The English Language Unity Act of 2011 that has been tabled in the Congress
and Senate by Steve King and Jim Inhofe respectively is another example of
short-sightedness. In the face of it, the proposed legislation appears to be
sensible and the grounds appear to be logical. But the purpose, as espoused and
justified by King, "A common language is the most powerful unifying force
known throughout history," and "We need to encourage assimilation of
all legal immigrants in each generation. A nation divided by language cannot
pull together as effectively as a people," is rather disingenuous. We do
not have to reinvent the wheel in the shape of a polygon, touting it as the
long awaited solution.
Nations and people have often floundered at the hurdles that language put on
us, in our urge to communicate and socialize. Inclusive nation building has
often been difficult, nay impossible, when people are unable to communicate.
Let us look at one example among the many nations in the world to help us
better understand the complexity of the issue. Switzerland that is less than a
third of the size of Iowa has four official languages, whereas Iowa has English
as the only official state language. If we compare the population size,
Switzerland has twice the population of Iowa. The comparison would be grossly
skewed, if the population of India and the multiple languages is compared.
The issue is whether English is to be the one and only official language and
whether this requires legislation. We need to remember that some states have
only minority English language speakers, in what is traditionally termed the
Legislators would do well in deliberating carefully on the issue and not
straightjacket themselves, rather than expanding and "assimilating"
those among the population.