Bilingualism In The United States Essay

2987 words - 12 pages

Currently in the United States, about one in four, or twenty-six percent, of American adults can speak a language other than English (McComb). To be bilingual means to possess the ability to speak two languages, and a society that implements a bilingual approach is one that adapts means of everyday life, ranging from street signs to education, to the inevitabilities of more than one language. The United States is in debate on whether or not to adopt Spanish in conjunction with all English communication. In my opinion, to assume a bilingual society would create a separation in our country with two competing languages. There are multiple perspectives on the issue and to accurately form an opinion requires consideration of numerous aspects. The decision to undertake Spanish alongside English in all facets in the United States should be constructed on bilingual history, statistics, legal implications, supportive and defensive arguments, education dynamics, cultural factors, and the necessary provisions to our current society needed to implement such a system.
To begin, let’s look into the background and history of the issue and of bilingualism in the United States. Although bilingualism in the United States is a current issue, it has been part of our history from the start. In the early days of exploration and colonization, Spanish, French, Dutch, and German were just as common as English (Phelps). As our nation developed, though many colonial leaders including Benjamin Franklin protested bilingualism, German and French remained common in colonial North America with even the Articles of Confederation being published in both English and German (Phelps). As millions of immigrants arrived in the United States throughout the nineteenth century, language diversity continued to grow. The introduction of Spanish came about when the United States took ownership of Texas, Florida, and California from Spain (Phelps). It was a result of the vast wave of immigration from the 1880s to early 1920s that sparked a concern toward bilingualism and the need for, “Americanization,” (Phelps). In 1906, Congress passed the first ever language law requiring naturalized citizens to have the ability to speak English, and the anti-bilingual sentiment grew as more immigrants continued to arrive (Phelps). According to the Encyclopedia of Everyday Law’s section on bilingualism, bilingualism disfavor continued even in areas where it had previously thrived, and the U.S education system was English prevalent, resulting in students being held back to repeat grades in which they were not English proficient. It wasn’t until the 1959 revolution in Cuba that bilingual education in the United States was reconsidered (Phelps). This encouraged an educational reform, and in 1971, Massachusetts became the first state to institute a bilingual mandate necessitating "any school with twenty or more student of the same language background to implement some sort of bilingual program,"...

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