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English?

"Welcome to America. Now speak English"

I often wonder how the irony is lost on the legions posting this message on their Facebook pages and spouting it across conservative media outlets, mall t-shirt kiosks and the like. Shouldn't it be "Welcome to America. Now speak American"?

You'd think so, but so few of us actually speak American. The colonists came here 500 years ago and we still speak the language they got off the boat speaking. They decided they'd rather not learn American languages like Cherokee, Navajo or Iroquois. Generation after generation, we've simply gone on speaking English; an immigrant language.

Learning a new language was difficult for American colonists just as it is difficult for immigrants today. But modern immigrants do a much better job learning English than the first immigrants ever did learning "American". In fact, immigrant families of every description are far more likely to be bilingual than homegrown Americans are.

Of course we should encourage new Americans to speak English. It's common sense. We should also do a better job of learning other languages ourselves. The world keeps getting smaller and it will only make us stronger. But the idea that a large number of Americans speaking a language other than English will cause us to spin off the globe is absurd. Canada, India, Hong Kong, Israel, Cameroon, Switzerland, Belgium and The Philippines are just a few of the countries with more than one official language.

I'll leave it at Welcome to America ... or should I substitute a Cherokee word, "nowata", for "welcome" assuming the "Now Speak English" xenophobes already speak American?

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