Is Bilingualism in the United States Desirable?
Although the United States is known to be a melting pot of the world where people of different cultural, racial, and religious background are combined, bilingualism has not been officially adopted. Moreover, there are controversial views on whether the country should adopt bilingualism at the official level. Despite some disadvantages, bilingualism is necessary because it is associated with a number of benefits in terms of economic, political, and societal development in the United States.
The American identity is completely multicultural, which should be directly reflected in the language changes. Nowadays, the United States has the highest rate of intermarriages in history. Remarkably, this level has been only increasing. Thus, in 2010, 15 percent of marriages were between representatives of different races, whereas in 1980, such marriages accounted only for seven percent. Therefore, English is served as a tool to maintain a cohesive national identity among the representatives of many nations.
Nowadays, the most prevalent languages of bilinguals are German, Spanish, Russian, Korean, Chinese, as well as native North American. According to a Census Bureaus report conducted in 2011, 60.6 million Americans, who constituted 21 percent of the total population, spoke a language other than English. Despite the fact that many immigrants try to speak English all the time in order to assimilate more quickly, even the second generation that is born in the United States still remains bilingual. Such a high prevalence rate of the second language necessitates and creates the development of bilingualism in the United States.
Valuing bilingualism and having the ability to utilize it properly are vital skills for independent and competitive participation in global political economy. The economy and political systems require additional skills and competence, including the ability to contact people from diverse places. Despite the fact that the English language has been already privileged in the todays globalized business world, Americans still face a competitive disadvantage because of the prevalent monolingualism. Thus, competence in several languages is an obligatory requirement in contemporary international relations. However, only one percent of American adults, who studied other languages in school, have a good command of the second language. The refusal from learning and using secondary language may result in the loss of career opportunities, which with time may affect the country in general. Therefore, all Americans should opt for learning one more language.
From the perspective of immigrants, it is essential to support bilingualism as a means to preserve their mother tongue while learning English. In the United States, the Hispanic community is quite massive and naturally they strive to maintain a Hispanic identity within American borders. Through the available policies of bilingualism, it is easier to continue native traditions and cultural norms. Moreover, by eliminating language barriers, bilingualism may ensure that new comers have decent life conditions and access to vital services. As a result, immigrants may better contribute to overall development of the community when they are fully involved in the social organization. Thus, preserving heritage language should be a national goal reflected in the educational programs, which may help promote bilingualism in the country.
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In fact, bilingualism has a profound effect on cognitive skills not related to language. There are good bilingual education programs that prove that students have better academic performance than their peers in non-biligual programs. For example, in San Francisco City School, students are given the opportunity to acquire English and maintain the home language in case of an immigrant. Similarly, Americans may learn the second language and improve English.
People who speak English and another language may exchange their experiences. They may learn from each other, thus becoming culturally sensitive. Therefore, bilingualism is a desirable phenomenon because it teaches tolerance and open-mindedness. From the communicative perspective, bilingualism promotes cross-cultural competence and respect. For example, the desire to see the Spanish language as the second official language in the United States may enhance the position of it within an extended socio-economic context. Overall, bilingualism should be viewed as a proactive response to economic, societal, and demographic realities.
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However, the extensive use of ethnic mother-tongues in every sphere of life, including economy and politics, has created a wave of fear and opposition to bilingualism in the United States. There is a wide-spread fear that bilingualism should not be supported because it poses a threat to the existence of English as the national language because of the expansion of other languages that may supersede it. The immigrant communities are large and all the services may be found in their native language. Therefore, people even do not need to learn English, the language of the country where they have decided to live. In addition, there are many governmental and educational programs of promoting diversity and racial inclusion, which allows and encourages bilingualism on all levels. Many officials also believe that immigrant labor is important to the development of the economy. Such tendencies may result in vast spread of other languages, making American English people become a minority group. According to Glickhouse, nowadays, 57 million Hispanics reside in the Unites States, and approximately a third of this minority group speak Spanish all the time. Moreover, by 2055, it is estimated that 125 million Latinos will live in the Unites States . As a result, whites are predicted to become a minority group. Such a shift may result in a negative impact on the prevalence of American English among the future population.
Nevertheless, due to its overwhelming usage, English will not disappear from domestic or international practice. According to Glickhouse, two billion people that account for one out of three individuals use it worldwide. Moreover, many immigrants favor English, treating it as the only link to American ethnicity. The ongoing growth of the Hispanic population does not mean the increase in Spanish speaking people. It is predicted that a smaller group of Latinos would speak only Spanish in the future. Glickhouse concludes that Current demographic trends suggest that we’ll continue to see more Hispanics speaking English and fewer speaking Spanish. Therefore, the usage of secondary language cannot compromise vibrant cultural, linguistic, racial, and historical diversity in the United States even despite the strong bilingual policies and educational programs. English is deeply rooted in the country and cannot disappear at once. In fact, prizing diversity and supporting the bilingual direction of development do not imply the refusal from American history, traditions, and language.
In conclusion, speaking at least two languages rather than just one implies a number of practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. Nowadays, a good command of two languages is a commodity in the business and professional world. Moreover, bilingualism ensures efficient cross-cultural communication and promotes racial tolerance. The bilingual political direction may better engage immigrants into the communities, providing services and educational opportunities in their native language. The disadvantage of bilingualism is associated with the fear of dominance of the secondary language over American English. However, English is so widely spread among Americans and across the world that in the nearest future, it will not disappear. Moreover, many immigrants use English as a way of assimilation and creation of their own identities. Thus, although the United States is not heading for the bilingual norm, bilingualism is a desirable perspective for the future development of the country.