The main arguments for both sides of this controversial issue are summarized in the Pro and Con articles at debatepedia.com. If you have an opinion on the matter then vote in this poll ———————————————————————————————————–>
They highlight some critical questions and arguments central to this issue, which I will paraphrase:
Does having one official language facilitate assimilation or does it just marginalize those that do not speak it well?
Pro: People can still learn other languages if they want, but institutionalizing a common language will help to unify Americans. It will also encourage immigrants to develop the English ability necessary in this country for economic advancement and democratic participation.
Con: America is a nation of immigrants. Linguistic minorities should be protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Refusing to provide them access to government services in their native language is discrimination.
Is it practical to have an official language established by the federal government?
Pro: Providing government documents and translators for 300+ languages is extremely costly. Having an official language will save the government lots of money and free up funds that can better serve linguistic minorities in areas such as English education and job training programs.
Con: This is a non-issue, our language policies work fine as they are right now. This should be left to the states to decide.
How does the American public feel about this issue?
Con: “That the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of the history of the whole world.” -John Adams
And the most important question to ask when debating policy..
Does Official English serve the public interest?
Pro: Yes, it will benefit immigrants and society if they are forced to learn the English language, but exceptions can still be made in life or death circumstances (refuges). Our society will be less divisive and function better under one common, officially recognized language. More people will be able to understand the already de facto language of the government and actively participate in our democratic system. Less taxpayer money will be wasted on redundant documents.
Con: No, in the case of a public emergency the government would not be able to effectively help affected citizens. Official English may discourage additional language learning, which would have negative implications for international trade and diplomacy in an increasingly globalized world.
One of the most interesting aspects of this issue is that 87% of American voters support English as the official national language, yet a bill on the matter has consistently failed to become law in the legislative process. This may be a testament to the true function of government in the policy process: Lawmakers are protectors of the rights of the people rather than a purveyor of the will of the people.