The Multilingualism Debate

The multilingualism is one of the most debatable issue in the US at the moment. Moreover, this issue is historically determined because the US emerged as the nation of immigrants, who spoke different languages. In such a situation, English became the vehicle language used by all citizens in the country. This is why the idea of the English only nation is very popular in the US. However, such a view on the language development in the US is superficial and erroneous, in its essence. The US is the nation of immigrants and the development of multinlingualism is the only right way for the development of the US, its culture and national unity because multilingualism complies with fundamental principles of the US democracy, culture and traditions as well as multilingualism enriches American culture and makes diverse people truly equal in their diversity and belongingness to one nation.

The belief that multilingualism is harmful for the US nation emerges from the erroneous view on the overall impact of multilingualism on people and their relationships. Opponents of multilingualism (Sollors 61) hold the premise that multilingualism destroys the unity of American nation. They believe that, if people speak different languages, they belong to different ethnic or cultural groups and do not really belong to the US nation. In such a situation, English may be viewed as the unifying factor because one language forms one nation.

Such premise of the destructive impact of multilingualism on the unity of the US nation is questionable and misleading because the history of the US nation proves that the diversity and acceptance, assimilation and integration were the main features that created the US nation and united people in one nation (Sollors 68). English as the common language is not the unifying factor if it leads to the discrimination of non-English speaking groups. As the matter of fact, English cannot unite people, if it leads to the elimination of the diversity of American nation because diversity is the main, distinct feature of American nation that distinguishes Americans from other nations. Americans are the nation of diverse people, where each culture and each group of people is respected and has equal rights, liberties and opportunities. These features made Americans the united nation. In such a situation, multilingualism is the key element to the maintenance of the diversity of American nation because people speaking different languages still remain united by American culture, where such diversity is the key feature and where they do not feel being excluded from the mainstream culture. Regardless of what language Americas speak, they still remain equal and have equal rights and liberties. This is why the freedom in the language development or multilingualism of Americans is another and essential element of the American culture, nation and democracy.

 In addition, multilingualism contributes to the mutual enrichment of Americans and the development of the tolerance of American nation. People speaking different languages have different traditions and values. The diversity of views contributes to the enrichment of American culture, while the elimination of multilingualism leads to the decrease of the cultural diversity of the US. As a result, the US experiences the lack of diversity and the nation of different people becomes the nation of similar people. Instead, multilingualism brings diversity and enriches American culture and is one of the major drivers of the cultural development because through the interaction between different cultures and people using different languages, they share their values, views and develop their common culture.

At the same time, in spite multilingualism, English will survive as the vehicle language just as it was hundreds of years ago, as it is now and as it will be in the future. Multilingualism will be the tool that will help minority groups speaking different languages to preserve their culture and their unique views and experience, which they may share with other ethnic groups. However, they apparently need English as the vehicle language (Sollors 69). This is why English will inevitably survive, if the US shifts to multilingualism because English will be the vehicle language used by different ethnic groups for communication with each other nationwide. Instead, other languages will be used at the local level mainly.

At this point, it is possible to deter another argument of opponents of multilingualism, who fear that multilingualism may threaten to the territorial integrity of the US as it is the case of Canada, where French-speaking people in Quebec struggle for wider autonomy or even independence from the central government. This argument is absolutely inconsistent in case of the US because ethnic groups speaking different language are dispersed. In this regard, it is only Spanish-speaking community that is quite densely populated in Southern states of the US. However, even in their case, the probability of any problems and threats to the territorial integrity of the US are very low because non-English speaking people do not comprise the overwhelming majority of either state of the US. Instead, each state consists of multiple ethnic groups, which may use their own language but still they need English to communicate with each other. This is why English is still the unifying factor, regardless of multilingualism and the threat to the territorial integrity of the US does not exist at all.

Thus, multilingualism is the key to the maintenance of the traditional American culture, democracy and unity of American nation. Multilingualism enriches American culture, while English remains the vehicle language that unites people speaking different languages.

Works Cited:

Sollors, W. Multilingualism in the United States: A Less Well-Known Source of Vitality in American Culture as an Issue of Social Justice and of Historical Memory, NANZAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES, 31, 2009, 59-75

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