What language(s) should people living in America have to known

I had the argument yesterday with someone who said they shouldn’t “have” to speak English, but I should “have” to speak their language. Never mind that about 85% of the world speaks English well enough to have a conversation. While I have no problem with people speaking any language, I don’t see why I should “have” to speak theirs.

So, should any person living in this country be required to speak and understand any language(s)?

I would like (and will never see) the day when Americans are required to have some training in a language other than English. Which one? My opinion is take your pick based on what you want. Spanish would be a natural choice, Japanese or Chinese handy for many businesses, formal Russian wouldn’t be a bad call either. But you can make it anything from Mongolian to Swahili and I don’t think I would care.

You are right; a lot of the world does speak English in some basic form. But that doesn’t mean we can’t return the favor/show some respect by having people around us who can speak theirs.

I think an emphasis on English fluency by all living in this country makes sense. If I had to learn the languages of just my neighbors over the years that would include Russian, Italian, Korean and Yiddish. That’s a bit ridiculous, don’t you think?

The school district where I used to work in California had 66 different languages being spoken by the students in the district. I wonder how many of the teachers could speak 66 languages. Seems like it would be a lot easier for all of the students to learn English. Then they could not only talk to the teacher, they could talk to each other.

I have a pretty low tolerance for people coming to this country and insisting that we speak and/or do business in their native language. English is the official language of this country, and if one is planning on living here, I feel it is incumbent upon everyone to learn it. I wouldn’t dream of moving to France and expecting the French government to provide all government documents in English and to provide me someone to speak English any time I wanted to conduct business. Frankly, I want the same courtesy to my country in return.

My grandparents worked hard to learn English when they came to this country. They were proud when they became good at it. But then they were very proud to be Americans and I don’t think as many of our more recent ‘residents’ feel that way.

I am, however, fully in favor of teaching additional languages in schools. We are becoming more and more a global society and fluency in additional languages is an asset to anyone hoping to involve themselves in global commerce or other global endeavors.

It depends what you mean by “required”. Apart from some relevant government services*, I don’t think the country should be required to cater to non-English speakers by and large, but I get nervous when speaking a language becomes mandatory from a legal basis. I’d rather people learned English because they’re placing themselves at a huge disadvantage by not doing so, not because we’re going to fine them for not doing so.

As for learning other languages: I think teaching foreign languages in schools is a good thing and I don’t mind it being part of the mandatory curriculum in the way that other subjects are. My school offered Spanish, French and German classes (I took French); I’d like to see more schools offering Mandarin as an option but school budgets being what they are I wouldn’t want to cut something else for it (although maybe drop German, which is less global a language than Spanish or French).

  • Because there’s a greater public interest in communicating with non-English speakers in the US in some circumstances.

I think it’s excellent for everyone to know one other language. Language forms our deepest innate thinking, and the biggest thing I have seen of bilingual speakers is they are no longer 100% supremely confident that their way is “right”, and are far more open minded and considering of other peoples’ opinions and views. People who only speak one language have often never even considered that different people think in different ways and their way is not the default.

YM heavily varies, of course.

Incorrect. The US doesn’t have an official language. English is the norm, but it’s not mandated by the federal government. Many states have declared English the official language, but there isn’t one at the federal level.

You shouldn’t have to know any language, but for practical purposes if you did have to speak some language in this country English makes the most sense. Pretty much the same for most of the world, however, advances in computer translation are happening rapidly and we may have sci-fi type automatic translators soon which would eliminate the need for people to know more than one of any language for practical communication purposes.

I have long believed that English should be made the official language of the US, and that all government (federal, state, or local) business should be conducted – and signs and publications be printed – only in English. Doing so would require a simultaneous significant increase in free, government-provided ESL classes nationwide.

So, I believe that English is the only language people living in America should have to know. But there are numerous benefits to being at least bilingual, and everyone should be encouraged to study a language other than their native one.

This is a common misunderstanding. Contemporary immigrants are actually learning English at a much faster rate than immigrants learned it a hundred years ago. Which isn’t surprising - modern immigrants have access to radio, television, and the internet.

I’ll bow to your superior knowledge of the law, but if English isn’t the legislatively-mandated official language of this country, it certainly is the de facto one. Perhaps there are places in this country where you cannot conduct government business in English, but I have yet to encounter one.

If that’s the case - and it makes sense that it may be - then this strikes yet another blow against the insistence that all US government documents be available in an immigrant’s native langauge and that translators be provided for life for any immigrant who demands one. Of course I’m assuming that you are using ‘immigrant’ in its most inclusive form.

Not sure about the States, but in Canada would-be immigrants get scored on whether they know English or French, and if they don’t know either, they go way down the list, all other things being equal. (Of course, most times, other things are not equal.)

You made a factual claim - that English was the official language of the USA - and it was wrong. You are correct that English is the de facto language of the US, but that doesn’t mean that government business can’t and isn’t conducted in other languages at times. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

I regret having taken Spanish in high school for 3 years thinking it would be the “most useful.” I learned a lot of Spanish, but I have never needed it. Not even the one time I traveled to Mexico. German, Japanese or Chinese would be far more useful in my field and I would venture to guess that’s true in many professions.

So what you are saying, in practical terms, is that when I go to court tomorrow to rep my company in a wrongful termination defense, court could legally be conducted in Serbo-Croatian, Swahili, or Yiddish? That’s disquieting.

I have taken enough Spanish to get by in casual conversation. It does come in handy around here in NJ near NYC but I have to admit I hate when it’s obvious that someone is clearly living and working here and then tells me in Spanish they really don’t speak any English. I mean c’mon. At least make an effort if you move here voluntarily to learn basic English. I think it’s only polite. I would not move to a majority Spanish speaking nation without at least polishing up my Spanish. If I didn’t, I would expect locals to hold me in rightful contempt. I am in NJ and nowhere near the border of any Latino nation.

Were you the only English-speaking janitor? Or did you actually learn how the district handled those languages? Houston’s the country’s most diverse city.

Not all languages are spoken at all schools. Some focus on refugees & new immigrants so they can continue to learn other subjects while they learn English. Other schools offer programs for more well-off kids so they can retain fluency in their family’s original language as they progress in English (& usually math & science–taught in English–as well).

The number of adults in the city who pay for ESL classes show that English is not going away; it’s still the route to success. Multilingual signs help newcomers & visitors–just here to work or just here to shop at the Galleria.

I don’t know about “requiring” languages–but more languages should be taught when we’re young enough to absorb them easily.

I think English makes the most sense if we had to pick only one, with Spanish being the second-most common language as far as I know. Anything beyond that would be probably only be helpful in certain regions or cities.

I feel like I might be one of the few people that isn’t offended when I run into someone that doesn’t speak English, or speaks very little. We have no official language, and a hugely diverse population, with a history that makes a big deal out of us being this melting pot. It’d be easier if we all had a common language, sure, but most of the time it really isn’t a big deal. Besides, for all I know the person I’m trying to communicate with is trying to learn English and just isn’t fluent yet.