The United States Should Be Multilingual

The United States of America is a unique country, as it combines a great diversity of nations for generations already and still the citizens of this country are able to develop a strong feeling of their ethnic consciousness and belonging to American citizens. No wonder that cultural diversity has various impacts upon social life of the country, as well as forces the controversy, related to multilingualism. Multilingualism has historic roots in America; in addition it is a social phenomenon, supported by the modern conditions of globalization and cultural openness.

Generally the notion of multilingualism is defined as the use of two or more languages by individual speakers or by the communities of speakers. Statistically there are more multilingual speakers in the world, than monolingual ones. This could be explained to a greater extent by development of communicative technologies and promotion of acquiring more languages in order to be able to communicate freely with representatives of other nations and ethnic backgrounds.

There are a lot of myths and prejudices, related to the notion of multilingualism. First of all it is often believed that multilingualists are rather exceptions than the norm and that in order to be called a multilingual an individual needs to have perfect command of all the languages, he speaks. Children, who acquire two or more languages from their early years, are sometimes believed to have poorer results at school and two or more languages might cause language impairments by children. These and other myths have been already many times refuted and still there are a lot of debates, related to adequate perception of the multilingualism as cultural phenomenon of the United States. The greatest myth is related to the danger of losing of the status of the official language by English. In reality English is not simply a dominant language in the United States, but it is also domineering language in the whole world, becoming something similar to a world’ language, understood in most countries of the world. Within the last couple of decades this trend has even more intensified. English has occupied its strong position in the spheres of international technology, business and education; it has managed to become the official language of aviation. “Rather suddenly, in historical terms, the world has it’s long-dreamed-of lingua franca. English won the race, interestingly, despite being third in the number of native speakers, behind Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.” (Thomas, 2016).

Some of the alarmists are concerned about the fact that official documents are printed in America in two languages. They state that provision of foreign language translations along with the original version in English would have a negative impact upon the desire of immigrants to acquire English. There is a counter question – why aren’t these alarmists afraid that English would displace other languages?   In fact more and more immigrants start to speak English and become detached from their native languages. In a couple of generations, children of immigrants are not able to speak their language at all. Thus there is an opinion that it is needed to protect other languages in America.

Multilinguism is directly related to diversity. If an individual is able to speak more than just one language, he becomes opened for understanding and appreciation of the peculiarities of other cultures. If there are lots of such individuals, then it is possible to speak about the increase of the general educational level of the society. According to various studies, people, able to speak several languages, are also able to reach the higher cognitive level. They learn to treat things with greater flexibility and they reveal more empathy. Multilingualism is meaningful not only for the cultural sphere, it could make the economic sphere stronger as well. Speaking more languages, means that people are able to communicate with the representatives of other countries, this is utterly important under the conditions of the growing meaning and impacts of globalization upon all life spheres. There are different options for supporting and promoting of other languages in America. There are specific areas, where non-English population is concentrated; it is possible to make use of their language official there along with English. Government documents and informative websites could include translations into other languages. In cases, when it is needed the government could secure the presence of interpreters for legal proceedings at courts or elsewhere.

The basis of education for any citizen of the country starts from the school. There are a lot of countries in the world, where multilingual education is considered to be an absolute norm, for example in Switzerland there are four official languages. Introducing other languages at schools is possible with consideration of local communities, living there. The expected results of such practice are rather positive. American citizens would have the chance to finish schools preserving their native language and learning new ones. “Many states and local school systems have already implemented this policy to reward bilingual students—why not make it national? And when those high schoolers go on to college, why don’t we set up bilingual education tracks at universities or establish a bilingual university like University of Ottawa?” (Adler, 2015, p. 2). A lot of modern researchers support the idea that being multilingual or at least bilingual is good. Bilingualism is able to have positive effect upon functioning of human brains, contributes to development of their ability to solve problem and build plans. In addition a person, who knows more than one language, is able to make more money in any sphere, in comparison to individuals occupying the same positions and knowing only one language. “Recently, studies are showing that bilinguals develop Alzheimer’s or dementia five years later than people who only speak one language. If any of you, like me, has seen a loved one suffer from severe memory loss, you know how priceless five more years could be.” (Thomas, 2016).  

It is important to note here that not all American languages are those of immigrants. There are other native languages, for example that of Native Hawaiians. It is not correct to treat American immigrants only as a group of people, who need to be assimilated, as they present a great resource for teaching of the other American citizens in the sphere of languages.

The government of the country should participate in the process directly. In other words the government needs to introduce such immigration reform, which would be advantageous for both the country and its immigrants. Instead of tearing thousands of families apart, it is better to let them pass a bilingual proficiency exam and become recognized multilingual citizens of the country. “Now is the time to repeal all English-only or Official English ordinances, as they restrict people’s ability to access important services in their native languages and demean people who speak non-English languages.” (Leveen, 2010, p. 4). The first steps in the correct direction thus would be appreciation of multilingualism across the country and wider application of non-English languages.

Overall, there are a lot of discussions and controversies about utilization of various languages in the United States in addition to English or moreover about making some of them legal. There are a lot of myths, related to the possible effects of introduction of multilingualism in the United States; in fact most of the researches support the idea that multilingualism is advantageous for individuals, knowing more than one language as well as for the whole society and the country.

References:

Adler, M. (2015). It’s Time For The United States To Become ‘Officially’ Multilingual

Leveen, S. (2010). Is it Time to be a Bilingual Nation?

Thomas, S.E. (2016). The United States should be legally multilingual.

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: April 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: April 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: April 1, 2020]