Should English Be the Official Language of the United States
It seems to me that the intention of the good Bishop, in speaking Spanish at a town hall meeting on health issues, was to try to create some more room for Spanish, eventually leading to its adoption as an official language in the US - Should English Be the Official Language of the United States introduction. This is a hot issue, and one which will get hotter as more Spanish speaking immigrants arrive in the USA. In my view, the issue of official language status is largely a political one. From a practical point of view, if my customers speak Spanish or Tagalog, and I think I can increase my business by offering services in those languages, I will.
But an official language status implies that this language is more important than others, perhaps deserving of some protection or support, or perhaps deserving of some privileged status in terms of communications between government and the people. Since this is a political issue, it should be, and will probably be, decided democratically. In theory that should mean that Spanish has no chance nationally in the US, but may be voted in as an official language at the state or even municipal level.
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It is, however, possible that based on the “squeaky wheel” principle of interest group politics, a decision might be made in favour of Spanish at some point, even if a majority of Americans are against it. I do not see this as a moral issue, i. e. that more people should speak Spanish, because it is good for them. We have that in Canada, where certain elites think that “more people should speak French”. I do not see it that way. People can choose to learn more languages if they want. I like learning languages. But I respect the fact that people can do what they want in this regard, and many people are simply not interested in languages.
In the case of Canada, my personal preference is to maintain English and French as official languages, which have priority status, are supported by government, and are the main languages of communication between the federal government and the people. If Quebec wants to have only French as their official language, their call. No problem. I would also favour some special status for native languages, since these languages are indigenous and vulnerable. I am not in favour of any government support, or even regional official status, for any other languages.
But, as I said, that will depend on the democratic decisions that we make s a society. It is not out of the question that we will get pressures to make Chinese or Punjabi official languages in British Columbia. If enough people vote in favour, then we will get it. I would be opposed because in my mind , immigrants come to join an existing society, and that therefore their status is different from a community that has been established somewhere for a long time, either very early colonists, like our natives, or more recent colonists who founded the political entities, or states that we live in.
But I do think that we should teach more languages in schools, and do a better job of it, mostly because I like languages and do not think they are that hard to learn. And I could talk for quite a while on why language learning is a good thing. But more people like to do sudoku, than are prepared to learn a language.