The Instigator
reubenco
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Danielle
Con (against)
Winning
50 Points

Resolved, that English should be made the official language of the United States

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/12/2011 Category: News
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,731 times Debate No: 15903
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (8)

 

reubenco

Pro

Language may be the most important aspect to assimilating into a society. When a member of a community cannot understand the lingua franca, that will prevent them from becoming a productive citizen and will alienate everybody else. We currently see many people (about 15 million), mostly immigrants, in the United States who cannot even speak English, and that completely shuts them out from interacting with born Americans. It is estimated that 322 languages are actively spoken in the United States, and right now it is the government's responsibility to translate all official documents into all of those languages. Making English the official language of the United States would not eliminate all of those other languages, it would simply unite everybody around one common tongue so that Americans could communicate much better with each other.

As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "We have one language here, and that is the English language, and we intend to see that the [assimilation] crucible turns our people out as Americans." The idea of assimilation relies upon the ability of an immigrant to become a part of the society they are joining, and that's impossible without being able to communicate with anybody outside of their own group. And no, the American theme of the "melting pot" does not mean that immigrants are not expected to assimilate into American society. On the contrary, it means that immigrants are expected to fully join American culture and perhaps influence it with parts of their own. This cannot happen if people from different cultures and different native languages cannot even happen.

Some might say that this is a useless proposition. I completely disagree. Clearly defining English as the official language of this country will help immigrants be more successful in this country and it will make government more efficient. As it is, the government is responsible for translating documents into all 322 languages spoken in this country. This should just not be their responsibility and it is a large waste of our nation's resources. But these services are not only hurting the government, they are hurting the people that they are intended for. Having a crutch like this is problematic for people trying to assimilate. A study published by the Department of Labor in the Monthly Labor Review states that immigrants are slower to learn English when they receive a lot of native language support. Providing excessive langauge support creates a dependence on "linguistic welfare" which relegates immigrants to low-paying jobs and prevents them from realizing the American Dream and moving beyound that.

Learning English should be the first step in the immigration process. The ability of communication is truly essential for anybody to function as a member of a society. Making English the official language of the United States will make the government more efficient and it will encourage immigrants to learn the language that is necessary to survive in this country. For the American Dream and this country's melting pot ideals to fully be realized, everybody must have a common language in order to flourish.
Danielle

Con

Many thanks to my opponent for beginning this debate.

== Pro's Case ==

1. Not knowing English will prevent immigrants from becoming productive citizens and will alienate everybody else.

Plenty of immigrants who do not speak English still go out and get jobs and live their life accordingly. In fact there is a job market specifically for non-English speakers [1]. Also, not everybody is intimidated by immigrants. I'm from New York City where communicating with non-natives is the norm.

2. The government being responsible to translate documents is expensive and inefficient.

Not only is Google translate readily available and free for use, but many documents that require translation are already in use and need to only be copied. I don't see why this is terribly inefficient. Pro should be more specific as to how this is time consuming and for whom. Can you provide examples of documents, or explain why this is specifically a bad policy? This is among the least inefficient problems our government faces.

3. Making English the official language of the U.S. would unite everybody.

On the contrary, it would foster xenophobia and encourage alienation of those who do not speak English. You cannot force someone to learn a language or expect them to learn any faster just because something is "officially" the language used. Speaking English in the U.S. is already the norm, so making it official would not establish anything substantial. People would also not become magically unified just because they might speak the same language. The Linguistic Society of America argued that American unity has never rested primarily on unity of language, but rather on common political and social ideals." Imposing an official language often undermines national unity [2].

4. Defining English as the official language will help immigrants be more successful.

Pro cannot guarantee this. Just because it's declared as such doesn't mean people are going to learn the language any faster. Additionally, plenty of immigrants who barely speak the language have decent jobs while many who speak perfect English are unemployed. It is not the government's job to encourage immigrants to be successful. Even if it were true that learning English would help them, it's their prerogative to learn or not learn. It's in our best interest to eat vegetables but we can't make it a law that everyone eat them.

5. Providing excessive language support creates a dependence on "linguistic welfare" which relegates immigrants to low-paying jobs, and prevents them from realizing the American Dream and moving beyond that.

Immigrants have plenty of incentives to learn English without it being the official language. English is also a default language for people in other countries. If one chooses to not learn English or make it harder for themselves by avoiding it, that's their problem. Also everyone has a different American dream. Some people want to move to America specifically for the freedom to be themselves - including utilizing the language of their choice.

6. Everybody must have a common language in order to flourish.

This is a mass generalization and unsubstantiated assertion. China Town and Little Italy are neighboring parts of New York City where the people and culture are drastically different despite the close proximity. People interact with those in these neighborhoods all the time even if they don't speak Chinese or Italian.

== Con's Case ==

1. The U.S. doesn't need an official language. If this issue is really so pressing to a particular city, that town can individually take it upon themselves to require an official language for government expediency. A city with a large population of one particular nationality may want to utilize a different language such as Spanish.

2. People of Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or race minority. More than 1 of every two people added to the nation's population are Hispanic. Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S., and projections state that they will constitute 30% of the nation's population by 2050. Only Mexico has a larger speaking Spanish population than the U.S. [3]. With numbers like this, why choose English and not Spanish to make the official language? What if at some point Spanish speaking people outnumber English speaking people, or, as I said, particular cities have large concentrated populations of a particular culture?

3. America is a nation of immigrants, and this is inconsistent with American values. Eventually immigrants or their children have learned English without it being the official language. Moreover it would discourage immigrants by Pro's own admission to cover up their cultural identity by rejecting their native language. Some languages do not have direct translations, so in order for a family to share their history they must share in their native language. If the language is lost, so is a part of history.

4. Having a multilingual country would protect public health, safety and promote tourism. This policy would impede upon the government's ability to convey warnings or post danger or hazard signs in languages other than English. It would also interfere with law enforcement communicating most effectively if they were forced to use English.

5. This policy would not necessarily increase the percentage of Americans who can speak English, and it doesn't make people who don't speak English any less American than those who do. Also, keep in mind that thousands of immigrants throughout the country are on the waiting lists for adult English classes, which explains why some people take longer to learn (not because English isn't the official language). English-only and Official English laws do nothing constructive to advance the important goal of English proficiency.

6. In Europe it is not uncommon for people to speak multiple languages. Rather then encourage expending one's cultural horizons, Pro wants to eliminate the uniqueness of many individuals. Our multi-cultural ways are enticing to many people who look upon America favorably because of it. This policy is self-defeating in an era of globalization where language resources should be developed and not suppressed.

7. The ACLU finds that a national language would be unconstitutional and would violate an individual's right to due process [4]. Furthermore, English-only laws are politically incorrect and biased against immigrants. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act provides the foundation for ensuring nondiscrimination in all federal programs and services, including those provided to language minorities [5]. Title VII makes it unconstitutional to discriminate hiring somebody on the basis of their national origin. I will include more legalities in my favor in the next round.

8. In 2006, the director of the Institute for Language and Education Policy spoke before the House Means and Ways Committee against English as a national language. He argued that it would threaten the rights and welfare of people who inhabit this country including citizens who are not quite proficient in English. He also notes that it would be pointless because it offers no practical assistance and takes away public programs that offer assistance to those trying to learn the language [6].

9. English-only in schools disadvantages non-native students and increase non-native dropout rates [7, 8].

[1] http://www.deewr.gov.au...
[2] http://www.lsadc.org...
[3] http://www.infoplease.com...
[4] http://www.lectlaw.com...
[5] http://www.fhwa.dot.gov...
[6] http://590nl.wordpress.com...
[7] http://www.boston.com...
[8] http://www.ericdigests.org...
Debate Round No. 1
reubenco

Pro

Props to Danielle, she made some quite challenging points that I'll try to address.

The entire purpose of this policy would be to prevent xenophobia and alienation. People, when emigrating to the United States, come here because they have a dream of being the kind of success here that they could never have had in their native countries. When they arrive, however, they're often found toiling away, not able to make advances because of their lack of ability to communicate with people. Many say that they key to success is having connections, but how can these non-English speakers ever make connections through that language barrier? Proponents of immigration say that immigrants are important because they take jobs that other Americans are not willing to take, and while I don't disagree with that, that should not be all that new immigrants are relegated to. Xenophobia is a huge problem in the United States, and immigration can be used as an asset against that, to bring back the melting pot image that the United States has been associated with for so long. But that process can't even start if immigrants can't speak English. That will only further scare native born Americans away from immigrants, and it will deny both groups the opportunity for cultural exchange that otherwise they would be generously afforded.

I'm also not advocating for any languages to be lost, and I don't think that this policy would make that happen. I'm arguing that English be made the official language, not the only language. It would just be the language the government uses, and that would encourage everybody to learn the language. People would still be free to use whatever language they prefer in their day-to-day life, so they would be free to preserve as much of their tradition and family heritage as they choose.
As for people on waiting lists for English language classes, the government could easily offer additional classes themselves to support the new policy.

Have fun with these points, this is looking like an excellent debate.
I forgot to include sources in my first round post and I'm in a limited internet situation right now, but I will add in all of my back sources when I make my post next round.
Danielle

Con

Many thanks to my opponent for his response.

Pro did not structure his round numerically, but it really helps me for clarity so I'll go over the arguments from the last round in order to see which rebuttals were made and which weren't.

== Pro's Case ==

1. Not knowing English will prevent immigrants from becoming productive citizens and will alienate everybody else.

Pro didn't respond to my points here.

2. The government being responsible to translate documents is expensive and inefficient.

Pro has apparently completely dropped this argument as well.

3. Making English the official language of the U.S. would unite everybody.

Pro begins, "The entire purpose of this policy would be to prevent xenophobia." He explains that a language barrier will create tension between ethnic groups, and prevent them from communicating thus never ridding them of their fear of foreigners. While that can be true, in the last round I explained that those who don't speak English may be seen as defective or inferior if they cannot speak the official language when everyone is "supposed" to be able to. I also pointed out that we should be celebrating our cultural differences (including language) and not isolating people just because they speak a different language. I grew up in NYC where immigrants who don't speak English communicate with each other all the time. Perhaps in white suburbia this might be an issue, but immigrants do not tend to move to those places. In urban areas immigrants are generally accepted. Moreover, under PRO 3 in the last round I explained:

Speaking English in the U.S. is already the norm, so making it official would not establish anything substantial. People would also not become magically unified just because they might speak the same language. The Linguistic Society of America argued that American unity has never rested primarily on unity of language, but rather on common political and social ideals." Imposing an official language often undermines national unity.


This went unrefuted.

4. Defining English as the official language will help immigrants be more successful.

This is similar to the last contention, and in R1 I pointed out that Pro cannot guarantee this; many immigrants are succesful while plenty of native Americans who speak English struggle profusely. Moreover I pointed out that it is not the government's job to encourage immigrants to be successful. Even if it were true that learning English would help them, it's their prerogative to learn or not learn. Pro hasn't responded to this.

5. Immigrants will be qualified solely for low-paying jobs if they don't know English.

Pro merely repeated this contention in the last round despite me already responding to it in R1. First, a low-end service job in America may very well still be preferential to whatever job (or lack thereof) an immigrant would have in their native country. Second, people don't only come to America for a better life but to offer a better life to their children as well who tend to learn English in school or just by picking it up. Third, this is not true specifically because we don't have English-only laws, thus a business owner can hire whomever they want. Many immigrant owners hire their immigrant friends or family.

6. Everybody must have a common language in order to flourish.

I pointed out that this is a mass generalization and unsubstantiated assertion, and Pro dropped the argument.

For now, you can see that ALL of Pro's contentions have either been dropped or negated.

== Con's Case ==

1. The U.S. doesn't need an official language; at best it can be decided by city.

Pro did not respond to this argument.

2. What about the possibility of Spanish being an official language...

Pro did not respond to this argument either.

3. Immigrants are strongly encouraged to learn English even without it being the official language. This can also discourage preserving other languages.

While my grandparents' children are bilingual because they learned English but spoke Italian in the home, their chldren's children don't speak Italian at all because it became obsolete once my grandparents learned English. Every generation hence forth will not know Italian unless they go out of their way to learn. Pro notes that he's not encouraging abandoning foreign language, and claims "It would just be the language the government uses, and that would encourage everybody to learn the language." However this ignores many of arguments from my last round, starting with number 4...

4. Having a multilingual country would protect public health, safety and promote tourism.

I wrote, "This policy would impede upon the government's ability to convey warnings or post danger or hazard signs in languages other than English. It would also interfere with law enforcement communicating most effectively if they were forced to use English." Not only did Pro not respond, but he suggests in the previous argument that the government using English-only is a GOOD thing. Unless he can explain how this is safe, fair and effective then I maintain it is a bad idea.

5. This policy would not necessarily increase the percentage of Americans who can speak English, and it doesn't make people who don't speak English any less American than those who do.

I explained that English-only laws do nothing to encourage proficiency, though Pro suggests that the government can always offer more English courses as a way to uphold this policy. However right here Pro defeats his own argument. In R1 he talks about how translating documents was inefficient and a waste of our resources. Well wouldn't the government hiring people to hold more courses and buy the space to hold these courses be even MORE time consuming and expensive? Indeed. Pro also failed to explain in detail how the translations would be expensive and burdensome thanks to current technology and other resources.

6. In this era of globalization, language resources should be developed in America's favor and not suppressed.

I suppose Pro responded to this in saying he's not discouraging speaking multiple languages; however, I'm arguing that this would both be more likely to happen and happen at a faster rate if English was made the official language.

7. The ACLU finds that a national language would be unconstitutional and would violate an individual's right to due process.

Pro didn't respond to this or any of the other legal infractions I've cited which will perhaps cost him the debate. These laws would bar government employees from providing non-English language assistance and services, and thus are inconsistent with both the First Amendment right to communicate with or petition the government, and the right to equality. Furthermore, In Hernandez v. New York, the Supreme Court held that language proficiency could be viewed as a violation of the 14th amendment [9]. These policies would also undermine Congress' Bilingual Eduation act which ensures equal educational opportunities for immigrant children. Additionally, it would make voting (a right) very problematic if people could not understand what was on the ballot.

8. The director of the Institute for Language and Education Policy spoke before the House Means and Ways Committee against English as a national language.

Pro didn't respond to any of his reasons as to why he thought this was a bad idea.

9. English-only in schools disadvantages non-native students and increase non-native dropout rates

Finally, Pro dropped this contention as well.

In conclusion, all of my arguments have either been dropped (conceded in my favor) or still stand due to insufficient rebuttal.


Thanks again to my opponent for a fun debate :)

[9] http://www.advancingequality.org...
Debate Round No. 2
reubenco

Pro

reubenco forfeited this round.
Danielle

Con

My opponent has forfeited the last round, so please extend all my arguments. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Brenavia 3 years ago
Brenavia
I would suggest that Con propose a better free translating site, simply for the purposes of this debate.
Posted by Brenavia 3 years ago
Brenavia
I like Con's arguments and personally believe with her, but Google Translate? Really? I take level 3 Spanish, and Google Translate is awful at correctly translating anything. It'll tell you different words for different things at different times. Many a time have I had to ask my teacher, check the dictionary, and ask my fluent Spanish-speaking father.
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 3 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
reubencoDanielleTied
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct: Forfeit. Spelling and Grammar: No significant errors on either side Arguments: Pro says that immigrants only get low paying jobs because of lack of english proficiency but doesn't make a connection to how making English the official language would help. If anything, it would only make it worse. Sources: Con was the only one who provided any sources so this is obvious. Pro also made a few unsourced claims about government expenditure.
Vote Placed by Mixer 3 years ago
Mixer
reubencoDanielleTied
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Vote Placed by kohai 3 years ago
kohai
reubencoDanielleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfited in the last round
Vote Placed by BangBang-Coconut 3 years ago
BangBang-Coconut
reubencoDanielleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit
Vote Placed by quarterexchange 3 years ago
quarterexchange
reubencoDanielleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfeited, did not make good arguments, had no good sources, and had worse grammar.
Vote Placed by PervRat 3 years ago
PervRat
reubencoDanielleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro seemed highly disorganized and didn't cite anything. Pro also forfeited their last round, which I consider a negative to conduct. Con was very detailed and organized, and did not forfeit any rounds.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 3 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
reubencoDanielleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Extreme strong counter and second counter by Con, little aside from the opening by Pro - solid newb snipe win.
Vote Placed by Marauder 3 years ago
Marauder
reubencoDanielleTied
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