Obama on Multi-Lingualism
I happen to agree with Obama that Americans should learn an additional language besides English, preferably Spanish. But this comment is just nonsense:
It’s embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup ...Embarrassing? To whom? To the elites who are just now, for the first time, proud of their country? The lack of people speaking multiple languages in our country is in no way a badge of dishonor that we should be held up by way of negative comparison to Europeans.
I mean, the geographic and demographic reality is that the majority of Americans have not, until now, needed to learn a second language. We live on a vast continent, separated on both sides by vast oceans. Most traveling that Americans do is within the confines of their own country. The expense, alone, of traveling overseas to foreign locales has meant that those growing up on farms in Nebraska and Iowa have not needed to become multi-lingual in the same way that an Italian person might need to learn French. Europeans, on the other hand, live on a multi-lingual continent in which traveling from France to England is a bit like going from New York to New Jersey. Most Europeans have become multi-lingual out of necessity - a necessity that most Americans haven't faced until very recently.
Demographics - i.e. an influx of Spanish-speaking folks that will likely continue for the indefinite future - will ultimately cause that to change in the U.S. Future generations of Americans will become fluent in Spanish because they will need to. My oldest son, for example, has already learned a great deal of Spanish vocalulary in the past year because his school is teaching Spanish to children as young as Kindergarten age.
That's a good thing. I, too, have tried to become fluent in Spanish, although I'm a long way from accomplishing that goal. It's definitely a laudable thing to want our children to learn a second language. But it is most definitely NOT "embarassing" that most Americans have not at this point in our history become as fluent in other languages as our European counterparts.
For what it's worth, I also agree that "English Only" laws are crap. The absolute chutzpah of "English Only" advocates, especially in Southwestern states, trying to give second-class status to a language that was spoken there for 200 years (and in some cases for 300 years) before the first English-speaking person ever set foot in those places is untenable.
UPDATE # 2
As a side note, the "English Only" debate has exposed ignorance among even Progressive Era Democrats dating back to the 1920s when the first female governor of a Southern state, Texas Governor Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, responded to efforts to introduce bi-lingual education thusly:
If the English language was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for the school children of Texas.