During her interview Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had some advice for recent immigrants to the United States — “speak American!”
Tapper had asked Palin about Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s criticism of fellow candidate Jeb Bush’s use of Spanish when addressing crowds.
She didn’t see anything wrong with the former Florida governor’s occasional use of Spanish, calling it “a great connection” with the Hispanic community.
But she then used the moment to segue into some sage advice for those immigrating into the United States.
“If you wanna be in America, A: You’d better be here legally,” she said. And B: When you’re here, let’s speak American. I mean, let’s speak English. That’s kind of a unifying aspect of a nation… the language that is understood by all.”
In a CNN commentary following Palin’s interview, Columbia University linguistics instructor John McWhorter tried — and failed — to tear apart Palin’s admonishment for everyone to speak English.
The former governor isn’t alone — most conservative agree that if you want to properly assimilate, one should speak the language. “When in Rome, do ads the Romans do,” as the saying goes..
The problem with this kind of rhetoric is that it corresponds to no crisis. There hasn’t been any documented tendency for native-born Americans to be uncomfortable in English. Those born here to non-English speaking parents speak their parents’ language not as well — if at all — and just as often do not pass it on to their own children.
That’s fine for those born here to non-English speaking parents — but what of the parents? They’re each relegated to being a “Stranger in a Strange Land,” not understanding, f0r example, requests made by law enforcement — a situation that could lead to tragedy.
McWhorter glosses over this situation by referring to the non-U.S. born immigrants as simply people who speak English with an accent and encounter problems with American idioms.
But he totally ignores those who refuse or are unable to learn the language at all.
Then McWhorter goes way off the deep end by saying that for Americans, the problem rests only for those who speak Spanish — no other language.
“There is some sense that Spanish alone is a threat to English,” he wrote.
But the real issue is one of assimilation. If were going to be a “melting pot” we all have to adapt to the customs — including language — lest that melting pot turn into a salad bowl.
Even President Barack Obama, when campaigning in 2008, indicated that we shouldn’t think of one another as, for example, Asian-Americans or African-Americans, but just Americans.
Learning the language is the first step to becoming an American, just as it’s the first step to becoming a naturalized citizen of any country. Otherwise, you know where the door is.
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