We were recently in Copenhagen at The Jazzhouse. The artists came on stage and spoke Danish to the crowd. We figured that it was jazz and that is a universal language so we would not miss a beat -- so to speak. Yet, this was a vocal group and they started to sing in English. Not just classic songs, but their own compositions. At the end of the set we chatted with the people next to us, in English, and asked why all the songs were sung in English. They told us all the groups sing in English because they find it a more expressive language. Also, they probably find it to be more commercially viable. To our joy the next group came on and sang all their songs in English also.
Yet here in the United States, we have had a discussion about whether we should force our immigrants to learn English. In California, as in some other states, we have created English as a Second Language (ESL) which did nothing but cripple the chances for students to learn effective English. Radical groups fought for the right against forcing people to learn English for the purpose of maintaining “their culture.”
I have never understood this. As someone who is linguistically challenged, I am thankful daily for the fact that I was born in a country that speaks the dominant language of the world. If French or German or Russian were the dominant language, I would be at a great disadvantage in both my travels and my business. Fortunately for me, the language into which I was born is the one shared by the rest of the world.
The question then becomes: Why would anyone who cares about people coming to the United States fight against those immigrants learning English in the fastest and best way possible? If you want those people to succeed, why would you stop them from improving their communications skills? Whatever the arguments are pale in comparison to the clear benefits to anyone anywhere who learns English, especially those coming to America. Does anyone believe that Justice Sotomayor would be where she is today if she would have grown up in this era where Hispanics are coddled regarding their adapting to the language of America and the world? Her success has been based on her mastering the English language at an early age and moving on to a successful collegiate career.
If Obama really cares about the little guy, and if he really wants empathy from the government, then he should put this issue to rest. This is not cultural chauvinism, but rather the reality in the world. You cannot be either an airplane pilot or an international businessperson without English. Presidents have always made their mark going against the grain of elements of their party. If President Obama wants a real victory, he should have the United States recognize what the rest of the world already knows -- English is the language of commerce and the world.