qrcode

Friday, May 05, 2006

Immigration, Language, and Soccer

I have been trying to find an article supporting a news report that some Latino leader out in California (where else?) is advocating that Latino immigrants adopt a "no assimilation" and "no English" position. I caught "sound bites" in the news about this. The idea that English is white, which seems to have been claimed, is ridiculous on its face. English is spoken by Euros (Whites, I suppose) of every type (German, Irish, Spanish, Italian, etc.), African descended Americans of all sorts, Asians from numerous linguistic and national backgrounds, etc. A claim like this is a sure sign that someone is practicing demogogery, which is a nice way of saying the person is lying.

A Pakistani-American, Rob Asghar, has an op-ed piece in my local paper in which he notes that "Latino immigrants and white liberals correctly smell xenophobia in the breaths of a few Americans who recently criticized bilingualism" but goes on to say that "this should not distract us from the goal of championing English as a prerequisite for success in this nation." Mr. Asghar has correctly identified my position that the learning of English must be encouraged, but that we should not take the xenophobic step of making English the official US language. I must say though that something about this "no assimilation," "no English" movement, if indeed there is one, inspires even me to step back and assess my position. This is an unfortunate position for Latinos to take unless they wish to reap a pro-English whirlwind.

There is one thing about the behavior of Latino immigrants that irritates the hell out of me. I really don't much like seeing Mexican flags at World Cup qualifying matches in the United States being waved by Mexican-Americans, though I recognize that some of these flags are being waved by Mexicans who have flown up for the match. The situation is so bad for the US national team that it has held the home game between the US and Mexico in Columbus, Ohio (once in Feburary when it was bitterly cold) where there is much less danger that the pro-American fans will be outnumbered by the pro-Mexican fans. It is hard for the US to get genuine home games in the US. The same is true of games with Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, etc.

I understand why Mexican-Americans might do this. Many follow Mexican soccer on Spanish language cable/satellite stations and that will naturally inspire a certain loyalty to some of the players they watch. And soccer from other South of the border nations can be found on other stations. Given that Latinos are frequently treated as second class citizens by White Americans (especially when they aren't actually citizens) it would be surprising if they were not to take a certain delight in their former countrymen beating the Big Bad Americans at something even if it is just a game. Unfortunately, for them, the US team has drawn even with the Mexican team and even beat them in the quarterfinals of the last World Cup. So even that special pleasure is being increasingly denied them. Still, it pisses me off to see these flags at "home" matches.

I have long advocated that everyone in the US learn both English and Spanish. I makes sense at too many levels not to take this step. First, Whites, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and other Americans will find it easier to get certain types of jobs if they speak Spanish, especially if they live in the states that have large Latino populations. Right now, in Columbus where Mexican grocery stores are popping up like wildflower in a meadow (to my delight since I like to cook Mexican food), and I suspect that it would be very easy for a bilingual person to get a job with the Columbus police department or in the school system, or jobs in businesses where there will be contact with recent immigrants. This obligatory English/Spanish program gets rid of the xenophobic aspect of forcing Latinos to learn English since White kids and African-American kids and other American kids have to learn Spanish. It solves the problem of having to print official documents in both languages since everyone will know English. And it makes otiose an official English law.

Forcing people to do things is difficult. If we abandon bilingual education programs aimed toward Latino immigrant children to help these children along in school there is nothing to keep Latinos here from creating their own schools which are Spanish only. That would be a serious step backwards. We will do well to embrace immigrants rather than treat them as pariahs, as xenophobic Americans would have us do. We can't keep the "undocumented persons" (the most recent PC term I have seen) out of the country and if you can't beat them (by closing off the borders securely) you might as well embrace them. That would be the way to win friends and influence people (in this case, Latinos) to borrow a phrase.

Tweet This!

31 Comments:

Blogger Kelly said...

An anti-assimilation movement would scare the hell out of me. It is, as you note, an incredibly counter-productive move. The world as a whole should be moving toward one-world, one-language, especially in the increasingly-important global economy. It would be odd if English was spoken in every country in the world except the US.

I don't see a problem with using English as an official language. It's already de facto "official," let's make it official. Which is not to say that we should adopt something like Quebec's Office de la Langue Française to enforce the English language, but rather we should remove any question that English will be the language of the government and of all official documents (with translations perhaps provided for some criminal law documents to prevent Due Process violations).

Incidentally, it is Cinco de Mayo today. It angers me a bit that people in this country are celebrating a national holiday from another nation. It would be like celebrating Bastille day by French-Americans. It wouldn't bother me if they celebrated an ethnic or religious holiday (e.g. El Dia de los Muertos) but Cinco de Mayo is a national one. When you abandon your nation, abandon its holidays as well. It also angers me every time I look down the street and see a Mexican flag flying down at my neighbor's house, which is particularly perplexing when you see that his wife is white.

But as far as soccer matches go, I don't see a problem with being a fan of the Mexican team. If people move from Nebraska to Kansas, they don't cease to be Huskers fans and become Jayhawks fans, and when people move from Seattle to Pittsburgh they don't abandon the Seahawks for the Steelers.

1:24 PM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Life is change. Any attempt to retard or prevent change is doomed to ultimate failure.

We were born in a predominantly English speaking country, but there is no guarantee that we will die in one. Making English the official language of the United States government (by constitutional amendment, I assume) would be a decidedly ill-advised move in light of possible future developments and repercussions. The language of legalese is already far enough removed from the language of the people; why mandate an ever widening divide?

Insisting that the US must always be an English-speaking country is dwelling in the past and like walking backwards into the future. Better hold a cushion behind you to cover your ass!

2:24 PM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

I'm not sure I would do it by constitutional amendment. If it's done by statute, it could at least be changed more easily if it became clear that an alternative language (perhaps Spanish, perhaps some form of Chinese, or even perhaps Arabic) would be preferable.

But regardless, I would still do it.

2:51 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

kelly, I suspect you are conservative and, if I'm right, you will endorse the free market system. Why not apply it to language choices? If it is in the economic interests of Latinos to learn English they will; if not, they won't. I know of English speaking people who are learning Spanish because market forces are moving them in that direction.

I suspect that the Latinos who came here for economic reasons appreciate many other things about the US including better schools, less government corruption, including specifically less police corruption, greater economic opportunity, etc. As these things come to be appreciated they become defacto Americans of the US variety.

3:29 PM

 
Blogger Paul F. said...

I think the smart people who immigrate here or aspire to immigrate here eventually realize the importance of learning English because English is the language of business. In Europe, when two people of different nationalities come together, usually they resort to a conversation in English if they don't know each other's language. In the same way, I have realized the importance of learning Espanol. Maybe it isn't the language of business, but it is the language of the fastest growing sect of the population and it will help a person's career to speak spanish fluently. To say otherwise is to disregard the cold, hard truth of what is America today.

4:11 PM

 
Blogger Lesley said...

This idea that Mexicans living in the USA shouldn't support Mexico in soccer games is laughable. You remind me of Norman Tebbit, "in 1990 he proposed the "Cricket test", also known as the "Tebbit Test", where he suggested that people from ethnic minorities in Britain should not be considered truly British until they supported the England cricket team, as opposed to the country of their or their ancestors' birth." He was ridiculed for it at the time: and that was in Thatcherite Britain for goodness sake.

4:48 PM

 
Blogger J_G said...

Excerpts from a speech

Written by RICHARD D. LAMM,
former Colorado Governor from 1975 to 1987.
Saturday, 15 April 2006

Richard D. Lamm was a Democrat who served as governor of Colorado for twelve years from 1975 to 1987.

“This is a speech I gave in Washington D.C. It was a 5 minute speech, and I am amazed and gratified it has received so much coverage.”

I HAVE A SECRET PLAN TO DESTROY AMERICA. IF YOU BELIEVE, AS MANY DO, THAT AMERICA IS TOO SMUG, TOO WHITE BREAD, TOO SELF-SATISFIED, TOO RICH, LETS DESTROY AMERICA. IT IS NOT THAT HARD TO DO. HISTORY SHOWS THAT NATIONS ARE MORE FRAGILE THAN THEIR CITIZENS THINK. NO NATION IN HISTORY HAS SURVIVED THE RAVAGES OF TIME. ARNOLD TOYNBEE OBSERVED THAT ALL GREAT CIVILIZATIONS RISE AND THEY ALL FALL, AND THAT "AN AUTOPSY OF HISTORY WOULD SHOW THAT ALL GREAT NATIONS COMMIT SUICIDE." HERE IS MY PLAN:

I. WE MUST FIRST MAKE AMERICA A BILINGUAL-BICULTURAL COUNTRY. HISTORY SHOWS, IN MY OPINION, THAT NO NATION CAN SURVIVE THE TENSION, CONFLICT, AND ANTAGONISM OF TWO COMPETING LANGUAGES AND CULTURES. IT IS A BLESSING FOR AN INDIVIDUAL TO BE BILINGUAL; IT IS A CURSE FOR A SOCIETY TO BE BILINGUAL. ONE SCHOLAR, SEYMOUR MARTIN LIPSET, PUT IT THIS WAY:
THE HISTORIES OF BILINGUAL AND BICULTURAL SOCIETIES THAT DO NOT ASSIMILATE ARE HISTORIES OF TURMOIL, TENSION, AND TRAGEDY. CANADA, BELGIUM, MALAYSIA, LEBANON-ALL FACE CRISES OF NATIONAL EXISTENCE IN WHICH MINORITIES PRESS FOR AUTONOMY, IF NOT INDEPENDENCE. PAKISTAN AND CYPRUS HAVE DIVIDED. NIGERIA SUPPRESSED AN ETHNIC REBELLION. FRANCE FACES DIFFICULTIES WITH ITS BASQUES, BRETONS, AND CORSICANS.


VII THEN I WOULD PLACE ALL THESE SUBJECTS OFF LIMITS - MAKE IT TABOO TO TALK ABOUT. I WOULD FIND A WORD SIMILAR TO "HERETIC" IN THE 16TH CENTURY - THAT STOPPED DISCUSSION AND PARALYZED THINKING. WORDS LIKE "RACIST", "XENOPHOBE" THAT HALTS ARGUMENT AND CONVERSATION.


VIII. LASTLY, I WOULD CENSOR ***VICTOR HANSON DAVIS'S BOOK MEXIFORNIA — THIS BOOK IS DANGEROUS — IT EXPOSES MY PLAN TO DESTROY AMERICA. SO PLEASE, PLEASE — IF YOU FEEL THAT AMERICA DESERVES TO BE DESTROYED — PLEASE, PLEASE — DON'T BUY THIS BOOK! THIS GUY IS ON TO MY PLAN.
"THE SMART WAY TO KEEP PEOPLE PASSIVE AND OBEDIENT IS TO STRICTLY LIMIT THE SPECTRUM OF ACCEPTABLE OPINION, BUT ALLOW VERY LIVELY DEBATE WITHIN THAT SPECTRUM." — NOAM CHOMSKY, AMERICAN LINGUIST AND US MEDIA AND FOREIGN POLICY CRITIC.

The full text
Former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm on Multiculturalism

8:54 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

Actually, history shows that many bilingual countries have flourished. Your author, JG, simply hasn't done his research. Belgium is one and, when I did a study of trends there, it turns out that a very popular Fench language TV station in Luxembourgh was causing a pro-French trend among the Dutch speakers. There was violence once.

Canada seems to work pretty well. There have been ups and downs. Spain has two quite distinct Spanish languages, Catalan in the Barcelona region and Spanish proper in the rest of the country, not counting the Basque country. The Basques are a special case. A third country would, of course, be very peaceful Switzerland which has German, High and Low, French, and Romanch. India seems to be working pretty well and it is multilingual. It has both English and Hindhi to bridge lingusitic gaps. China seems to be holding together pretty well and it has at least 5 different languages but, forntuantely, one writing system. It helps to be informed before sounding off.

7:29 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

lesley, I fully get it that I am being overfussy about Mexican-Americans rooting for Mexico. I noted that it was perfectly understandable. My objection has no political subbstance -- it is a pure sports thing. I also object when proferssors at Ohio State root for the undergraduate schools against Ohio State when they pley and for Ohio State otherwise. So I am completely consistent even if selectively insane.

7:31 AM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

I'VE DONE IT: proved that it's possible to yawn and laugh your ass off at the same time!

LG, what do you think, should monolingualism be considered a physical or mental disability?

7:57 AM

 
Blogger SusieQ said...

Kelly, you said, "Incidentally, it is Cinco de Mayo today. It angers me a bit that people in this country are celebrating a national holiday from another nation. It would be like celebrating Bastille day by French-Americans."

As a matter of fact, Polish Americans across the U.S. celebrated Constitution Day on May 3 this year with parades and so on. Constitution Day is a National holiday in Poland. So, it isn't only Mexicans who do this. I see nothing wrong with this as long as the holiday celebrated is not in opposition to the U.S. in any way.

10:23 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

SusieQ:
I was completely unaware of that Polish holiday, even having read a book written by Japanese anthropologists who studied a small, mostly Polish town in the US. I still don't agree with it. These kinds of holidays celebrate things of national importance, not of any significance when you move to another nation. I don't know, maybe this is a pointless disagreement, but I stand by it.

LG:
You're right, I do support a free market system, to an extent (some things, like the arts, deserve government support regardless of their popularity). But as I noted in one of your ealier threads, I am a bit on the authoritative side of the scale. And I also think that having one language is a very high ideal that, hopefully someday, will be realized--not only throughout the US but throughout the world.

12:53 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

j_g, you said you were going away. It seems that you have decided to return. Rather than write your own blog, you have decided to write your blogs here. I will never again comment on one of your comments for all it does is invite rants. We are trying to have a little fun here. You want to take scalps.

3:59 PM

 
Blogger L>T said...

Fun. Did someone mention fun?

LG, I'm still trying to figure out what considered is fun on this blog.

11:27 PM

 
Blogger L>T said...

Esta lista?...

"Quiero comprarle un vestido. Pruebelo." :)

"Parece un poco apretado?"

"Bueno! Se lo compro." :P

12:33 AM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

This is probably of no interest, but log it under "Notes on the Subjective Editing of Reality".

In my browser of choice (OmniWeb) I keep one window open with active tabs for the blogs I visit most often: Language Guy, World of L. Tart, No-Sword, Full Metal Attorney, Now for Something Different, etc. The last there is of course J_G's blog and I just checked it to see if she had posted since the latest tiff here.

She had. And specifically about this comment thread. Her description of events is consistent with what we can see here up to LG's immediate response to her quoting of Lamm. But then things get interesting:

I wrote back and demonstrated how wrong the author of the blog was point by point and backed up every one of my points with hard evidence. Later I checked the blog to see what comments were made and I was told by the author of the blog that I was on a rant and that he won’t respond to anymore of my comments. I later received an email from him saying I was no longer welcome there. I emailed him back and told him that he was as wrong as wrong could be....

???

I'm sorry, but I see no evidence that any such response was ever made. Specific mention of email is not made until later so I am assuming she means she responded in a comment. But it is my understanding of Blogger mechanics that whenever a commenter or blog administrator deletes a comment a message to that effect invariably appears in the comment thread; we see no such notification above.

LG, I understand if it's not worth taking the time to clarify, but was her "point-by-point...with hard evidence" response also made by email? (I only ask because I'm wondering if she has finally gone completely loca.)

6:14 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

Thinking is fun, L>T. Arguing back and forth is fun. Quoting the Governor of Colorado is a bullshit argument from authority, and in this case a dubious one. Yelling -- in the form of all caps -- is not fun. I deleted J_G's last post because it too yelled and ended with a very vulgar insult directed at me -- somthing about pulling the thinking part of my brain out of the smelly part of my body. I deleted it without copying it so I can't give a word for word.

Idabairon, her response that I "am as wrong as wrong can be" should tell you something. I will have nothing further to do with her including commenting on your interactions with her. As L>T pointed out some time ago, I put up with a lot of crap. Actually I don't think I really do get that much crap but J_G has crossed the line. Please, no more about her.

9:44 AM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

LG, fair enough. I was just confused by there not being a trace of the deletion. (Since I run WordPress off my own site, I really don't know that much about Blogger and thought all deletes were automatically noted.)

And for the record, there are no "interactions with her", our little "spring of rapprochement" having ended a while back on L>T's blog. You got anatomically improbable contortions? I'm a flea-bitten missing link what does tricks. Wanna team up and start a carny sideshow? : )

10:17 AM

 
Blogger L>T said...

You are right, Yelling is not fun.
It seems strange that a person who finds them self at odds so often w/the Blog author keeps coming back for more.

That's all I'll say on the subject.

On another note, the spanish i used in the comment section came from a book called 'Spanish for The housewife' written in 1973.(for reference it's about how to talk to your Mexican maid, gardener, etc...)
In the introduction the author points out that the spanish spoken along the border is very different the spanish learned in school by Americans.
He says that one who depends solely upon literary Spanish can scarcely converse w/mexicans of Mexico & areas of the U.S. because of slang expressions & localisms which have made this Spanish almost a seperate language.
He says the manner of talking which has grown up along the Mexican border might be called "Tex-Mex" many of the words are half-Anglicized and are fixed in the daily language of border people & since many Mexicans speak both languages they have taken many U.S. words & "espanolized" them.
Also, many of the words they use have been made without any thot of spanish foundation, but for the purpose of realistic description.

My question is; What impact, if any would this "Tex-Mex" lingo have on Americans learning spanish? (I'm stuggling to find the right words) I mean is it a factor that should be considered when teaching Spanish to Americans that want to converse with Mexicans? Or justlearn the language?

12:44 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

L>T, you have touched on several interesting topics. In fact, academic Spanish in the US has historically been Castilian Spanish, the Spanish spoken in Madrid, among many other places. In the Barcelona area, a very different kind os Spanish is spoken, called Cattalan. Our first night in Barcelona, my wife, and two friends went to a place selling truites to eat. We had no clue what these were though one of us knew it referred to trout in French. We knew it wasn't that though as it turns out the word can refer to trout in Cattalan. These were omelets, the classic being a potato omelet. This sort of omelet is called a tortilla in Madrid and we know that's not what tortilla refers to in Mexico. In addition to differences within Spain and differences between Spain and the New World, not all Spanishes in the New World are the same. The Spanish program I used in an abortive effort to learn some Spanish focused on New World Spanish and I hope our schools do as well.

The Tex-Mex lingo is what is called a pidgin, a very simple language used by adults to communicate with each other when they do not share real languages. Children could learn these as well, of course. I suspect that any kid learning English or Spanish in an area where Tex-Mex is spoken wouldn't be much affected.

Pidgins are often made fun of in old movies, especially Chinese pidgin English but they are remarkable in their own right for they show the creativity of people to find a way to communicate, however simple it may be in form and limited in vocabulary, when they don't share a language.

When you add local slang to the equation, Brits and Americans can struggle with each other. When I taught over there I was astonished at how varied were the terms for referring to ordinary things. My favorite bit of English slang was "hole in the wall." Can you guess what that was?

4:17 PM

 
Blogger L>T said...

I'm guessing Door or window???

You could say, a pidgin language is like a bridge that connects two real languages so peole can communicate with each other.
That really is interesting. :)

That makes me wonder if two different 'real'languages can evolve into One 'real' language.

6:45 PM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Isn't a "hole in a wall" a pub?

(Is that British? I use it...but then I'm a raving Anglophile...never mind!)

7:36 PM

 
Blogger L>T said...

Sorry, but once i get on a subject i can dog it.
My big dictionary has a Indo-European language tree.
It doen't really give the immpresion that languages evolve into each other but split off into language sects.

11:01 AM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

[Can] two different 'real' languages ... evolve into One 'real' language[?]

I seem to remember LG mentioning elsewhere the theory that when children are exposed to a pidgin, they recast it into a real (but somewhat grammatically limited) language which is called a creole. One (not well supported) theory on the origin of Japanese is that it began as a creole arising from contact between speakers of Austronesian and Altaic languages. Whether that fits your definition of "evolve" or not is another question....

As for language family trees...as groups of speakers grew larger, split and moved farther away from one another (or entered environments such as mountainous areas) they intermingled less and their languages gradually developed in different ways. That's not the whole story, of course, because languages can affect and be affected by originally unrelated languages in physically adjacent areas. The parallels with physical evolution are fairly amazing and interesting.

(Would waffle on more, but I really do have to head up the road!)

11:54 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

Ibad, in answer to your question about deletions of comments leaving evidence, the owner of a blog can delete a comment and remove all trace of it (or leave evidence if (s)he wishes) while a comment author can only delete it, leaving the evidence.

12:31 PM

 
Anonymous pf said...

I can speak Spanglish. Can't you?

2:38 PM

 
Anonymous pf said...

I think J_G was fun! Her comments almost always piss me off...

2:40 PM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Kelly, muchas gracias por la información! ; )

(Hey, where do I put the upside-down exclamation point in that? Before "muchas"? Before "Kelly"? Is it unneeded?)

BTW, something happened yesterday afternoon that made me think of you: a friend & colleague from Texas/Arkansas stopped by my office during lunch and during the conversation said something like, "Yeah, somebody sent me a Cinco de Mayo greeting...what the heck is that?" Because of your first comment in this thread, I was able to tell him.

Thanks x 2!

11:25 PM

 
Blogger L>T said...

thanks Ron. I see that language moves with people.

The idea makes what we've got going on in the u.s. with this English/spanish thing rather interesting.

I say, let the chips fall where they may.

11:29 PM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Widespread literacy and availability of material in written form have probably already slowed the natural rate of diversification (speculation on my part) at the same time the mass media and increased mobility are increasing standardization and eroding differences. Barring a monumental screw-up on our part (political and/or economic chaos) or devastating worldwide natural event (large meteor impact, AIDS or ebola taking wing), the one world language Kelly has mentioned will probably eventually emerge. Our beloved English (or French or Spanish, whatever) as an independent language is fated to go the same way as Latin.

But it will live on in a sense in the same way that Latin lives in English today. And all the great literature will still be there available in the original for those interested in taking the time to learn to read it, just as some read Beowulf or Cicero or Plato. The language of daily life will continue to change slowly but will probably not see fragmentation like that of the past until the next great diaspora when, if we manage to survive, we will spread our seed among the stars.

Hopefully by the time we have reached sociolinguistic maturity as a species, we will also have outgrown and abandoned these arbitrary divisions of the surface of our planet that we see as so important but which our descendants will probably view with derision.

Panta rhei, kai ouden menei. Everything flows and nothing stands still.

9:24 AM

 
Blogger Dominick Lutjens said...

Hi, I´d like to introduce you to my blog. Pop up as often as you feel like.

Study Spanish Barcelona

1:43 PM

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home