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Mind your language

Flicking through the Reason blog, Hit & Run, I came across the link to the recent appearance by Reason’s editor, Nick Gillespie, on the O’Reilly Factor. Gillespie argues that it is silly to pass a law stating that folk should sing the national anthem of the United States in English. I agree (it is not exactly a Top Government Priority), although I would have thought that immigrants, if their intentions are to make a long-term home in their adopted country, should value it enough to try and speak the local language. Language is a part of assimilation. If I went to live in France, I would expect to learn the language, even if I spoke in an atrocious accent. But passing laws to force language is silly.

That said, I do not think Gillespie helped his case by what I thought was a singularly boorish performance on the show. Not a great advert for libertarianism. Virginia Postrel would have never acted like that, and she is much better looking.

22 comments to Mind your language

  • Ron

    I have never heard of this law, so I became curious. (Otherwise the combination of someone at Reason debating O’Reilly equals double null and I would have skipped right over it.) So I followed the links and found this:

    “And that’s why today I am introducing a resolution that affirms that statements of national unity, especially the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, ought to be recited or sung in English”

    Leave it to someone from Reason to get their panties in a wad over that.

  • Sandy P

    Not only did they translate the National Anthem into Spanish, but they changed the words.

    AND they call it “Our Anthem.”

    Which is part of the problem.

    Talk about tone deaf, oh, please, we want to become citizens so much, but we really don’t like what the anthem represents, so we’ll sing this instead.

    It’s based on a specific battle in history for a reason.

  • Kim du Toit

    Gillespie’s a twerp.

    OF COURSE the national anthem has to be sung in the national language — to suggest otherwise is to live in a parallel universe.

    The problem with multiculti idiots like Gillespie is that they don’t understand that the primary cause of social friction is when you can’t understand what the other guy is saying.

    We have a national language in the United States. It’s English, the language in which our Constitution, laws and public records are written. It’s also the spoken language used in the debating of those laws and records — you can’t speak Spanish in Congress and have it entered into the record, for instance — and if someone wants to reintroduce the Tower of Babel story into the modern era, and prove its point all over again, this would be the way to start doing it.

    No wonder Reason [sic] magazine is losing subscribers hand over fist, if this is the kind of editorial positioning Gillespie is emplying.

    Bah. I need a drink.

  • Calidude

    i don’t feel any great urge to sing our god awful national anthem in any language. hell it’s damn near unsingable by normal human beings.

  • I agree Gillespie’s performance was atrocious. He completely misjudged the audience and started off by attacking the Iraq war. That might be great on a liberal channel but on Fox he should have based his argument on attacking big government.

    He ended up coming across as a liberal even though he was on the side of business and less government.

    Passing a non-binding resolution has no effect but to waste taxpayers’ money (I assume some lawyers are employed to draft these resolutions and that there would be some other administrative costs) to advise the population how to live. The best thing anyone could say about it is that it diverted government away from doing bigger stuff that may do real harm.

  • Heterodox

    The Netherlands, which used to be a Babel of multiculti relativism, has been learning fast since the Fortuyn and Van Gogh murders. This from Wikipedia:

    To integrate migrants into the Dutch society, every person who wants to immigrate into the Netherlands must have passed an integration test. It tests knowledge of the Dutch language, political system and social conventions. The test must be taken before entering the Netherlands, preferably in a Dutch Embassy in the country of origin. “Oudkomers”, migrants who have lived in the Netherlands for a long time, but are not “integrated”, are also requested to take the exam. EU nationals, and nationals of various other western nations such as the US, are exempt from these policies

    As a minister [Rita] Verdonk has proposed the following, without it becoming policy yet:

    In October 2005 Verdonk proposed a ban on Muslim women wearing the burqa in public places, on the grounds that the burka, which covers the face, is a security risk since suicide bombers could use it as a disguise. She also cancelled a meeting with Dutch Muslim leaders when some of them wouldn’t shake hands with her, being a woman. She has said that “the time for cosy tea-drinking” Muslim groups had passed.

    In January 2006, Verdonk proposed the adoption of a national code of conduct, listing the most important conventions of Dutch society, to facilitate the integration of migrants. She was inspired by a similar initiative undertaken by the Rotterdam municipality.
    Upon receiving Dutch citizenship, immigrants would have to be able to sing the first stanza of the national anthem, the Wilhelmus.
    [in Dutch of course]

    In March 2006, Verdonk proposed to send homosexual asylum seekers from Iran back because they are no longer prosecuted, despite the general public conception that acts of homosexual acts were still punishable by death. Note that homosexuality in itself is not punishable by death sentence in Iran. In response to parliamentary criticism, the Minister announced on March 4 that all asylum cases involving homosexual Iranians would be assessed on an individual basis.

    I understand ‘Iron Rita”s latest suggestion is to ban people from speaking languages other than Dutch in public places. She is favoured to be the country’s next prime minister, and she belongs to the Liberal Party! Nick Griffin must be green with envy.

  • I saw this interview.

    Live, it was better than it reads.

    With all due respect to Kim, Gillespie is not a twerp. Alexander is.

    How Mark can say Gillespie attacked the Iraq war I do not know. He used it rhetorically: “I want to congratulate the senator because who knew that war in Iraq was over?” in a manner that says to me that Gillespie considers Alexanders spending time on this issue to be a dreadful waste compared to Iraq.

    English is not the official language of the US, except in legislation. There is no law anywhere I know of at the federal, state or local level that makes it so. Not that I, or anyone can possibly know all the laws there are.

    This country has always been multi-lingual. From the start. Before the start.

    Dutch colonists founded New York City as New Amsterdam, along with the surrounding area known as New Netherlands.

    French settlers and refugees in what is now northern New England and lower New York State. (Hugenots). The state of Vermont carries a French name, as does Lake Champlaign.

    The Pennsylvania Dutch are actually Deutsch, German immigrants that settled before the revolution.

    There huge numbers of descendants of Finnish and Swedish immigrants in the upper midwest.

    And let us not forget that Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Florida, (all Spanish names), were settled by, wait for it, THE SPANISH.

    Louisiana was once a French colony, taken over by Spain in payment of a debt and then sold to the U.S.

    Alaska was purchased from RUSSIA.

    Puerto Rico, Guam and the Mariannas Islands were taken from Spain, along with Cuba and the Phillipines after the Spanish American war, Cuba and the P.I. are now independant, but the rest are still part of the U.S.

    And then there is Hawaii.

    So we have Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Hawaiian, not to mention native languages spoken by the native inhabitants prior to European colonization.

    All of these languages, European and native, were spoken by native born people for generations BEFORE the U.S. existed or took over governance of those areas.

    To say this has always been an English speaking country is just plain wrong. No, it is not even wrong. It is ignorant of history. Something I do not expect to see here from the people I have come to expect posting here, which saddens me.

  • Lexington Green

    “To say this has always been an English speaking country is just plain wrong”

    That is a red herring.

    That is not what Kim said. He said:

    “We have a national language in the United States. It’s English, the language in which our Constitution, laws and public records are written. It’s also the spoken language used in the debating of those laws and records — you can’t speak Spanish in Congress and have it entered into the record, for instance — ”

    The public business of the country is conducted in English. The laws are written in English. The ceremonial public events, like singing the Anthem (a great song, btw, and singable if you exert yourself a little) are also in English. Criminal defendants get interpreters, and sometimes government offices provide interpreters. But generally speaking, i you want to participate fully in our public life as a citizen you need to learn English.

    This is a different question from whether other languages are in fact spoken here. I’m in Chicago as I type this. You can go in places here and speak Polish, Spanish, Punjabi, Bengali, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanes, Eritrean, Mexica, Ukrainian, Hungarian, German, Nigerian, Greek, Turkish, Romanian, Czech, Bulgarian, Vietnamese, Mongolian (really) you name it. Those are private businesses, private associations, churches, private homes. Speak whatever you want. No one cares.

    And of course, as a practical matter, to get along in the ordinary business of life here, you really are much, much better off if you learn English. And most people who come here try to do so. Or their children grow up speaking it. But you don’t have to learn it. No one will make you.

    Does America have a language of public business and public ceremony? Yes: English. Does America allow anyone to use any language they damn well please for pretty much anything else? Yes. Does America benefit enormously from having a single, mutually comprehensible English language which is used pretty much uniformly from sea to shining sea? A resounding yes.

    Are there benefits to be had from keeping all of the foregoing answers “yes”? Yes.

  • Millie Woods

    As a bilingual Quebecker who taught at French language post-secondary institutions in Montreal I am acquainted with a situation which those who do not use a language other than English regularly might not be aware of.
    English provides an information avalanche compared to all other languages and because there is so much knowledge input the rate of information growth just keeps expanding.
    Uni-lingual speakers of English have a tendency to think that all other languages are similar to English in terms of the learning resources they provide but this is not the case.
    I am not making value judgements about other languages but simply describing the situation which exists today.

  • guy herbert

    You’d have to be a determinedly patriotic American to sing the US anthem in any language, I’d have thought. It is very hard to sing.

  • choral

    Perhaps America should adpot ‘My country, ’tis of thee’ as the national anthem, then Brits could sing along with ‘God save the Queen’

  • Nick M

    There are still some people who think that the Americans haven’t yet mastered English let alone any other languages…

    That was an incredibly cheap shot. I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist. An especially cheap shot for a Brit who has a very handsome Websters as his standard reference dictionary.

    I think “Lexington Green” hits the nail on the head, pretty much.

    We have the same problem here. “Immigrants” are seen as having the right to continue speaking whatever language they came with. Quite why anyone would want to move to a country and have no intention of learning the lingo is beyond me.

    Anyway, these poor saps are positively encouraged (in the name of “diversity” by HM Gov to keep up their languages and not to speak English. This is ideal for gentlemen of a Mecca-ish persuasion because they can learn English-ish and go forth and drive taxis or run kebab shops while allowing them to control their womenfolk under a linguistic burkha.

    When the UK introduced a “theory element” to the driving test a few years ago it was widely reported that the real reason for this was to weed out people who couldn’t read road-signs. You can imagine my suprise when a couple of days ago I saw a copy of the Highway Code in Urdu in my local newsagents.

    If you can’t read English the UK (or the US) must be a baffling place to be. Certainly far too baffling to be driving a minicab.

    Perhaps that puts some of the cartoon protests in context. Perhaps these people had no way of understanding what was going on other than their Imam saying “Denmark had done a very bad thing”.

    BTW I’m not an English language fascist. When in Rome and all that. You should hear my school-boy French when south of the channel. It’s shocking, but meant well. It’s also backed up with the International Language of Gesture. And is therefore highly effective.

  • Let’s see:

    * Horribly failing colonial war killing Americans, engendering international hatred, and draining the Treasury? Check.

    * Massive expansion of social “welfare” schemes of every sort? Check.

    * Looming economic panic due to future entitlement obligations? Check.

    * Presidential administration who thinks, for all intents and purposes, that the President’s word is law? Check.

    * Massive expansion of surveillance powers, most of which are not reviewable by independent magistrates? Check.

    And we’re worried because someone’s singing the flag hymn in Spanish? Can we learn a little perspective?

    – Josh

  • tomWright,

    I saw the interview too and I was completely underwhelmed. My interpretation of Gillespie’s opening was that he was pointing out Iraq was still a mess after three years. He’s entirely right but it is not the best argument to use on Fox.

  • Larry Anderson

    As a Once rabid Reasonoid, It saddens me to see how far down the slope of stupid Reason, and Hit&Run in general have fallen with Gillespie at the helm. I still consider myself a small “l” libertarian in may ways, but the Reason crew and big “L” Libertarians are completely off the deep end with the open borders schtick. A country that can not control its borders is no country at all. Point this out, and you are accused of being racist, rather than simply concerned about the rule of law, and who or what might be sneaking into this country during a time of war.

  • Mike Lorrey

    The anthem issue is a shibboleth. The real thing the anthem/language debate is covering for is a proposal to require bilingual election ballots.

    Ignoring the fact that you have to speak english enough to pass a citizenship test, this measure has one sole purpose: massive vote fraud by illegal aliens. After all, if a voter checklist can’t communicate with a person demanding a ballot, how are they supposed to verify that they are or are not a legitimate voter?

    This is the end game in a campaign that the Ford Foundation has been undertaking for decades now, to create massive hispanic illegal immigration as a means of creating a new proletariat as the vanguard of a socialist revolution.

  • Mike Lorrey

    Oh, and Guy, the anthem isn’t hard to sing. Ask any US veteran to sing it for you. I doubt you could find one that doesn’t know the words by heart. The second biggest group of dedicated anthem singers, of course (maybe bigger), would be die-hard fans of certain American baseball teams (of course, if you ask them, the last two words are “Play Ball!!!”).

    TomWright: Actually, it has been english speaking since the beginning, when the Continental Congress debated the issue, arguing between English and German (since there were probably as many German speakers here at the time, if you count the Dutch as german). Congress decided on English, and so it has been ever since.

  • Gillespie has usually been relatively boorish. He thinks it’s cool, fashionable. He’s insisted on illegible tiny type in the print version of the magazine for the same reason, I guess. Affected snottiness.

    Postrel was always loose, humorous and approachable. Gillespie? Uptight, smarmy and defensive. Almost hostile.

    I let my print subscription lapse last year, after decades. Screw him.

  • i don’t feel any great urge to sing our god awful national anthem in any language. hell it’s damn near unsingable by normal human beings.

    If by “normal” you mean sober, I might agree. I find it much easier to sing liquored up, though.

  • i don’t feel any great urge to sing our god awful national anthem in any language. hell it’s damn near unsingable by normal human beings.

    If by “normal” you mean sober, I might agree. I find it much easier to sing liquored up, though.

  • Uain

    By the way, the vote for English at the Constitutional Convention passed by one vote over German. Sure the anthem is hard to sing, because the melody came from a very well known (at the time) song sung in taverns.
    Note that at that time, taverns were where the early Americans socialized and new immigrants aculturated. So it makes sense that some dirt bag who wants to loot the American economy to send much of his wages back south of the border, and saddle his neighbors with limitless demands for bi-lingualism and Hispano-centric history lessons for their kids, should at least learn to sing our natioanl anthem in it’s origional form. Otherwise, kindly get the hell out and make room for some one more worthy of being granted American citizenship.

  • Rick Gaber brings up an interesting point. Reason has become literally unreadable since the last format change. Odd, thin type font, medium colors with white print, dark colors with blak print, and that method of using several pages of right-hand margin to do sidebars. As I wrote to Reason’s mastheat members: “It may win you some design awards from artsy-tartsy types, but is not the purpose of the magazine to convey information and views to the reader?

    This partly color-blind ol’ bear let the subscription lapse the first renewal after that change.