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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh look, Obama changed his mind... on Spanish

Via Babalu:
First Obama said immigrants should learn English:

"We'll have to finally bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadoes. It is time we did that. Now, let's acknowledge, yes, they broke the law. They should have to pay a fine, they should have to learn English, they should go to the back of the line, they should not get citizenship ahead of those who have been waiting patiently, but we also have to put them on a pathway to citizenship."
Then he changed his mind:

You know, I don't understand when people are going around worrying about, "We need to have English - only." They want to pass a law, "We want English-only."

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], "Merci beaucoup." Right?
Via Memeorandum, American Voters Reject Obama's call for Bilingualism:
A national telephone survey conducted last month by Rasmussen Reports found that U.S. voters overwhelmingly disagree with the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. (see video)

Eighty-three percent (83%) place a higher priority on encouraging immigrants to speak English as their primary language. Just 13% take the opposite view and say it is more important for Americans to learn other languages.

In his comments, Obama emphasized the economic benefits of learning a second language: "If you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get a job." Data suggests that most voters see the issue in a broader context.

A separate survey found that one factor fueling the anger over immigration is the belief that most government officials encourage immigrants to retain the culture of their home country. This helps explain why voters who are angry about immigration are primarily angry at the government, not immigrants. Among those angry about immigration, 59% believe most government officials encourage immigrants to retain their home country culture.

Last fall, a Rasmussen Reports survey found that 77% of Americans believed that employers should be allowed to require employees to speak English while on the job. With the Supreme Court recently upholding tougher standards for voter identification at the polls, 65% of voters now believe election ballots should only be printed in English. Thirty-two percent (32%) say they should be printed in both English and Spanish.

The importance of assimilation into the culture is highlighted in another recent survey: 54% of voters say it is more important to encourage all immigrants to embrace American culture than it is to reduce the number of immigrants. Just 36% take the opposite view and say reducing immigration is a higher priority. That survey, as with many others, also found a strong preference for ballots and other government documents to be printed in English only.
Even when bilingualism is not assimilation, the fact is that you can not assimilate into a culture without a good working knowledge of its language. All immigrants should learn English, and to learn English, you have to be taught.

In a lighter vein, A different look at the race

Prior post: Bilingualism and Obama.


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At 10:03 AM, Blogger repsac3 said...

First off, I don't want to pick a nit, but I'm pretty sure the third and fourth sentence quoted from the second video (the ones where he says Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. should've been bolded too, but doing so would've undermined your point. There is no position change.

Second, I'm pretty sure Obama was discussing learning second & third languages as an education issue, rather than an immigration/assimilation issue.

As I said elsewhere, educationally, it would be good if every American knew two or more languages, read all the classic literature, could play at least one musical instrument, knew all of his or her political representatives by name & position, played at least one sport, and could work out advanced physics problems. I find it hard to believe that anyone disagrees...

Nowhere in his statement was Obama suggesting that Americans should have to speak more than one language--English--to live or work here. He never said that immigrants shouldn't learn English, or that employers cannot or should not require employees to speak & understand English if the job requires it. (The language someone speaks in the lunch room isn't important, as long as they're able to understand the requirements of the job, & communicate with supervisors & anyone else necessary to fulfilling those requirements.)

In short, I'm pretty sure it was about education and the desire to achieve more, not about immigration & assimilation.


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