Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tests in English

After being thwarted by Mayor Bill Purcell in their efforts to make English the official language of Nashville, proponents of such ridiculousness have proposed a bill that would require all drivers license tests to be taken in English. I mean, seriously? Why is this such a big deal, people? Is it about terrorists? I'm sure that they're just lining up to get drivers licenses. Is it about making some statement about the importance of the English language? If so, maybe we should address all the misspelled and grammatically incorrect signs I see all over the place, or maybe outlaw text-ese. I just don't understand why we can't let people take exams in their native language. What does it hurt? What is it about people speaking Spanish, French, German, Swahili, Arabic, Russian, whatever that make people so uncomfortable? Can the metro city council spend some time on issues that actually matter, like, oh, homelessness, poverty, hunger, crappy public transporatation, etc.?


Jerilyn said...

Speak it, friend. Don't even get me started on stupid spelling of things... "Kum and Go" - can it get any tackier than that one, I mean, really??

Amy said...

Sigh. All people are God's children, all people are God's children (this mantra helps me get through stupidity like this).

That being said, wouldn't it be fun if we made the official language something like, oh I don't know, anicient Hebrew? Let's see people get driver's licenses then! Plus, trying to come up with words for "stoplight" or "traffic sign" from the ancient lexicon would be a hoot.

craig said...

Two Words Alan: Cultural and Imperialism, place them together and you get, cultural imperialism. For the purposes of appearing as a sly theologian of the culture, allow me to cite a television commercial that nicely conveys a tacit cultural imperialism. I am thinking of the Chevy (now that is an american company: our vehicles are inferior to european and asian vehicles both aesthetically and functionally. why should you buy them, you ask? Because we made them, and we are in america) commericial with the song "this is our country" bellowing forth over a slide guitar and scenes of white cowboys tending to the herd and throwing hay in their truck and all that.

Now, I may be an isolated academic, but I was under the impression that most americans no longer worked on ranches. Also, ALOT of americans arent white guys. My re-invisioning of that commercial is like this: We keep the 'this is our country' song, but instead of images of white rancher men, we show images of homeless persons, Mosques, Indian families preparing Indian cuisine, goverment housing projects, and immigrant workers packed 20 to an apartment. Now, this IS our country.

anyhow, all that way to say that we have this vision of america which just doesnt exist- but we want it to so badly that we will try to legislate it into existence.

Go Dores!

Anonymous said...

You can't be serious about this. Case in point: let's say your ministry takes you to Sweden for five years. You'd pretty much have to take the time to learn the native language since speaking English wouldn't get you very far. It's the same thing here in the States. This country should not have to apologize for speaking the tongue we do, and kowtow to all those who refuse to adapt to American culture. I doubt you'd march on the Royal House in Stockholm, demanding that Swedish AND English be the national languages. Now THAT's ridiculousness.

--Gus McCrae, Beaumont

Alan Bancroft said...

First of all, I'm totally serious. I'm not sure the Stockholm example is exactly apropos in this situation. Sweden wasn't founded on the principle of being a melting pot for the nations of the world. And, Sweden has an official language. The United States does not.

Also, what I didn't mention in my post is that many of the people in Nashville who are seeking the take drivers tests in other languages are those who have come here to flee the genocide taking place in Africa. Are those people supposed to take an English class as they're moving from refugee camp to refugee camp to simply stay alive?

I think Craig's comments are pretty dead on that this issue goes deeper than language. There are people who are deeply bothered that their communities are no longer primarily white-faced.

Finally, what would really be the harm in a language revolution in which the United States joined the rest of the world in teaching our children multiple languages and having more of a multi-lingual culture? I think that would be amazing!

Anonymous said...

Alan, first let me say that I came across your Blog totally at random. I am preparing to run a marathon, and your Blog came up in a Google search. I was curious, and it was 1:15am, so I decided to read.

Anyway, as for your latest response . . . you have once again made me seem like a bigot. I promise you I'm not that spiteful. I made my point rather poorly.

You're right about the USA as a melting pot. We DON'T have a national language. I guess I am particularly sensitive living down here in Beaumont (south Texas), where it seems like Mexican immigrants have become the majority. I have nothing against their assimilation into American culture, but let me just say that it's a good thing I know some Spanish; otherwise, I'm afraid I'd be clueless.

What I was TRYING to say is that I do not believe for a second that cultural imperialism applies at all to the States. Why are we imperalists if we happen to like our iPods, speaking English, and sitcoms? We're not FORCING other countries to buy our products and drink our Dr Pepper (but they do anyway). Seems to me, in the midst of my travels during my lifetime, that foreign cultures all desperately want to mimic American culture. Shows like "Friends," "Seinfeld," and "American Idol" are all the rage even in places like Japan, a country which has tons of money and innovation on its own.

You're absolutely right that English is not the official language of America. But you won't get very far up the ladder in this country if you speak German. I'm not naive enough to expect people to speak my language when I visit Russia . . . I learn their native tongue or I get left behind.


Alan Bancroft said...

Gus-thanks for your continued dialogue. This is why I love blogging. I really do feel like iron sharpens iron (or whatever that phrase is). I must admit that after I left my last comment, I looked up Beaumont and found out it was in Texas. Knowing your context helps me to understand more clearly your reaction to my post. I think we're dealing with some very different immigration issues. While there are definitely people from Mexico moving to Nashvile and its surrounding areas, another major source of immigration here is the refugees I mentioned before. What I find especially sad, is that these folks, who are coming here legally, are being lumped together with those who are coming illegally. I think that's my main beef with the Nashville City Council's efforts.

Also, I apologize for implying that you are one of the people who prefers a white-faced America. That was more pointed at a couple of the members of City Council who have been caught on camera making some fairly prejudice comments.

Thanks for the continued dialogue. I'm definitely aware that the issues surrounding immigration are numerous and huge. As a good friend asked, "So, how much money is being taken away from English as a Second Language courses to print all the driving tests in a hundred different languages?" Another person asked, "What about road signs?" And, on my end, as someone who is deeply concerned with education, "Is it fair that there are so many children who are going to schools that their parents aren't paying any taxes to support?" So many questions. Thanks for helping me think about this stuff.