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Editorial Section

English-Only Efforts

The following letter to the editor of The Seattle Times involves an effort among some schools to offer teaching in an immigrant's own language. In the past, where I come from, a small town in Ohio, immigrant's were forced to learn English in a hurry because their American teachers did not always speak their native tongue fluently. Every immigrant (most of them were Italians) I talked to said that it was for the best because it taught them to function in THIS country using OUR native tongue. Most of them have become American citizens and they are glad that their teachers taught them English in the manner that they did.

Please take a few moments to read the following letter, written by Dean Isaacson:

Editorial on
English-Only Efforts in U.S.

28 January 1998
The Seattle Times
To the Editor,

Your Sunday editorial headlined "English-only effort is divisive and misguided" was itself divisive and misguided. In the first place, your compassion is mislaid. If I were an immigrant I would think it insulting that you do not consider me able to learn and make my own way.

Most immigrants come to this land because of the opportunities. If we seduce them into the welfare state by coddling, how many languages should we publish? I understand in the Seattle area that there are almost fifty recognized languages and dialects. During a recent trip to the Drivers Licensing station, I saw over two dozen translations of the drivers' manual. I was told that there are more, but these were the most common. Should the readers of this newspaper pay for the costs involved to translate and publish multiple languages? How much more taxes should we pay and how many more bureaucrats should we hire so that those who don't care to meld into society won't have to learn English?

You claim we need to publish all license applications, government forms and public documents in multiple languages. How many translators should escrow and title companies have on retainer to draw and interpret property deeds? Furthermore, how many languages should the clerk at the counter speak? Consider this: When the civil government discourages the use of a common language, a hardship is placed upon the small businessman who does not have the resources to communicate with potential clients. And should I mention the dashed hopes of the student who was taught to celebrate their diversity through language but find it difficult to find gainful employment because they can't speak English?

Without a common speech, society will divide by language. People cannot associate long with people they cannot understand. We need to establish a uniform policy for a means to access public documents. Senate Bill 6296 will establish such policy and unite all citizens, no matter how diverse, by promoting a common language so that we can continue to communicate with each other. I laud your efforts to celebrate diversity, but our celebration will be greater and more genuine when we are not divided by language and victimhood.

Dean Isaacson

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Alicia Colombo, 1995The Beginning or End
By Alicia Colombo


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