Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Metro waters down "English only rule"

Well, Metro has watered down the "English only" proposal, which would have forbidden communication of Metro Nashville business in any other language than English. It still contains provision for English to become the official language of Nashville government and has an "English first" provision. Good. The proposal was stupid and potentially illegal (violating Federal law).

I don't have a problem with English being the official language of Nashville. And of course I think that the better command of English immigrants have, the better off they'll be. But this proposal was clearly a boneheaded, bigoted attempt to pander to the anti-immigrant "minute men" crowd who seem to have an irrational fear of the other. And I hate to see policy formulated in bile proceed.


I do love the reverse "logic" used by many proponents of such policies. "Go back to your own countries and protest for your rights. You don't see Americans going to other countries demanding that English be spoken by government officials."

Well, I have seen this and I have done this, too. I can't imagine what it must be like for the average tourist in the UK or in the US who doesn't speak any English. It must be a baffling and unsatisfying experience. But when I go abroad - to say Hungary or the Czech Republic, I don't have the slightest intention of learning to speak one word of their complicated, arcane languages. I do expect customs officers and police and any other official to either speak English or find someone who does. And I do expect hotel and wait staff to speak to me in English and for menus to be printed in English. And should I fall foul with the law (for example for failing to validate my public transport ticket - a common trick I use when visiting such places - allowing me several free rides) - I darn well expect to be interrogated in English (briefly) and for them to apologise for the misunderstanding in English.

In France, they get uppity about such things - but you know they all do speak English, they just pretend not to, but it does help to at least start out with parlez vous anglais? And I've gone through any number of countries on the continent without having even the local equivalent of that phrase. I don't do this on principle or anything, my English first approach is based purely on laziness. If I do happen to know some of the lingo, I'll speak it. In Spain, I spoke my bad Spanish, and everything was groovy. And I did speak some French in France when I could tell they really couldn't speak English (you can always tell because they're the ones that don't mind if you struggle with French, get impatient and switch to English). We English speakers will go anywhere and just expect people to speak our language. Maybe we should be just a little more tolerant when some people don't speak quite enough English to be able to navigate complex discussions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

80 to 90 kph? surely not mph? VolMom