English is the United States Official Language?
Here tell they spoke Piute here. Oops that is s'posed to be "hear tell".
United States, U.S. and "America" don't make no sense
There was a boy born in a small town in North America, about 12,000 souls. Now here is the fun part of the English language which is often spoken in the United States of America. It is crazy! We can say whatever we want, in whichever way we choose to say it and chances are it will be somewhat understood by our target audience. As exampled above we can even intentionally say it in a manner that is all screwed up and it gets understood - maybe even more better. We assume you understood that the boy was not 12,000 souls and that we did not mean North America had 12,000 souls but the way it was written you easily could have thought that is what was meant. (I think I could correct the grammar in every sentence of this paragraph)
Let us be serious. There really is no location that can be identified as "America". We believe that there are over 30 "united states" in the world. And clearly "U.S." could stand for just about anything like United Steel. But somehow we all know what we mean when we say "I am an American". I call that nuance of the English language "usurpation by force of will", you get the point. That should be sufficient to form the basis of understanding when someone says "English is the official language of America". It is a completely incorrect statement but we all know what it means and we all accept the truth behind it. Nit pick at the technicalities all you want to, but it is basically true.
Now let us get our global bearings. In the later part of the last century and the earliest part of this one I was pleased to have the opportunity to work in the periphery of ASEAN. Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is a big deal in that part of the world. You can learn about them here: http://www.asean.org/asean/asean-member-states . That would be ten countries all speaking different languages forming a cohesive trading and political group When they got together to start it took all of about 13 seconds to decide on an official language. You got it, it was English.
The EU is very comical. They do not have an official language.They are so wrapped up in diversity and multilingualism that they refuse to agree on a common language to use. With just a little research we came to understand that every delegate from every one of the 28 member states speaks English. English is used about 90% of the time. French being the not close at all second, although nearly 20% of the countries have German as an official language for their country.So for the EU English is not the official language for political reasons but on a practical level it is the only language.
It is not clear why English is so prevalent. It is probably a combination of a whole bunch of reasons historical and otherwise. But here is the cool thing about English. Because it is a dirty rotten ill gotten mutt of a language it can be modified at will. Oh for sure dude! It's mucho bendable. So while my grandpa spoke German English my wife can speak Vietnamese English and all around us is Spanglish and Ebonics. Of course in any professional area you look into they have their own not so easily understood English language. Do not try talking to a gung ho navy guy about how to get to a location in a Naval Hospital, They are decks not floors and they are port or starboard rather than left and right and I get lost at stern, bow and aft. Go ahead and speak the same in New Orleans as you do in New York or Phoenix and see if you do not stick out like a sore thumb. But what is amazing is that you can be perfectly well understood by all with just a little effort.
I was listening to this bloke, I understand he is English with a Sir and everything. But he sings in American.
This little guy speaks some Spanish and some Vietnamese and English more better than his mommy. But don't tell her that.
So we have this language
So somehow a language developed that was a mishmash of many other languages. Some of the languages that help make up the language are dead and gone and all but forgotten. I believe that over half of our States have names derived from a different language.
There is an ability within the language to be as specific and detailed as one can humanly get and yet it begs for transformation into the most chaotic languages of all. How does it do that? What the heck is going on with the English language?
There is this great story about Jesus. At his time they had these rigid rules that just had to be followed in Israel. One of them was a mandatory observance of the Sabbath. You just had to rest on that day -- no work at all was to be done. Well Jesus healed this dude on the Sabbath. He did an oops on purpose. It really pissed off the enforcers of the law. I liken it to the English grammar police. You must write it and say it this way or else!! Well Jesus broke their little stanglehold over folks by making clear that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. And so it is with our marvelous English language. It is made so that we can communicate freely and openly. It is not made to be a restriction on speech but rather a facilitator of thought. Really cool.
Hey brother you get me and I get you, and that is just down home alright.
Go figure that universal language of Love! Sometimes I need an interpreter.
Just what language is this little guy speaking?
Aussie, British and American
Let it be known that ain't nobody got a corner on the English language. Way back in the '70's I visited London. In the train station, Victoria Station, I watched a most peculiar exchange. A baggage handler type was in a row* with a upper crust gent. You could not discern what the cause of the ruckus was because they were hurling insults back and forth about how the other could not speak English. Shucks I had no idea that they had different Englishes in England. But here is what I walked away with: They were fully aware of what the other was saying and intending yet they were in a snit about how the other said it.
Fast forward to 1999 in Melbourne and I got into a drunken contest that lasted for hours. The game in the bar was to see who could concoct a real statement in Aussie that this poor American could absolutely no way understand. It was a blast and we agreed in the end it was a draw. I must admit I repeated the game some time later in New Orleans, they skunked me hands down.
So if we choose we can look for uncertainty and misunderstanding in English but with the smallest of efforts we can all understand each other. One of my all time faves was a Russian with a heavy accent who learned English at Oxford trying to relate to a full blown Texarkana cowboy about bull riding. Just like trying to get milk outa that bull.
What about you?
Can you speak English good?
Politics as usual
So my buddy told me about a big political flap about using English in America. I understand that there is a divide over making it THE official language of the U.S.A. It seems as though some object to using other languages in the US and others are offended by folks who insist that English be used as an exclusionary tool.
Wow! I reckon you could rearrange things so that an American is made for the English language rather than the language made for the American, but why would you? I kind of look at it this way: It would be like making a law that prohibits you from sticking you hand in flame, it would be kind of useless as the pain of sticking your hand in flame is reason enough not to. What I mean by that is; you do not have to learn English if you do not want to. Too bad for you.
Life is to be lived.
I wrote this article and instead of publishing it right away I went and volunteered at our local library. They teach free ESL classes, maybe even I can help. If you ain't part of the solution you are a part of the problem.