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English First finishes second in Nashville

Friday, January 23, 2009

Voters in Nashville yesterday decisively defeated an "English First" special election measure that would have made the Tennessee city of 600,000 people the largest in the country to require all government business to be conducted only in English.

Bravo votantes por su pensamientos claros. La decisiĆ³n es correcta.

The vote was lopsided _ 57 percent against 43 percent for the English First proposal. Opponents said that the stigma of Nashville becoming a city of intolerance and that the proposal would violate federal civil rights regulations turned the tide against the "one country, one language" brigade.

How the South has become a crucible of changing demographics and cultural clashes bespeaks how the face of the country is changing.

Last November, Missouri voters adopted Constitutional Amendment 1 - which made English the official language for all government proceedings. It was a slam dunk - 86 percent voted for it. We're still waiting to for anyone to produce a problem that amendment solved but the rhetoric sounded patriotic.

Que lastima la ignorancia.

It takes my breath away that too many people are culturally myopic enough to believe that speaking a language other than English is un-American. High schools and colleges still require foreign-language classes for a reason yet it speaking another language in many places like St. Louis or Nashville can draw cold stares from some. Try it some time.

Knock, knock. People all over the world are able to speak more than one language - including English. English is fundamental for success in our country. No debate. The people who know that best are the ones with limited English proficiency.

Their lives are emblems of how important education and an ability to speak English are for them and their families to succeed. There is no anti-English conspiracy at work. Just the opposite.

But ballot measures to coerce English by denying the use of another language with people in transition while they learn English, our customs, laws and regulations are counterproductive.

Nashville spent nearly $300,000 on the special election, which excludes time spent and the dollars poured into both campaigns for ads, yard signs, brochures, etc.

What would that amount of money have meant had it been directed to the 10 percent of the non-English speaking people in Nashville for adult English courses and citizenship for the Hispanics, Kurds and Southeast Asians?

Immigrants themselves want to learn English more than the people who voted for English First measure.

Similar proposals in many other cities are a colossal waste of time and money. Their proponents would accomplish much more for their communities if they redirected that passion to helping immigrants to integrate into American life.

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