I think it is safe to say that each of us has met someone who says things that are completely ignorant. I know I have.
You know those people who act like they know about something, but actually they don’t know anything about the subject?
Yeah, those people.
It seems like no place is immune to these sorts of comments, conversations and moments when you just look at someone and think, “Did you really just say that?”
I had one of those moments a while ago. I have heard this certain phrase plenty of times, and it makes me cringe every time I hear it.
The statement I am referring to can be said in different ways, but the gist of it was “This is America; we speak English!”
Regardless of the fact that this statement is extremely rude — perhaps the reason I don’t hear it in person — it is nowhere near any kind of correctness politically, factually, etc.
Let’s start with the facts.
First, this is the United States of America; using just “America” is much too broad of a statement and can include countries in North and South America, most of which have a national language other than English.
Next, not everyone in the United States speaks English.
Would you like to know why?
According to usconstitution.net, “many assume that English is the country’s official language. But despite efforts over the years, the United States has no official language.”
You read that right: the U.S. has no official language.
Yes, the majority of U.S. inhabitants speak English, but there has never been any federal law declaring English as the official language.
There have been many bills drafted in attempts to make English the national language, but none have passed.
The third factual error is the assumption that the Americans invented the English language.
The settlers used the English language because they came from … wait for it … England.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary even defines the word “English” as “of or relating to England or its people.” Even the second definition referring to the language says it is only the “chief language” of the U.S.
However, just because it is the primary language does not mean it is the official language. It doesn’t even mean everyone should speak it.
According to a 2011 U.S. Census, more than 13.5 million people 5 years old or older either spoke English “not well” or “not at all.”
As of July 2015, only California, Florida, Texas and New York had populations greater than 13.5 million people.
It does not make any sense to declare English the national language if that much of the population doesn’t understand it.
Now, I am not being oblivious to how many people in this country do speak English.
If someone moves to a country and the population predominantly speaks a different language, it is definitely smart to try to learn that language.
I am not bashing learning a new language, because the applications are very practical.
What I am doing is clarifying the fact that it is not a necessity to learn English in order to live in the U.S. and bringing to light the blatant disregard for a sizable part of the population when statements like this are made without a second thought.