A recent story on click2houston.com (KPRC-TV) describes an executive order signed by Houston mayor Annise Parker, calling for the “translation of essential public information” into no less than five other languages besides English. While on its face the move seems like an admirable attempt at accessibility, I suspect the actual result will be the exact opposite.
The more things are translated into another language, the less incentive new residents have to learn English. Less incentive means fewer actually do, in turn meaning that trying to patronize a business in some parts of town becomes an exercise in frustration. And thus the problem I run into, where I walk into, say, a restaurant, and have a bunch of Spanish babbled into my face (apparently people think I’m Hispanic-looking enough; I self-identify as white, and I don’t know what I can do to make myself look more white and less Hispanic.
Maybe it’s just me slowly becoming a curmudgeon, but I consider it downright rude to start talking some other language based on such an assumption. It’s either that, or the waiter/waitress really does not know much English. I can’t tell the difference, and honestly I feel like if we have reached the point where it’s acceptable to try Spanish first, then we’re damn close to the point that those that fought for the independence of Texas and for the entirety of the current state of Texas to remain part of the United States did so in vain.
This isn’t a race issue. It’s the same for anyone who speaks a language besides English, which should be the official language of this country, being the language the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the laws, and the road signs are written in. It’s high time that “for English, press 1” and similar over-reaching attempts at accommodation of non-native languages go the way of the rotary dial telephone. The less information is available in other languages, the faster those who don’t know English get the message that they need to learn English to function in the United States. The faster they get the message, the better the result is for all of us.