Why Is Official English Necessary?

Declaring English the official language is essential and beneficial for the U.S. government and its citizens. Official English unites Americans, who speak more than 322 languages (2000, U.S. Census), by providing a common means of communication; it encourages immigrants to learn English in order to use government services and participate in the democratic process; and it defines a much-needed common sense language policy.

Official English promotes unity. Our national motto is E pluribus unum-out of many, one. Immigrants of many nationalities built our nation, but the “melting pot” melded us into one people. This long tradition of assimilation has always included the adoption of English as the common means of communication. Unfortunately, the proliferation of multilingual government sends the opposite message to non-English speakers: it is not necessary to learn English because the government will accommodate them in other languages. A study published by the U.S. Department of Labor found that immigrants are slower to learn English when they receive a lot of native language support. (Monthly Labor Review, December 1992.) Thus, multilingual government services actually encourage the growth of linguistic enclaves. This division of the United States into separate language groups contributes to racial and ethnic conflicts. Designating English as the official language will help reverse this harmful process.

Official English empowers immigrants. Immigrants will benefit from the elevation of English to official status. Instead of the mixed message government sends by making it possible to file tax returns, vote, become U.S. citizens and receive a host of other services in a variety of languages, immigrants will understand that they must know English to fully participate in the process of government. Providing multi-lingual services creates dependence on “linguistic welfare.” Life without English proficiency in the United States is a life of low-skilled, low-paying jobs. Studies of Census data show that an immigrant’s income rises about 30% as a result of learning English. Knowledge of English leads to the realization of the American dream of increased economic opportunity and the ability to become a more productive member of society, which benefits everyone.

Official English is common sense government. The designation of official English will eliminate the needless duplication of government services in multiple languages. It is not the responsibility of the government to provide services in the 322 different languages spoken in the United States. It is the responsibility of each individual to either learn English or to find a friend or family member to translate. The money formerly spent on multi-lingual services can instead provide immigrants with the assistance they really need-classes to teach them English.

Official English legislation recognizes the need for common sense exceptions permitting the use of other languages for emergency, safety and health services; judicial proceedings; foreign language instruction and tourism promotion. Of course, because official English is only a limitation on government, it does not affect the languages spoken in private businesses, religious services or private conversations.