The lobbying of the u.s english movement since 1983: a campaign via the media in quest of national unity
par Victoria Riposseau
Université de Nantes - Maitrise IRT Anglais 2010
THE LOBBYING OF THE U.S ENGLISH MOVEMENT SINCE
MEMOIRE DE RECHERCHE DE MASTER 1
DIRECTEUR DE RECHERCHE: MONSIEUR XAVIER LEMOINE MEMBRE DU JURY: MADAME FRANÇOISE LEJEUNE
THE LOBBYING OF THE U.S ENGLISH MOVEMENT SINCE
MEMOIRE DE RECHERCHE DE MASTER 1
DIRECTEUR DE RECHERCHE: MONSIEUR XAVIER LEMOINE MEMBRE DU JURY: MADAME FRANÇOISE LEJEUNE
This research paper would not have been possible without the cooperation of U.S ENGLISH and more particularly Rob Toonkel, Director of Communications, who searched the registers of the organization for me.
It is an honor for me to thank particularly James Crawford, former executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education and author of several books on bilingualism and language policy in the United States.
I would like to thank, Xavier Lemoine, who supervised this research.
I sincerely thank my teachers, Anne Marie Thiec, Paul Lees and Sylvie Nail, for their support and the different seminaries they gave on Nationalism and National identity in the English-speaking world.
I also offer my regards and blessings to my friends, parents, and colleagues who supported me in every way during the completion of the project.
Last but not least, I would like to show my gratitude to Catherine and Philip Hymas for their help and support in the preparation of this research paper.
PART I U.S ENGLISH AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE NATION OF AN ENGLISH
LANGUAGE AMENDMENT 4
PART II DECODING THE MESSAGE SENT BY U.S ENGLISH 47
PART III TOWARDS A NEW CONCEPT OF AMERICAN IDENTITY 80
DETAILED OUTLINE 178
The English language had 1.5 billion speakers in 2000, which makes it the most widely spoken language in the world1. In the United States, there is great linguistic and cultural diversity as for more than two centuries, immigrants came from all over the world to settle there, bringing with them their own culture, values and language. But during the 1960s, there was a shift in the national origin of immigrants to the United States. In the 1960s, contrary to the first two waves of immigration, immigrants who came to settle in America were mainly from Asia and Latin America. Under the influence of the Civil Rights movements of the early 1960s, not only Black people, but also ethnic minorities felt the need to assert their identity and protect their culture. This ethnic revival coupled with the new wave of immigration created fears of linguistic and cultural division in the nation. Those fears gave rise to various new organizations and movements who struggled to protect the foundations of the American nation.
One of those organizations is U.S ENGLISH. It was created in 1983 by the educator and linguist Samuel I Hayakawa in collaboration with the ophthalmologist Dr. John Tanton. Nowadays, U.S ENGLISH is the largest and oldest organization that has been actively fighting to protect the status and role of the English language in the American nation. Since the 1980s, U.S ENGLISH has been trying to pass an amendment to the U.S Constitution aiming at declaring English the official language of the United States. Indeed, since the American nation came into being with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, no political action has ever been undertaken to declare English the official language of the United States. It was only in 1981 when the then Senator of California, S.I Hayakawa, introduced the amendment to the U.S Congress that the question was raised. This proposal marked the beginning of a movement called Official English? and since the 1980s, other organizations like Pro-English? or English-First? have been created with a view to declaring English the official language of the United States. U.S ENGLISH was the starting point of a debate that has lasted for more than twenty years and that is still ongoing, concerning the role of an official language and the way in which foreign language speakers should be taught in schools. Considering U.S ENGLISH has been advocating the enactment of an official language for the United States mainly through the media, our task will therefore be to focus on the different documents published by the movement since the early 1980s.
This research project is based on Benedict Andersen's definition of the nation. Indeed, B. Anderson, Professor of International Studies known for his work on nationalism, identified the nation as an imagined political community? so that the fellow members of even the smallest
1 CRYSTAL, David. English as a global language?, 2nd ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Web. 1 March 2010. p.10.
nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion?2. Language is central to the national culture and political organizations of a nation and that is why individuals usually tend to define themselves as being of a certain nationality, because of the language they speak. The role of language in the creation and maintenance of nations will be examined in the light of the works of Ernest Gellner, Joseph Stalin, Hans Kohn, Michael Billig as well as Anthony D. Smith and other commentators on nationalism and national identity. Through the analysis of the promotional material of U.S ENGLISH, our concern will be to determine to what extent this movement re-imagines the American nation.
The English language is spoken by a quarter of the world's population and we may wonder why some consider that it is threatened in the United States. References to different subjects such as sociology, linguistics, politics, history, and anthropology are required in order to measure and interpret the full implications of the proposal for official language legislation for the United States. This would raise several questions about citizenship and naturalization, the impact of immigration on the nation, the way the nation should integrate immigrants and their culture, the role of school in the identity-forming process, the aim of bilingual education, but first and foremost the importance of a common language to create and maintain unity in a vast nation like the United States.
In an attempt to determine to what extent U.S ENGLISH has been re-imagining the American nation through the media, this research paper will be based on selected documents such as speeches and advertisements, published by U.S ENGLISH. In this analysis of U.S ENGLISH, our task will be first to analyze and explain the status of English in the United States and the implications of an English language amendment for the nation. The relation between language, culture, and identity will be explained with regard to different definitions of the nation. An attempt will be made at answering questions such as: Why is official language legislation needed in the nation? What is the importance of language ability in defining one's identity? How did the different laws concerning ethnic minorities affect U.S ENGLISH's views and their rhetoric? We will see why the views promoted by U.S ENGLISH have been more popular at State than at Federal level.
In the second part, our focus will be on the different communication strategies that U.S ENGLISH has been using to promote their cause and gain members since the 1980s. Through the study of the role of the media in society, an attempt will be made to decode the message sent by U.S ENGLISH. We will also question the pro-immigration image projected by the movement with regard to their response to the high rates of immigration from Latin America. Throughout this analysis, we will try to determine what lies beneath the surface of this lobbying organization: Does
2 ANDERSON, Benedict. Imagined Communities, revised edition, London and New York: Verso, 2006 . Print. p.6.
U.S ENGLISH aim at social control or social integration?
Finally, in the light of our analysis of the views of U.S ENGLISH, our intention will be to explore the different concepts of the American nation. We will determine how U.S ENGLISH has been redefining American identity and the impact this redefinition has on public opinion and American society in general. In conclusion, we will observe what the support for this movement tells us about American identity.
1. The Status of English in the United States
Since 1983, the ultimate aim of U.S ENGLISH has been to pass official language legislation for the American nation. In this part, we will consider the status of English in the United States as described by anthropologists or commentators on nationalism and as presented by the organization itself. Then, our task will be to depict the circumstances that gave rise to this movement in the 1980s. Finally, this analysis will focus on the evolution of their views since the creation of the movement before questioning the unifying role of language.
It may be surprising at first to discover that there is no official language legislation in the United States: a survey showed that as late as 1987, two thirds of respondents to a national survey assumed that the Constitution already designated English as the official language of the United States3. In a 1985 monograph in support for his English Language Amendment, S.I Hayakawa, founder and Chairman of the movement at that time, wrote:
For the first time in our history, our nation is faced with the possibility of the kind of linguistic division that has torn apart Canada in recent years; that has been a major feature of the unhappy history of Belgium, split into speakers of French and Flemish; that is at this very moment a bloody division between the Sinhalese and Tamil populations of Sri Lanka (Annex IV, l.386- 391).
In this monograph, S.I Hayakawa considered that in the 1980s, it was the first time that the nation faced the possibility of a linguistic division. It is relevant to question this affirmation in the light of U.S history. First, there has always been a huge linguistic diversity in the United States as linguists estimated that 1.500 native languages existed in America when Europeans arrived on America's shores?4. The gradual elimination of native languages was mainly due to the Civilization Act of 1819, which imposed obligations for the education of Native Americans leading to the death of their language and culture. Furthermore, the very first settlers to what was going to become the United States were Spanish, French, German, Dutch or English speaking people. The linguist and anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath noted that it is quite obvious that this nation was born multilingual and multicultural, despite the indisputable fact that English became accepted as a
3 CRAWFORD, James, ed. Language Loyalties: A source Book on the Official English Controversy, The Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Print. p. 1.
4 SCOTT, Ellis Ferrin. Reasserting Language Rights of Native American students in the face of Proposition 227 and other Language-based referendum?, J.L& EDUC., DEL VALLE, Sandra, Language rights and the law in the United States: Finding your voices, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd, 1999. Web. 4 April 2010. p. 286.
lingua franca?5. This statement emphasizes the multilingual aspect of the American society even though English is the de facto national language. Considering the historical presence of multiple languages in the American nation, it is very unlikely that only in the 1980s would the possibility of a linguistic division be envisioned for the first time.
In fact, the linguistic diversity of the American nation has already been problematic in the past. In the early 1900s, fears that the new immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe were resisting assimilation gave rise to an Americanization? movement. It consisted in educational programs to replace immigrants' languages and cultures with those of the United States as quickly as possible. In 1906, Congress enacted a legislation which made acquisition of U.S Citizenship for the first time based on the ability to speak English. When the United States entered the First World War in 1917, anti-German feelings emerged and thirty four states passed legislation to declare English the sole language of instruction in all public and private schools. In a speech at Des Moines, Iowa, in 1918 Theodore Roosevelt said that this is a nation - not a polyglot boarding house. There is not room in this country for any 50-50 American, nor can there be but one loyalty- to the Stars and Stripes6?. For the first time in U.S history, the link was made between language ability and political loyalties. The English language became a unifying symbol. This form of opposition to immigration, also called nativism was based on fears that the immigrants will distort or spoil the existing American cultural values. The historian John Higham noted that Anglo-Saxon nativism emerged as a way of explaining why incendiary immigrants threatened the stability of the republic7?. Worrying about the presence of immigrants in the American nation, Theodore Roosevelt called for monolingualism in a letter written in 1919 just after the Armistice: We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people as Americans ... No more hyphenated Americans8?. The First World War and the presence of Germans on the American soil reinforced the belief in the relationship between language and loyalty to the nation. In this letter, Th. Roosevelt expressed his anger towards the non-English speaking people in the nation because in the war context, he considered that speaking English was a proof of one's commitment to the American nation. The idea of the crucible? will be explained when accounting for U.S ENGLISH views on the melting-pot in the third part of this analysis.
This analysis of U.S history shows that what S.I Hayakawa affirmed in his monograph is the
5 CRAWFORD, James. Op.Cit. p. 18. A lingua franca is a medium of communication between peoples of different languages.
6 HIGGINS, John. Sole Loyalty: Theodore Roosevelt's words regarding the assimilation of immigrants into American culture?, Feb. 2008, Mail. Web. 4 March 2010, The Washington Post, "Use Only English, Roosevelt Urges", 28 May 1918. p.2.
7 HIGHAM, John. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860-1925, 2nd edition, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2002. Google Book Search. Web. 5 May 2010. p. 138.
8 DICKER, Susan. J. Languages in America: a pluralist view, 2nd ed. Clevedon (UK): Multilingual Matters Ltd, 2003. Google Book Search. Web. 20 February 2010. p. 26.
result of historical inaccuracy. As we have seen the United States has never been monolingual and there has always been linguistic and cultural diversity in the American nation. It was in the 1900s, under the impulse of a nativist vision of American national identity, that the nation truly faced its first linguistic division. The Americanization? programs elaborated at that time were the first attempt to counter the linguistic diversity of the nation. It was in the 1900s that language turned out to be a symbol of commitment and loyalty to the nation.
In his monograph S.I Hayakawa suggested that as the result of a voluntary neglect by the Founding Fathers there was no official language legislation in the United States. He said that the Amendment he proposed intended «to correct this omission» (Annex IV, l.301). We will see whether what Hayakawa presented as a fact is perfectly true. There is an ambiguity around this question because no decision was taken to declare a national language when the nation came into being. In order to account for the reasons of this ambiguity, we have to explain the origins of the nation. The American nation was first imagined or invented as a political community. The sociologist, Anthony D. Smith defined a nation as a named human population sharing an historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members9?. According to Smith, there are two types of nations: the civic or territorial? nation and the ethnic? nation. The ethnic type is a community of birth and native culture? (Smith 11). It is associated with the Germans and linked to ethnic identity and thus to the language and the culture of the given ethnic group. In this conception of the nation, there is no room for multiethnic or multilingual states. Although it has a native population, the American nation is not an ethnic nation. This is due to the fact that Americans do not share a common descent as it is an old colonial territory. As a matter of fact it is meaningful to note that America being not an ethnic nation, it is very likely that the presence of different languages in the nation would not be incompatible with the nature of the nation itself.
If America is not an ethnic nation, it has to be a civic nation. Smith defined the civic type of nation on the basis of historic territory, legal political community, legal-political equality of members and common civic culture and ideology? (Smith 11). This type of nation was designed on the French model of nation and shaped by the democratic state that guarantees freedom and equality for all under the Constitution. It consists in the precedence of the state on the nation in order to create a common cultural identity. It requires the suppression of ethnic group identity in order to make room for a universal individualism, regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, or nationality. In the civic type of nation, it is the culture of the political institutions that allow the bidding of all nationals together. The American nation is not an ethnic type of nation because the requirements to
9 SMITH, Anthony. D. National Identity, Reno and Las Vegas: University of Nevada Press, 1991, 227pages. Print. p.14.
become a national are not based on blood criterion but rather on commitment. In America, nationals are citizens, so that they are all equally protected by the State because of the allegiance they owe to it. The United States being a legal and political community, newcomers can become nationals. A civic nation seeks to bring together and integrate into new political community often disparate ethnic populations and to create a new 'territorial nation' out of the old colonial state? (Smith 82). In the light of that definition, the USA, often referred to as a land of immigrants? mainly because of its historic settlement and its power of assimilation, is a multiethnic nation where ethnic differences have been relegated to the background to allow the democratic state to emerge. The universality of the American state made the gathering of individuals in a broad and comprehensive manner possible, allowing the American nation to be both a political and multicultural state. Further on in this analysis, we will examine whether or not a common language is required to achieve national unity in this particular type of nation as U.S ENGLISH has been pretending since the early 1980s.
In view of the fact that the United States is a civic nation, it is relevant to study the language of the texts around which it was invented. Our task will be to measure the importance of the English language when the nation came into being in order to demonstrate whether English is the historical language of the land as U.S ENGLISH has been pretending in their fund raising brochure. At the end of the 18th century, the Declaration of Independence marked the political independence of the thirteen colonies from the British Empire and set symbolic promises of liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness for each individual. On the 4th of July 1776, what is today known as the United States was not under colonial rule anymore and this left the door open for the creation of a union between the different states which was ratified with the Article of Confederation on March 1781. It is relevant to note that the Articles of Confederation were published in English, German and French because the Continental Congress explicitly recognized the linguistic and cultural pluralism within the new American realm and the need to communicate with linguistically different populations in the languages they understood?10. The choice of those three languages was linked to the history of settlement to the land and to the colonial history of the nation. In fact, the French colonized a large part of North America between 1534 and 1763, the British established several colonies on the east coast since 1600s and the German settled by thousands primarily in New York and Pennsylvania around the 1680s. The transcription of this founding text in those three languages was necessary for the union of those states to be possible and effective.
But it is with the adoption of the Constitution on September 17th, 1787 that the newly independent states officially formed a single nation. The Constitution started as follows: We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure
10 PEREA, Juan. F. Demography and Distrust: An Essay on American Languages, Cultural Pluralism, and Official English?, 77 MINN L Rev 269, 1992, Washington College of Law, April 1996 , Web, 5 March 2010. p. 286.
domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America?11. The Constitution established the foundations of the national political project: it defined the relationship between the federal government, the different states and the people of the United States of America. It is important to note that the country is a union of fifty independent States governed by a Federal state as defined by the Constitution.
For practical reasons, the Constitution was written in the English language. But that founding text did not specify any official language for the nation. The English language was regarded as a practical instrument, not as a symbolic unifier otherwise the Constitution would have defined an official language for the nation. At that time, we can consider that language was not regarded as symbol of the nation because of the political nature of the union. In this light, it can be said that when the Founding Fathers first imagined the nation, English was regarded as a practical instrument rather than a symbolic unifier. Since the United States are a civic nation, the framers of the Constitution believed that democracy should leave language choices up to individuals12: the emphasis was on political liberty, not on cultural homogeneity. Foreigners were free to join and become nationals as long as they accepted to become citizens, that is to say to show some commitment and loyalty to the nation. The newly formed nation needed immigration because of the westward expansion between 1789 and 1849. The territorial expansion of the United States was due to the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the Oregon treaty with Great Britain of 1846, and the Mexican Cession of 1848. The United States having become a vast territory, the framers of the Constitution recognized and to a certain extent even promoted the plural nature of American society. Individual rights and liberty is at the heart of the American project and in a way language was one of the choices individuals could make. As Professor Lejeune explained, in Myth and Symbols of the American Nation?, the Founding Fathers imagined the waves of immigrants would adhere to the principles of the American Republic and political ideals of 'unalienable rights'13?. What is important to note is the belief the Founding Fathers had in the unifying power of the principles and values of the American nation. They considered that the incorporation of newcomers was made possible because of the rights and duties defined under the Constitution.
In the light of our analysis of the U.S history, it turns out that this was not an omission? but a deliberate choice on the part of the Founding Fathers when they decided not to declare an official
11 TINDALL, George. B and David E. SHI. America: A narrative History, 6th ed, New York-London: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, 2004. Print. Annex p. 56.
12 HEATH, Shirley B. A National Language Academy? Debate in the New Nation?. International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Issue 11, pp. 9-44, 1976. Web. 4 March 2010.p. 10.
13 LE JEUNE, Françoise. Myths and Symbols of the American nation (1776-1809)?, pp. 81-162, ARLEO, Andy; LEES, Paul; LE JEUNE, Françoise; SELLIN, Bernard. Myths and Symbols of the Nation, Volume 1: England, Scotland and the United States, Nantes: CRINI, 2006. Print. p. 82.
language. By pretending to correct an omission?, U.S ENGLISH has been presenting its cause as necessary. This technique was a way to give weight to their movement: they have been presenting themselves as strong protectors of the American nation. This hero-like figure projected by U.S ENGLISH will be studied in the second part of this analysis.
U.S ENGLISH has been pretending that English was the historical language of the United States. In their fund raising brochure, they explained that:
Throughout its history, the United States has been enriched by cultural contributions of immigrants... but blessed with one common language that has united a diverse nation and fostered harmony among its people (Annex III).
This conception of the U.S history is also somewhat inaccurate because as our analysis of U.S history has shown, the first colons that came to settle to America were from diverse European nations. Furthermore, we will see whether it is really one common language? that fostered unity in the American nation further on in this analysis.
The reasons for the deliberate ambiguity around a national language in the Constitution being highlighted it is relevant to consider the two attempts that were made to declare American English the language of the United States. Since America is a former British colony, the question was rather whether or not setting official standards for American English. This proposition was first voiced by John Adams in 1780 when he called for an American Language Academy. Shirley Brice Heath explained, in A National Language Academy? Debate in the New Nation?, that in rejecting a national language academy, the founding fathers made clear their choice not to designate a national tongue. ... Instead, national political leaders and state and local agencies promoted respect for diversity of languages?14. This need to distinguish the English language from the American language was perpetuated and in 1923 John. McCornick, a Montana Congressman, failed to pass an Amendment to declare American English the official language of the United States. Those two attempts at distancing the American from the British English are interesting when accounting for the status of English in the United States because it highlights the fact that it was driven by the need to affirm the characteristics of the American way of life from the British culture. The aim of those two proposals was not to declare American English the official language of the United States but simply to break from the former British domination.
As U.S ENGLISH has been presenting English as the historical language of the land, it is interesting to consider U.S ENGLISH views about the presence of huge language diversity in the world. U.S ENGLISH considered that the language diversity of the world is the result of God's punishment upon men. Indeed on several occasions15, the movement referred to the Tower of Babel
14 HEATH, Shirley B. Op. Cit. p.10.
15 References to the Tower of Babel can be found in Annex III and IV and on their official website.
to account for the presence of different languages in the world. On their fund raising brochure, they quoted an extract from Genesis on which one can read:
Look! They are one people and there is one language for them all. ... Come now! Let us down
there and confuse their language that they may not listen to one another's language (Annex III).
The Tower of Babel is a tale in Genesis about the origin of language diversity. Einar Haugen, Professor of linguistics at Harvard University, explained in The Curse of Babel? that at the beginning the earth was of ?one language and one speech16? but as pride fills the heart of men17? , they tried to build a tower, the Tower of Babel, and failed. Lord Jehovah punished men by creating different languages so that men could not communicate anymore. The Tower of Babel refers to the famous seventy-two languages into which the human race was split18?. Referring to the Bible to promote national language legislation was a way to account for the language diversity of the American nation while rejecting diversity on the basis that it is at the origin of the division of men. Contrary to U.S ENGLISH, Michael Billig, Professor of Social Science, explained that nationalists tend to present language as a natural fact in the nation-building process but it has also been invented: nations may be 'imagined communities', but the pattern of the imaginings cannot be explained in terms of difference of languages, for languages themselves have to be imagined as distinct entities?19. In this sentence, M. Billig explained that contrary to what U.S ENGLISH has been pretending, languages are invented and it is not relevant to consider that a nation was built around a particular language. According to Michael Billig, the modern imagining of different languages is not a fantasy, but it reflects that the world of nations is also a world of formally constituted languages?20. In the light of our analysis of the tale of the Tower of Babel, we can consider that in this sentence, M. Billig has been rejecting the biblical conception of language diversity promoted by U.S ENGLISH.
Furthermore, Einar Haugen observed that "America's profusion of tongues has made her a modern Babel, but a Babel in reverse"21. For E. Haugen, globalization imposed the hegemony of the English language in the world and even though the United States is a culturally heterogeneous nation, it is still the most linguistically homogeneous nation in the world. According to James Crawford, executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education, the hegemony of the English language is not threatened in the United States. James Crawford analyzed the
16 CRAWFORD, James, ed. Language Loyalties: A source Book on the Official English Controversy. Op. Cit. p. 399.
17 Ibid. p. 399.
18 HOBSBAWM, E.J. Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Program, Myth, Reality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Print. p. 58.
19 BILLIG, Michael. Banal Nationalism, London: Sage Publications, 1995. Print. p. 35.
20 Ibid. p. 31.
21 CRAWFORD, James. At War with Diversity: U.S Languages Policy in an Age of Anxiety, Avon (U.K): Clevedon Multilingual Matters, 2000. Print. p. 1.
population census of the U.S Census Bureau in order to support his views and he proved that, in 1980, English was spoken by all but 2% of the population above 5. This analysis of population censuses tend to confirm what E. Haugen said about the United States: if there has to be a Babel in the United States, it is a Babel in reverse? because almost all Americans do speak English. In fact, the political nature of the American nation has proved to be efficient in creating certain homogeneity without declaring English the official language of the nation because almost every American did speak English in the 1980s. Further on in this analysis an attempt will be made at explaining why U.S ENGLISH has been presenting language diversity of the United States as the major cause of division in the nation in the light of those figures.
We have seen that the nation was first imagined as a political community based on individual rights and freedom. The history of settlement of the United States is relevant for accounting for the huge number of English speaking people in the nation. Similarly, the colonial past of the U.S has to be taken into account when explaining the presence of multiple languages on the American soil. The English language, first considered as a practical tool, became symbolic of one's commitment and loyalty to the American nation in the 1900s. Since that time, language became a patriotic symbol and immigrants had to learn the language of the majority to be part of the nation.
In the next part, in order to determine the context for the push for restrictive language policies initiated by S.I Hayakawa in 1981, our task will be to analyze the views promoted by U.S ENGLSIH in the light of this historical analysis of the status of English in the United States.
Since the mid 1980s, many US voters have reacted defensively against racial, cultural and language diversity brought by increasing levels of immigration. In that context, various organizations were created to protect and defend American values.
In 1983, Hayakawa founded U.S ENGLISH in collaboration with Dr John Tanton. Hayakawa, Republican Senator of California between 1977 and 1983, created U.S ENGLISH when he retired from Senate because he considered that bilingualism at an individual level was fine but not at a national level. In 1981, he introduced an English Language Amendment to the US Constitution to declare English the official language of the United States. More than a national, non-partisan, and non-profit citizen's funded action group?, U.S ENGLISH can be considered as a lobbying organization22. U.S ENGLISH is an advocacy group with the intention of influencing
22 In the United States, lobbying is authorized by the First Amendment of the Constitution. According to the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary, a lobby is a group of people who try to persuade the government or an
decisions made by legislators at both state and federal level. This movement has been fighting to defend and protect the unifying role of the English language in America. The amendment proposed by U.S ENGLISH since 1981 is described by Hayakawa as follows:
Section 1. The English language shall be the official language of the United States.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation (Annex IV, l.282-284).
This amendment failed to be enacted by the 97th Congress and was then resubmitted to each Congress since 1981 but over 50 bills were proposed by the movement to declare English the official language of the United States. Since its creation in 1983, the movement has gathered more than 1.7 million supporters and five measures passed one chamber of the US Congress but the second chamber never acted upon it. Between 1981 and 2009, under the influence of U.S ENGLISH, 30 out of the 50 American states passed Official English laws23. The reasons for the failure of this amendment to be enacted at a national level will be explained later on in this analysis when accounting for the State and Federal division created by this movement.
In order to better account of the reasons at the core of the U.S ENGLISH movement, it is interesting to consider the evolution of the language ability of Americans. According to the population census of the U.S Census Bureau, English was spoken by all but 2% of the population above 5 in 1980. Between 1990 and 2000, this percentage shifted from 2.9% to 4.2 % (Crawford 2002). In other words, between 1980 and 2000, the proportion of non-English speakers in the United States more than doubled. In this section, we will analyze the roots of the organization in the light of U.S history. We will wonder to what extent the language ability of Americans threatens a possible disuniting of America? 24 as pictured by U.S ENGLISH since the beginning of the 1980s.
Many consider that immigration is part of the American character because the United States was build and maintained by the constant flux of immigrants. This popular conception of the nation finds its origins in the fact that on the one hand, America needed to build a nation out of a varied population and thus had to have a positive attitude towards multilingualism. On the other hand, in order to achieve unity as defined by the national objective 'E Pluribis Unum', America had to militate in favor of monolingualism. The contradiction between those two driving force is at the heart of the U.S ENGLISH movement. In fact, the organization has been defending the unifying role of the English language while promoting the teaching of foreign languages in schools as our analysis will show further on.
Our task being to explain the circumstances that lead to the creation of the U.S ENGLISH
official group to do something?.
23 Informations gathered from the official website of U.S ENGLISH at < http://www.us-english.org/view/13 >
24 Expression borrowed from the work of Arthur Schlesinger entitled The Disuniting of America. (L'Amérique Balkanisée: une société multiculturelle désunie), 2nd edition, Paris: Economica, 1999. Print.
movement, it is interesting to consider how the movement has been describing the reasons for its emergence. In a speech entitled The Purpose and Effect of an Official English Constitutional Amendment? given on April 27, 1981 in front of Congress, Hayakawa explained the reasons for the need of a national language legislation in the United States. He said:
Language is a powerful tool. A common language can unify, separate languages can fracture and fragment a society. ... Learning English has been the primary task of every immigrant group for two centuries. ... This amendment is needed to clarify the confusing signals we have given in recent years to immigrant groups. ... I am proposing this amendment because I thing that we are being dishonest with the linguistic minority groups if we tell them they can take full part in American life without learning the English language(Annex IV, l.1-2; 5; 12-13; 23-25).
This quotation is very significant of the rhetoric of U.S ENGLISH since 1983. The unifying
role of language will be questioned later on in this analysis but in this part we will focus on what
Hayakawa defined as the confusing signals we have been given in recent years to immigrant
groups?. It is interesting to wonder to what extent the government has been dishonest with the
linguistic minority groups?. In their fund raising brochure of 1984, one can read that: The erosion of English and the rise of other languages in public life have several causes:
-New civil rights assertions have yielded bilingual and multilingual ballots, voting instructions, election site counselors, and government-funded registration campaigns aimed solely at speakers of foreign languages.
-Record immigration, concentrated in fewer language groups, is reinforcing language segregation and retarding language assimilation (Annex III, l. 29-33).
The reasons enunciated by U.S ENGLISH directly recall two legislative actions passed in the mid 1960s. What U.S ENGLISH has been conceiving as new civil rights assertions? was a direct reference to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Therefore, as a consequence of the Black consciousness movement, the Civil Rights Act was proposed by President John. F. Kennedy and then passed under Lyndon. B. Johnson's presidency. It made racial discrimination in public places illegal and required employers to provide equal employment opportunities. It marked the end of discriminations based on color, race or national origin.
The record immigration? noticed by U.S ENGLISH is also a direct allusion to a landmark legislation of the mid 1960s. The enactment of the Hart-Celler Act of 1964 abolished the national origin quotas that had been in place in the United States since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1924. As it gave priority to skilled-workers and unlimited visas for family reunification, this act marked a change in the immigration policy of the country. After almost forty years of restriction in immigration, foreigners came in their thousands to settle in the United States. Immigration rate
almost doubled between 1960 and 1970 and doubled between 1970 and 199025, increasing the cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity of the nation at that time. Between 1924 and 1964, no legislation was passed concerning language policy in the United States because of the strict restrictions in immigration passed in 1924 under President J. Calvin Coolidge. But the repeal of those restrictions and the huge and sudden diversity of the newly opened nation raised the question of the way the nation should help immigrants to integrate the American nation. This new wave of immigration was characterized by the shift from European to non-European immigrants, and especially immigrants from Latin America and Asia which represented respectively 14 and 35 percent of the US immigration between 1971 and 198026. The Hart-Cellar Act of 1964 is at the origin of the linguistic diversity at the heart of the rhetoric of U.S ENGLISH. New patterns of immigration and the expansion of constitutional equality and the Civil Rights legislation lead to an ethnic revival in the United States. The year 1964 marked the beginning of a new era in the nation as ethnic groups affirmed their previously repressed or undervalued self-identities. The U.S ENGLISH movement finds its origins in the legislative actions passed in the mid 1960s. As a matter of fact, U.S ENGLISH has been considering that the division that threatens the nations' unity is a direct consequence of the arrival of non-English speakers in the nation. The roots of this official language movement can also be found in the political actions that were taken as a response to this new diversity.
In order to grasp the circumstances that lead to the rise of U.S ENGLISH, we need to study their action program in the context of the different legislative actions that were passed in order to cope with this new diversity. In the fund raising brochure of U.S ENGLISH, one can read:
U.S ENGLISH actively works to reverse the spread of foreign language usage in the nation's
official life. Our program calls for:
-Repeal of laws mandating multilingual ballots and voting materials.
-Restriction of government funding for bilingual education to short-term transitional programs only.
-Universal enforcement of the English language and civics requirement for naturalization (Annex III, l. 65-75).
First of all, U.S ENGLISH rejection of multilingual ballots was a reaction to the bilingual ballot mandated in 1975 in an amendment to the Voting Rights Act of 196527. Congress passed this amendment to secure the rights to vote of ethnic and racial minorities in the nation. It is a protection from voting discrimination for language minority citizens. We will analyze U.S ENGLISH attitude
25 U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, various years, COHN, Raymond. L. Immigration to the United States?, EH.Net Encyclopedia, Robert Whaples ed. August 14, 2001. Web. 3 April 2010.
27 The Voting Rights Act of 1965,U.S Department of Justice: Civil Rights Section. Web. 5 Dec. 2009.
towards this particular legislation at the end of this part when accounting for the implications of an English Language Amendment in America. What is important to bear in mind for now is that this amendment was passed in order to ensure that every American citizen regardless of his/her language ability should have the right to participate in democracy.
The second aim of U.S ENGLISH has been to suppress bilingual educational programs and replace them by short-term transitional program?. This rejection of bilingual education finds its origins in the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 and the Equal Opportunity Act of 1974. Those two legislations were passed in response to the new diversity due to the recent upsurge of immigrants in the nation at that time. The U.S Government passed the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 in order to facilitate the access and integration of newcomers into the nation. Those two legislative actions were strongly criticized by U.S ENGLISH as we will see when accounting for their rejection of bilingualism. The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 was a legislation regarding minority language speakers28. Federal funds were given to school districts to establish educational programs for students with limited English speaking ability. The enactment of this law raised the question of the role of school in the integration of newcomers but also the role of the government to maintain or promote the instruction of ethnic minorities' languages and culture. The act encouraged instruction in English but did not require bilingual programs: it only gave school districts the opportunity to provide bilingual education programs for non-English speaking children where it was the most needed.
The new rights that were given to non-English speakers under this act led to the enactment of other legislative actions. In 1974, civil rights activists claiming that the rights of minority languages were violated under this act encourage non-English speaking Chinese students living in California to bring a civil right case to the U.S Supreme court known as the Lau v. Nichols case. The Supreme Court stated that the lack of linguistically-appropriate accommodations effectively denied the Chinese students equal educational opportunities on the basis of their ethnicity. The Supreme Court recognized that language-based discrimination is a proxy for national origin discrimination and decided that language barriers be overcome by instructional programming29. This decision led to the enactment of the Equal Education Opportunity Act of 1974 that prohibited discrimination against faculty, staff and students, including racial segregation of students, and required schools districts to take action to overcome barriers to students' equal participation30.
As under the Bilingual Education Act of 1968, not enough funds were devoted to the
28 BILINGUAL EDUCATION ACT , No. 33, Vol. 64, p.
8447-8461, U.S Department of Education. Web. 5 Dec.
30 EQUAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY ACT, 20 USC Sec. 1703, 1974. U.S Department of Education. Web. 5 Dec 2009.
instruction of non-English speakers, Congress passed an amendment to this act in 1988. It established a "bilingual education program" to provide instruction in English and in a native language for limited English-speakers. The aim was to prepare students to transfer to an English classroom as soon as possible while maintaining their mother tongue. Those legislative actions aroused the interest of the U.S ENGLISH movement because more Federal and State money was devoted to instruction in a foreign language. U.S ENGLISH has been rejecting those laws because they consider that it does not encourage the transition to the English language. The message of their fund raising brochure is a good illustration of their views: they questioned both the cost and the efficiency of bilingual education. A detailed analysis of the attitude of the movement towards government programs will be explained further on in this analysis.
In this part we have seen that U.S ENGLISH emerged in reaction to the new rights that were given to newcomers as a consequence of the repeal of immigration restrictions. The linguistic diversity presented as the cause of this organization can be considered as a pretext because in the 1980s, the United States was mainly English speaking. In this light, we can conclude that the four legislative actions which aimed at facilitating the integration of immigrants into the nation were at the origin of the rise of this lobbying organization. U.S ENGLISH emerged as a response to the new rights and accommodations put in place by the U.S government in response to the new cultural diversity of the nation. Before questioning the unifying role of language, it is important to show the evolution of the views promoted by U.S ENGLISH since its creation in 1983.
3. Evolution of the Views of U.S ENGLISH between 1983 and 2009
Considering that for more than twenty five years, U.S ENGLISH has been trying to pass an English Language Amendment our analysis needs to take into account the evolution of the rhetoric of the movement since its creation in 1983. U.S ENGLISH projects an image of the nation as a monolingual, English-speaking country threatened by the rise of multilingualism due to the new wave of immigration.
Even though U.S ENGLISH has been willing to pass an English Language Amendment to the U.S Constitution since its creation, their views and the content of the amendment they want to pass have changed. In 1981, when the first amendment to declare English the official language of the nation was proposed by Hayakawa, it would not prevent the use of second languages for the purpose of public safety, for example on signs in public places. Hayakawa explained that street signs in any other languages [are] perfectly acceptable, because they are also accompanied by street signs in English? and that in Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco... [those signs] are also perfectly acceptable because they give a cosmopolitan flavor to those cities... and we are proud
of the fact that we are a cosmopolitan culture?(Annex I, l. 63-66). In 1996, U.S ENGLISH published an advertisement entitled Stop the Madness? on which one can see a stop sign translated in four different languages, namely Chinese, Spanish, Arab and English(Annex XIV). The movement clearly denounced and condemned the use of bilingual road signs in the country in this advertising campaign: they considered multilingual road signs as mad? and dangerous. The dichotomy between the views promoted by Hayakawa in 1981 and the attitude of Mujica in 1996 testifies of the evolution of the rhetoric of the movement. What was considered as perfectly acceptable? in 1981(Annex I) has been described as mad? and armful in 1996(Annex XIV).
Similarly, precisions about the aim and the implementations of their proposed amendment were needed. In 1981, the amendment said nothing about the teaching of foreign languages in schools and did not make any provision for the use of foreign languages in the private sphere. In January 1985, U.S ENGLISH made their views explicit when they presented their English Language Amendment for the third time. Since then, the movement has always specified that it would not refrain the use of any other language in the public sphere and that the teaching of other languages than English was acceptable for trade and international affairs. This clarification about the teaching of foreign languages came as a response to attacks from their opponents, the National Association for Bilingual Education. Indeed, few years before the movement came into being, this advocacy group which fights to promote bilingual education for non-English speakers was created in 1976 in reaction to the huge linguistic and cultural diversity in the American nation. When U.S ENGLISH emerged in the 1980s, NABE immediately considered the proposal made by U.S ENGLISH and decided to stand against it because they considered that U.S ENGLISH was a political attack on language-minority communities?31 because of their rejection of bilingual educational programs. Promoting the teaching of foreign languages for trade or tourism was a way to counter the attacks of their main opponent, the National Association for Bilingual Education. In fact, by acknowledging the legitimacy of foreign languages teaching in schools, U.S ENGLISH has been trying to present their English language amendment as a natural development: they have been presenting it as having no impact on the situation of non-English speakers in the nation as they authorize the speaking of foreign languages in the private sphere and the teaching of foreign languages in schools.
Already in 1985, Hayakawa started to denounce the cost of multilingual services offered by the government when he showed his rejection of the publishing of the Yellow Pages? in Spanish in Los Angeles but did not condemned the multilingual assistance given to immigrants for public services(Annex IV, l. 266-267). Before 1997, the amendment was intended to make English the only language for official proceedings of governments at all levels but it was not clear whether
31 National Association for Bilingual Education, Advocacy?, NABE. Web 4 Dec. 2009.
multilingual services for immigrants or limited English-speakers would be available or not under this amendment. It is only in 1993, when Mauro E. Mujica replaced S.I Hayakawa after he died in 1992, that U.S ENGLISH officially rejected government services in multiple foreign languages. It is interesting to note that with the death of S.I Hayakawa in 1992, no more linguists or educators were enrolled in the movement. This shift will have to be taken into account when considering their views about immigration in the second part of this analysis. We may wonder how it is possible that a movement aiming at passing official language legislation had no more language specialist in its Advisory Board after 1992. For now what is essential is that 1993 marked the beginning of a new approach to this language legislation. On U.S ENGLISH official website one can read that:
As part of his efforts to increase the visibility of U.S. ENGLISH, Mr. Mujica has appeared on
hundreds of television and radio programs including, "Good Morning America," "60 Minutes,"
"Lou Dobbs Tonight" and various shows on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, BBC, Telemundo and
Univision. He has spoken on the importance of English at numerous college campuses and in
front of several state legislatures. Mr. Mujica's leadership has increased the organization's
membership from 165,000 in 1993 to over 1.8 million members today. 32
According to U.S ENGLISH the support for the organization was revitalized by the arrival of Mauro Mujica because contrary to Hayakawa, Mauro Mujica actively promoted the aim and importance of an English language amendment for the nation through the media. We can then consider that with the arrival of Mujica the views of U.S ENGLISH were made more explicit and their rejection of multilingual services was made more visible and even became a priority because this issue involved government money and it is very likely that this kind of arguments may appeal more to the general public opinion than the cost of bilingual educational programs.
In 1993, one can read in their advertising campaign that if passed this legislation will not restrict in any way the use of foreign languages in private homes or conversations, business, health and emergency services, schools and courts?(Annex XVI). But lately, the movement has only acknowledged the use of other languages than English only for emergency services, foreign language teaching and private use. For instance, when taking a close look at the bills proposed by U.S ENGLISH for the years 2007-2009, one can deduce that the movement clearly aimed at making illegal the use of other languages than English at the work place or for federal founded services.
For instance, in December 2007, they proposed the Protecting English in the Workplace Act (S. 2453) as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It said that ?it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to require an employee to speak, or an applicant for
32 Biography of Mauro Mujica available on U.S ENGLISH official website at < http://www.us-english.org/view/4>
employment to agree to speak, English while engaged in work?33. In March 2009, they reintroduced the bill and proposed the Common Sense English Act (H. R. 1588) to ensure that an employer has the freedom to implement English in the workplace policies?34. In other words the act would allow employers to make the speaking of the English language compulsory in the work place because when a group of employees speaks a language other than English in the workplace, it may cause misunderstandings, create dangerous circumstances, and undermine morale?35. The use of the word morale? here is interesting because U.S ENGLISH considered that it was not morally acceptable to speak another language than English at the workplace on the basis that it may weaken the self-confidence of some employees at work or create divisions within the team work. Even though both bills failed to be enacted, those proposals are significant of the evolution of the views of this lobbying organization. Since 1983, U.S ENGLISH has been trying to pass loads of legislation and thus widened the scope of the movement.
After having tried to pass a legislation imposing the speaking of the English language on the work place, U.S ENGLISH tried to outlaw government multilingual assistance for non-English speakers. In August 11, 2000, Bill Clinton passed the Executive Order 13166 requiring any entity receiving federal monies to provide services in any language. U.S ENGLISH opposed and rejected this decision, considering it as the official recognition of the multilingual character of the U.S government. In reaction to that, in January 2007 U.S ENGLISH proposed a bill to repeal Executive Order 13166 (HR 768) in which one can read that No funds appropriated pursuant to any provision of law may be used to promulgate or enforce any executive order that creates an entitlement to services provided in any language other than English?36. In February 2009, U.S ENGLISH reintroduced this bill but it failed to be enacted. This proposal is another example accounting for the widening of the scope of the organization since the 1990s.
Since 2000, U.S ENGLISH has tolerated multilingualism only for emergency services, foreign language teaching and private conversations. The evolution of the views and the rhetoric of the movement shows a gradual move towards 'English Only' more than 'Official English' legislation as they claim in their different publications (Annex VI).
As we have seen earlier in this chapter, the push for language restrictions led by U.S ENGLISH has been taking different forms since 1983. U.S ENGLISH has been justifying the enactment of an English Language Amendment on the basis that language is the unifying force of the American nation.
In this context, it is relevant to wonder to what extent language diversity challenges national
33 U.S ENGLISH official website. Legislation S. 2453?. Web. 4 Dec 2010.
34 U.S ENGLISH official website. Legislation H.R 1588?. Web. 4 Dec 2010.
35 Ibid .
36 U.S ENGLISH official website. ?Legislation H.R 768?. Web. 4 Dec 2010.
unity? In other words, language is a key element in the nation-building process and more particularly in the maintenance of unity within the national territory? Our analysis will now turn to the study of the relationship between language, culture and identity in the light of the rhetoric of U.S ENGLISH as well as different thinkers and sociologists.