All the recent talk of a National Language is not the real point at all, of course. It’s just another way to disenfranchise immigrants [in this case the Mexicans who have the double whammy of being both immigrants AND not of Northern European stock.]
Can you tell the difference, today, between the descendants of Irish immigrants who came over during the early 19th century and those who arrived after WWII? Me neither. It’s likely that Irish was spoken in the homes of both families. It’s likely that the parents in both cases resisted learning English. [If you’ve ever studied a foreign language, I imagine you can sympathize—it’s hard, slogging work that consists, basically, of rote memorization.]
Their children, however, if they got here before the age of ten or so, learned English fairly easily. They were immersed in the language at school, they were teased by their peers for not speaking ‘correctly’ and probably grew up without even a trace of an accent. At home, they translated any government forms or other necessary paperwork for their parents and their families got along just fine, thankyouverymuch. Yes, the family probably remained below the poverty level until the 2nd generation grew up. By then, they had the advantage of having been educated here and of having thoroughly assimilated.
This language issue has come up before. I remember similar rhetoric after the Viet Nam war when lots of folks from Asia were arriving. Then, there was a triple whammy to contend with: the Asian’s didn’t look like us, the parents didn’t speak English and their kids had begun growing up in a culture that taught respect for education. The Europeans in this country were living in terror that the Asians would beat us at our own game: get good grades in high school, crowd out our kids in the best colleges and out-perform us in the workplace. THEN what would happen to America???
Surprise—we weathered the storm, absorbed the Asians and America is stronger for their having arrived on our shores. And, many of the parents who arrived in the 1970’s still speak halting English and need help from their kids when it comes time to sign important documents.
And-- look around --does this country look like Asia to you?
So, those of us whose parents arrived from England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark et al can relax. We’re still the majority in this country and will be for a while yet. There’s no need to try to make it harder for future immigrants. No one did that [though some did try] when our parents arrived.
And if, by chance, the complexion of America DOES change—well—who’s to say that’s necessarily a Bad Thing?