Let migrants get this message: We speak English, so learn it
Arizona Republic
Jan. 21, 2006

Do you buy diapers or panalos at the supermarket? Peanut butter or mantequilla de mari?Eggs or huevos?

You can get along just fine in today's America whether you speak English or Spanish.

The signs in many stores - notably Wal-Mart - are bilingual; the directions on dress patterns, appliances and every other gadget you might buy are in both English and Spanish.

When you phone a company or a governmental agency or access your ATM, you are asked at once if you wish to converse in English or Spanish.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is now publishing three of its regulation booklets in Spanish.

Some people - those over 50 who have been in the country for at least 20 years - can take the test to become a citizen in their native language instead of in English.

Maricopa County even has a Spanish-language-only DUI court.

At the same time, cities and other civic organizations are conducting classes to help adults learn to speak and write English, as the Phoenix Public Library's Yucca Branch is doing.

Schools are plunging students into English immersion classes, as voters recently required them to do.

A federal judge recently threatened to fine lawmakers and Gov. Janet Napolitano $500,000 for every day after Jan. 24 that legislators don't come up with a spending plan for the improvement of instruction of non-English-speaking schoolchildren.

Society is sending mixed messages to Spanish-speaking residents.

On the one hand, it is tacitly encouraging them to continue their daily lives in their native language. On the other hand, it is officially pushing them to learn the language of their adopted country.

Could it be that our attempts to teach English- to non-English-speaking adults and children are being hamstrung by the silent signals sent by commercial and governmental agencies?

Of course, catering to Spanish-only speakers is all being done in the name of political correctness. To ignore the increasingly large group of people who come to this country and can't speak English, or don't want to learn, would be discriminatory.

But what we're doing now by pushing them first one way, then another, is worse than discrimination.

If we truly have their welfare at heart, let's stop sending signals that it's OK to be English-ignorant.

Let us send one united signal: Learn English; it's the language of your new country.

Eleanor Nelson is a freelance writer and former journalist. She can be
reached at Ernelson23@aol.com.