June 14th, 2006

eloquent with rage

Rant: English as a second language

I have a message for Joseph Vento, owner of Geno's Steaks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who displays proudly in his store window a sign that reads, "This is AMERICA WHEN ORDERING 'SPEAK ENGLISH.'" This also applies to Americans who feel slighted, annoyed, or even outraged when they call a credit card company or other service and hear a message to press "1" for English, and, in Spanish, another number for Spanish. And if you are angered that your tax dollars go to nationwide programs with names like "English as a Second Language," this is really for you.

The argument that your ancestors immigrated to this country on boats with nothing but the clothes on their backs and were forced out of necessity to learn English because it was the only language spoken is specious for several reasons. First, there were, are, and always will be people from other countries worldwide, excluding Spanish-speaking nations, coming to the United States and learning not more than ten words of English in their lifetimes, yet living successfully and productively. Second, those who dares proclaim that English is the "native language" of America should look back to the only true humans native to North America, any of the various tribes of misnamed "Indians" who were murdered nearly to extinction by white men who came from England in search of freedom from persecution. Cheyenne, Kickapoo, Lenapi, Mahican, and Shawnee are just a fraction of the languages indigenous to the land we call our United States, and I see none of you attempting to learn any such language. Your American forefathers killed them for English, the language colored red with blood.

The very fact that, in a place called the United States of America, the national language is something other than American (or a true American language such as the ones mentioned above) is perhaps the clearest example of the hypocrisy and despotism that this country was built upon.

Geno's Steaks apparently can do without me; I'll take my American money right down the street to La Lupe with my friend Ian and speak broken Spanish to a patient, if possibly amused, staff before being served a delicious Mexican meal. And I will say, "¡Gracias, mis amigos!" without the slightest tinge of an American accent.

HollyEats.com: La Lupe
Native Languages of the Americas: Preserving and promoting American Indian languages
The Philadelphia Inquirer: An old struggle to adapt to a new country's ways
Readherring's LiveJournal: A row house guy living in a townhouse world - Link stolen from Corvus, then thrown right back at him!
All accessed June 13, 2006

©2006, Robert A. Geise - May not be reprinted without express permission. Hot-linking welcome.