will be fully theirs in another generation at most may be right in that they will have the numbers to say they are the majority, but the fact is, given that our reckless elites are working fast and furiously to make America into a real international zone which will be comprised of mostly non-white peoples, but which will assuredly not be a purely Spanish-speaking country. Will all the other ethnocentric newcomers want to become Hispanicized? Not likely.
Spanish may one day be the most widely-spoken language in this country, sad to say, or at least some vulgarized Spanish-English hybrid language, but it will not be the only language. Spanish is not the wave of the future, no matter what Obama says. Spanish will not the the 'language of the age'.