As part of his immigration platform, President Bush is saying he believes newcomers should learn English on their path to US citizenship. Interestingly, he makes no mention of his own ongoing failure to grasp the language. But I digress.
I've never been the "learn the language or leave the country" type. That, to me, is an extreme viewpoint. It's like those rude French people who think you should study their language for years before vacationing over there for a week. Too much work for a holiday, that. Get real.
I don't know if I think learning English should be a prerequisite for US citizenship. However, it's probably a good idea to learn the primary language of any country in which you're going to spend an extended amount of time. Is that an unreasonable expectation?
People who live in the US for years – who aren’t verifiably learning disabled – and still don't know English are lazy, plain and simple. There are no excuses for not at least picking it up (if not having formal training) in all that time.
The problem for some is that they move into barrios (neighborhoods) where everyone from their neighbors to local business owners speak the same "foreign" language.
If you live in Miami, for example, and everyone you know and all your newspapers and TV and radio stations are Spanish language, you might not be motivated to learn English.
But you should.
Not only is it important to be able to speak English in your new country, by not taking the time to learn it you may actually be perpetuating unfortunate stereotypes about your own people.Let's keep this language debate civil, and not resort to provincial platitudes. But both sides of this debate should acknowledge that they could stand to "give" a little.