When you visit the United Status of America, typically it is expected that you be able to speak some English. Because of the many languages used within the country, there are signs in different languages to help those who aren't familiar with the English language. There are even pockets of multi-language communities that help ease one's visit. But English is not the official language of the United States. There is no official language though English is the main language used for all government functioning.
And this is a very contested issue. Why? For a number of reasons. Mainly it is politics. If you line up the ones who are for English as the national language and those who are against, you see a rather strong stance based on party lines. Not the best reason for a standard to be set. There needs to be more logical and firm reasonings.
America was mainly settled by three different nations: England, Spain, and France. The Dutch also settled the area of New York City but didn't spread too much beyond that. Over time, England began to dominate the New World by conquering areas from Spain and France. After the American Revolution, the rest of what would be America was either the result of conflict or purchasing tracks of land like the Louisiana Purchase. Pockets of America kept their "native" languages whether it was Native American, Spanish, French, or Dutch. Some languages developed into unique ones like Cajun - a mix of French and English. As the original colonies were under British rule, English was the language the country was founded on and used in all legal and governmental actions. As the country expanded and absorbed other cultures, English was still the predominate and foundational language used.
The country was set in motion to use English as the official language, but with so many cultures under this protection, nothing was ever made official as on some local levels those other languages were used. Time went by. As the nation grew, so did the number of languages spoken within its borders and not just by visitors. Many from all over the world began to move into the United States. The desire to create a formal official language gained momentum and has become a very heated topic because of all those different languages used by those who call America home.
Pro - A Common Platform
Things run smoother when people are on a common platform. That is true across all cultures, all professions, and all organizations. Think about it. If ten people working together couldn't speak the same language, how much would they truly get done and get done well? Very little if anything at all. They need a common platform in the form of a common language in order to be success and productive.
In a country, an official language keeps all people vital to keeping the nation running on the same platform. All official documents are in one language so all people can access them. That makes it easier for the citizens to communicate. There is no need to have to know multiple languages. (Did I just segue into my con?)
Con - Disregard for Other Languages
By focusing on one official language, everything revolves around it. There is no need to learn any other language because the country functions under the one dominant one. Slowly, the country begins to turn within itself and have less and less in common with the rest of the world. The ability to communicate and connect with other cultures becomes harder. Diversity is nearly non-existent unless one goes into even more closed communities or interacts regularly with new immigrants.
Visitors from foreign countries will not find many who can communicate with them. Our own citizens will struggle when they travel around the world or enter professions that allow them to interact with other cultures. The world becomes narrow and confined.
Is That All?
As I was doing my research, all the pros and cons came down to these two simple arguments. Those who want English as the official language want to create a uniform foundation. Those who don't fear English will isolate other languages.
But the arguments are much deeper in this as it goes beyond these reasons listed above. It has become a personal battle for some, especially in the political arena. Many who demand that English become official want to push anyone who isn't fluid in the language out of the country. If you can't speak it, then go home. Well, that's at least how they view it. Most of those feelings come from the large number of immigrants who come into the country and refuse to learn the language. Maybe it is a source of pride for them. While their reasonings are wrong, their argument about a common platform for official business does make sense.
For those who argue against, they fear that other languages will be lost and those who aren't fluent in English will be isolated. They want those visiting to feel welcome and those moving here to not feel overwhelmed. It is concern for those people.
Is that all? It's something personal for many people. Other pros and cons can be listed, but in the end it all comes down to these two.
Could We Compromise?
I wonder if anyone has thought to compromise. What if we made it the official language for all business transactions and legal documents but continued with a multi-language culture? Signs located at public buildings could still be listed in multiple languages. Schools could still encourage a second or third language. Why can't we have both?
What is your opinion? Where do you stand on this and what solutions do you think our lawmakers should examine?