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Monday, August 27, 2007

An inane idea in any language

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribun

The door at my local Blockbuster video store is labeled "entrance." Right below, for Latinos who might be puzzled, appears the word "entrada." Over at the local Home Depot, the word "electrico" appears on a large overhead banner, in case any Spanish-speaking customer can't read the other word there: "electrical."

This is insane. You mean to tell me that Latinos are too dense to figure out that this door is for going in? Or that Spanish-speakers are unable to make the intellectual leap between entrance and entrada, even though they share the same root?

We've gone from being helpful to Spanish-speaking immigrants to the downright absurd. If you speak only Spanish and you're interested in faucets, you might be able to figure it out just by seeing where the pipes and fixtures are located. If you are half-observant, you might notice the sign that says, "plumbing," and the next time not need a sign that says, "plomeria." The chain stores know all this, but they're putting up the signs anyway because they are bending their knees to the radical immigration lobby. These folks want to dump English as the national language because, to them, anything that smacks of English-only suggests that "assimilation" is a good idea, when they believe that the whole concept of assimilation is a bourgeoisie, white-bread, if not racist, idea that no longer has a place in America. And anyone who disagrees is a "nativist," "hater" or racist.

It's why we have to print ballots in a foreign language, even though you must speak English to become a citizen and, the last I heard, you must be a citizen to vote.

Where, you ask, does it end? I thought the silliness of stenciling entrada on a door was as far as you could go. Until I saw what was going on at the Waukegan schools. English-speaking teachers are getting involuntarily transferred out of their classes and schools because they don't speak Spanish. As reported in an Aug. 17 Tribune story, Valerie Goranson now has lost her job, twice, because she speaks only English and some other teachers, noticing the 25 percent increase in the school district's Latino population, fear they might follow.

Well, the school district responds, language isn't the only reason for reassignments; they're also a part of a systemwide restructuring plan. The district also points to a 1973 Illinois law that requires a bilingual teacher in schools with more than 20 students who speak the same foreign language. That's a law that needs changing. Its supporters say it's needed because studies show students learn better in their native language. Other teachers disagree, the story noted: "We have kids from China, Belize, Serbia and everywhere, and they catch on and end up doing well," said Linette Oliver, a Waukegan teacher. "I don't understand why we can't do that for any child, no matter where they are from."

On Oliver's side are her first-hand experiences and those of her colleagues; the success of millions of immigrant children who -- miraculously, we are to believe -- learned math and other subjects that are taught in English, and common sense. Apparently, no "monolingual" teachers had to be elbowed out of the way for this to happen.

By the way, you might be surprised, as I was, to see the term monolingual increasingly applied to teachers -- and other Americans -- who speak only English. How insulting. It's as if English-speaking teachers were the same as teachers who spoke only, say, Kataang.

English is our national language, and in this setting it is inaccurate and disingenuous to refer to an English-only teacher, or another American, as monolingual. English-speaking is a more precise description than the generic monolingual, but you can expect the politically correct elites to continue to use the deprecatory term precisely because it diminishes the importance of speaking English.

Being able to speak more than one language is admirable. But, in the American classroom, we need to acknowledge the greater importance of learning English. And not treat its speakers as a disposable category.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! It's about time someone defends our National Language... our Senator's won't! Both Obama and Durbin voted down establishing English as our National Language, even though, over 70% of Illinois citizens wanted it. That suggests our Senators don't care about REPRESENTING it's very own state's citizens, but rather 'play politics.' The letters I received (from both) in response to my concerns were absolutely 'spin.'

It's a shame that 14% of our population, that is, those who are Hispanic, Latino or Cuban, can influence our companies and governement to 'enable' them to NOT assimulate into our culture... as other imagrants have in the past. And of the 14%, a great percentage already does speak English! And this number doesn't reflect the illegals or criminal peoples here without do process.

It's a shame people cannot do the right thing, but rather cater to the few for politically correct issues and actions. Our businesses are also at fault for promoting such Spanish Language signs and products etc. for such a few... which by the way, increases our costs of doing business and purchases at such businesses.

Sad, isn't it.


Bruce Small said...

My wife was denied entrance to the University of Arizona School of Education because they were "emphasizing diversity issues." Meaning, she did not speak Spanish.

Anonymous said...

Dennis -

I think you point out the absurdity of one, but ignore the absurdity of the other.

I think a broader question applies as well:

"Why do English speakers need signs that say 'Entrance' and 'Plumbing' as well?"

Can't we all just figure out that this door is the door to go in, or this aisle has plumbing materials?

Or maybe it is all just good ol' capitalism at work - The business caters to its clientele. Just as it is helpful for its English-speaking customers to be able to easily find their goods, it is helpful for its Spanish-speaking customers as well.

After all - nobody is forcing these businesses to be multi-lingual. They were smart enough to figure it out on their own.

JacksonSings said...

If you do not like the Spanish signs, don't read them. When in Quebec, I am happy to see words in both languages. Perhaps some words, for those who ARE interested, would be useful to know when one does go about learning a new language. In the meantime, it seems to be the people who are begging for less government intervention who want to have some *national* policy that will make stores 'cease and desist' something that they feel is beneficial to them. The job of a business is to sell products without exploitation of others, and I have yet to see how these signs exploit those complainers.
As far as the 'emphasizing diversity issues' is concerned, I will bet there is more to that story than meets the eye. Has she considered taking classes at Pima and then transferring in?
Pax Christi

Dennis Byrne said...

Interesting that you use Quebec as an example of how it works. They've had such fun there with the separatist movement.

Andre said...

The U.S.A. does not have a national language. Please do some research next time.

Bill from Chicago said...

America doesn't have a national wonder newspaper subscriptions are declining; you can't believe anything they say.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your article, but I don't think America has adopted an official language. I believe it was put into an immigration bill, but that bill was not passed.

Michelle said...

I just read this story on the Tirb online, and I have to ask if America has an official national language. I was always told that there was not an official language. Could you please clarify what you meant by an attack on our national language. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more Dennis!

Dennis Byrne said...

Recognizing that there is a difference between an "official" language and a national language, it's quite clear that English is, indeed, the national language. People who immigrate here from, say, Latvia, do not go to classes to learn Spanish; they learn English, because it is the national language. Unless, of course, people think that they should learn Spanish, too. That doesn't do much for the kind of "inclusiveness" we keep hearing about that we need to unify our country.

Lori Klingman said...

There is only one word for this article: Hooray!

Anonymous said...

Dennis is right - For those who can read English you understand! As far
as "Jackson with the Quebec comment"
this is the U.S. - check your hearing
when the majority of recorded business telephone inquires start of with blah, blah Spanish - FOR ENGLISH
PRESS ONE !! Plus the usefulness of some words in Spanish would not apply
when learning Polish or Russian etc.

Peter Karmel
La Grange, IL USA

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with speaking anything other then English? I enjoy listening to another language even if I am not familiar with it. It sounds amazing. Why can't we just stop complaining about this issue and learn another language just for fun. I see nothing wrong with that.

T.J. Brown said...

Let me point out another pet peeve: the use of the word "Latino" or "Latina." Doesn't "Latin" or "Hispanic" or more specifically, "Central American," "South American," "Carribbean," or "Mexican" or "Venezuelan" fit?

Anonymous said...


Why do Americans need a sign that says "enter" or "plumbing". This comment about being dense then could apply to anyone that needs a sign that tells them this is an entrance. I guess you are dense too!

AlanMP said...

(Letter sent to Trib)

As an academically trained linguist (PhD, University of Chicago), I agree wholeheartedly with Dennis Byrne's comments on the excesses of bilingualism. It is politically motivated, nothing more. Why put everything, even the obvious, in Spanish and ignore the 100 or so other languages spoken by Americans? You'd have some pretty large signs.

I cannot imagine a more effective way to exclude another person than to speak in a foreign language, nor a more effective way to divide a society than to discourage the use of a single language for the nation and for daily life. Look at the problems created by linguistic differences in Canada, India, and many other countries. We started out with a single language uniting us. Why squander this priceless advantage?

Alan Perlman

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking on this issue. It is very difficult to discuss mandatory multilingualism without being accused of being xenophobic. But, the need for a single, unifying language is far too important to dismiss in such a simplistic and biased manner.

I can’t find a single nation in the world that has successfully unified its citizens into a common culture while maintaining multiple languages. (But I can quickly list a dozen or more being torn apart by conflicts among cultures that speak different languages) I think it’s na├»ve for Americans to believe we can become a country of multiple languages and still retain our national identity.

Having a common language and integrating all of our immigrants into that language has always been an essential component of developing and unifying the national identity. It might be fair to quibble about whether or not English should have become the national language. If we went on the basis of ethnicity alone, we would be speaking German, since there are far more persons of German descent in the United States. But the English won the colonization war – beating out the French and Spanish. The ethnic English turned the colonies into a country and did it before the wave of German immigrants. So, we speak English.

It’s simply an accident of history that we speak English and its time for those who are obsessed with political correctness to quit assigning ulterior motives to that historical fact. The real focus, as you correctly point out, should be how to help immigrants learn the language of their new culture as quickly as possible. There was a time when America was celebrated for integrating new citizens into an overall culture. That integration changed and improved our society – the sum of the various cultures being far greater than the value of each individually.

I believe that much of the resistance to bilingualism and the backlash we are seeing against today’s immigrants arises largely from a suspicion among many Americans that the new immigrants really have no desire to integrate into the larger culture. German, Irish, Polish and Ukrainian immigrants had no choice but to assimilate. They had no land border that they could slip back and forth across. Moving to the United States was a permanent commitment. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case with many new immigrants. It has become too easy for immigrants to use the United States as their back-up plan – a country to come to and earn some money while waiting for things to get better in their “real” country.

Unfortunately, most of the immigration “solutions” being proposed only exacerbate this problem. Rather than “guest worker” programs, wouldn’t it make more sense to send immigrants the simple message that if they move to America they had better plan on staying here and becoming permanent members of our society?Instead of telling illegal immigrants they must return to their country of origin and reapply to enter, we should tell them that if they leave this country, they won’t be getting back in.

I welcome new immigrants to this country. I just expect them to stay here and become part of the larger culture.

iamagod said...

English is the national language because it is the primary language spoken here in the US. To make it the "official" language means that it would then be illegal to print any government documents in any other language. While your comments focus on Spanish, there are many official documents printed in other languages as well. This makes sense since we are a nation of immigrants and when people first come here they often don't speak English. This whole debate seems really useless and a bit racist. Why oh why do you care how the aisles are labeled at Home Depot. Most people come to America to find a better life and are willing to work hard for it. They want their children to have the opportunities not available to them in their country of origin. These people know they must learn English to succeed here. Language is not the answer to unifying our country. In fact, arguing about it simply divides people. Let's unify our citizens around ideas instead like fighting poverty and homelessness, educating all of our children equally, providing health care for everyone in the US (note I did not mention health insurance but heath care), or saving the planet.

adman said...

Big retail businesses do not spend time and money creating marketing and advertising plans for the sake of kowtowing to the immigration lobby. They advertise and post signs in Spanish to tap into a lucrative market and generate revenue. This is free-market capitalism. I'm surprised that a conservative would be offended by this. Seems rather hypocritical, wouldn't you say? Shouldn't you, as a right winger, instead be championing the right of Blockbuster and Home Depot to do exactly as they please in order to remain competitive and profitable? You seem to have that outlook when it comes to BP. What's the difference here? (A rhetorical question, as we all know what the difference is here.)

multilingual said...

Dear Mr. Byrne:

I read your column on bilingualism, published 8/27/07. I agree with some points, but was distressed by the suggestion that calling people monolingual is an unjustified disparagement. Despite your grudging last minute concession that “bing able too speak more than one language is admirable,” there is an undercurrent in your column that it is ok for Americans to know
only one language.

In fact, our monolingual culture is a great weakness, isolating us from the intellectual developments in the rest of the world, one reason why our social thinking is so backwards compared to Europe. It also is an economic impediment to our society.

My wife is a citizen of the Netherlands. She is an “immigrant” (albeit solely for my sake), and she is fluent in English, Dutch, German, French, with some knowledge of Italian and Spanish. When she came here as an adult, she took the GREs for graduate school admission. Although she had no previous experience with the Princeton type tests (unlike the competition who had gone through rounds of PSATs, SATs etc), she scored in the top 10% of all students seeking admission to post-graduate programs. At work, at a professional level, she was often the resource relied upon by native English speaking colleagues for correct language usage

This is not atypical. In the Netherlands virtually everyone speaks English, as well as German, some French, and their native Dutch — typically with a grammatical precision and extended vocabulary that exceeds that of our U.S. high school graduates. Each of my nieces and nephews, educated in a rural village school (and not all with academic interests) has visited after their 18th birthday. All of them spoke fluent, virtually accent free, English -- with all the current youth jargon.

How can we compete in the world market without fluency in foreign languages? It is a great disservice for you to suggest that there is noting wrong for educators or others to be functional only in English.

The reason why private businesses have signs in Spanish is pure capitalism — it encourages customers to feel comfortable and to shop. I am less convinced about the merits of having ballots printed in a few selected languages – after all English speakers do not have the benefit of the initiatives translated into ordinary language from Legalese.

Ultimately, the issue you raise in your column is a question of pedagogy – what is the best way of teaching English to students growing up in a non-English speaking home or environment?
I do believe that everyone in this country should know English fluently. My parents were both immigrants (from Russia in 1914 and Germany in 1945). My parents mastered English (although my grandmother never learned it). I am a first generation American, and was able to master the language and educational system sufficiently to become a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School. I know that English is the key to success in this country.

Your column has a lot of heat and an undertone of xenophobia, but it did not address the real issue of whether bilingual teaching is good pedagogy.

Anonymous said...

I love how as soon as someone says anything against Spanish speakers then they are "racist" or "xenophobic". Many Hispanics who come here are not interested in being Americans, they are interested in what they can get from us. How many Mexicans send money back home to take care of their families? Number 1 priority for anybody who enters this country should be learning English. My ancestors who came through Ellis Island sure learned English. This was their new life.
Oh, and by the way, they came here LEGALLY.

Bruce Small said...

As to the "diversity issues," after my wife was denied entrance to the Education Department, she went on to earn both a BA and an MA, with honors, and at the time she spoke both English and French. The sole problem is that she didn't speak Spanish.

By the way, I'm from Quebec, and all is not well there with two languages.

A Worldly WASP said...

Voting ballots are printed in both English and Spanish because Puerto Ricans have the Constitutional right to vote, and historically were unofficially disenfranchised due to ballots being printed only in English. This includes those who remain resident in Puerto Rico, so spare me your "if they come here, learn English" whine. I am endlessly fascinated that people are so fond of trotting out this issue without any understanding of why ballots are bilingual. We've all heard of the Constitution, right?

It seems to me that even a blogger would be wise to engage in a little bit of fact-checking? Or did you not figure the wisdom of such a practice in your alleged 40 years in Chicago journalism?

Furthermore, I had to laugh at the misuse of "bourgeoisie" in the final sentence of the third paragraph. (The proper usage of the word as an adjective is simply "bourgeois" - adding the "-ie" at the end makes the word a noun.) Was this a meager attempt to prove your point that non-English words have no place in our society, or is it just that you don't have much of a mastery of English yourself? Bourgeois/bourgeoisie were, after all, subsumed into the English language quite a long time ago. Again, a fact-checker, or at the very least a freelance proofreader might be a good investment. Some undergrad would probably come cheap. Hell, for that matter, I knew that in high school - well before I learned to speak and write fluently in both French and Spanish. Of course that makes me an elitist liberal multilingual bogeyman, doesn't it.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Dennis! You have the balls to say what so many of us are thinking but can't for fear of being labeled as prejudice or racist. Why must my kids have spanish cramed down their throat. Spahins signs all over the school and Spanish speaking kids talking their language. How rude...maybe my kids should whisper and let the spanish speaking kids wonder what is being said. When my grandparents came over here... legally I might add no one put signs up in German. If you miss your culture and language that much go back to where ever it is you came from. Dennis how about a comment on those who amoung us who wear long cloaks and garb on their head and face to stay connected to their heratige!

Anonymous said...

Becoming Illegal
(Actual letter from an Iowa resident and sent to his senator)

The Honorable Tom Harkin
731 Hart Senate Office Building
Phone (202) 224 3254
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Senator Harkin,

As a native Iowan and excellent customer of the Internal Revenue Service, I am writing to ask for your assistance. I have contacted the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to determine the process for becoming an illegal alien and they referred me to you.

My primary reason for wishing to change my status from U.S. Citizen to illegal alien stems from the bill which was recently passed by the Senate and for which you voted. If my understanding of this bill's provisions is accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United States for five years, all I need to do to become a citizen
is to pay a $2,000 fine and income taxes for three of the last five years. I know a good deal when I see one and I am anxious to get the process started before everyone figures it out .

Simply put, those of us who have been here legally have had to pay taxes every year so I'm excited about the prospect of avoiding two years of taxes in return for paying a $2,000 fine. Is there any way that I can apply to be illegal retroactively? This would yield an excellent result for me and my family because we paid heavy taxes in 2004 and 2005.

Additionally, as an illegal alien I could begin using the local emergency room as my primary health care provider. Once I have stopped paying premiums for medical insurance, my accountant figures I could save almost $10,000 a year.

Another benefit in gaining illegal status would be that my daughter would receive preferential treatment relative to her law school applications, as well as "in-state" tuition rates for many colleges throughout the United States for my son.

Lastly, I understand that illegal status would relieve me of the burden of renewing my driver's license and making those burdensome car insurance premiums. This is very important to me given that I still have college age children driving my car.

If you would provide me with an outline of the process to become illegal (retroactively if possible) and copies of the necessary forms, I would be most appreciative.

Thank you for your assistance.

Your Loyal Constituent,
Donald Ruppert
Burlington , IA

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thought-provoking piece today, "An inane idea in any language." But you said in Paragraph 4 ". . . even though you must speak English to become a citizen . . ."

I'd check that out, Sir. Recently my friend's mother showed up on her assigned day to take her citizenship test, and she was able to choose to take the 20-question ORAL EXAM IN SPANISH RATHER THAN ENGLISH. [Or maybe it was 24 questions, I don't remember.] But nevertheless . . .

Anonymous said...

Hooray for Dennis Byrne and free speech...and our beloved English.

Dave Sprehe

Vanessa said...

Citizenship test in Spanish?? That really ought to be illegal!

Mr. Byrne, I enjoyed this article. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


I read with intensity your "editorial" in today's Chicago Tribune.
My daughter is a social worker. She interned at Highland Park High School. She was apparently loved by all there.
When it came time to be hired, she was told they could not give her the job because she was not "bi-lingual."
nobody asked her if she spokje Hebrew, which would make her bi-lingual. Bi-lingual has become confused with Spanish speaking.
All those degrees, and denied a social work jopb in Highland Park because she doesn't speak Spanish.

Anonymous said...

On highway 22, as you enter Highwood from Highland Park, you might notice "neighborhood watch warnings."
You might have some difficulty reading them - they are in Spanish.

Dennis Byrne said...

Entertain yourself by reading what the Daily Kos readers say about the immigration column:

Dennis Byrne said...

Here's a more rational response:

Dennis Byrne said...

Another blogger sees dark forces behind "An inance idea in any language."

Rich Trzupek said...

And to those who say that bilingualism somehow brings us closer together, I say:

"Aegrescit medendo"

(Four years of Latin had to be good for something...)

Jordan said...

This isn't an issue of political correctness, it's an issue of meeting a culture both ways. You say that you're upset that you see the Spanish language everywhere and claim that they need to be flexible and make an effort to learn English.

Why shouldn't the effort reach both ways? English isn't our national language and you fail to mention key exceptions to the fact that naturalized citizens must speak English. Here they are:
Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who on the date of filing:

have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 15 years and are over 55 years of age;

have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for at least 20 years and are over 50 years of age; or

have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant’s ability to learn English.

English speakers know what a door is used for, to walk in or out of. Why do you think there's an "Exit" sign above almost every one? It's for legal and safety reasons. Dual language signage is both safe and business-savvy. It's not some politically correct move, it's just the way our America exists. English is the majority language of the United States, but it is not our national language and should not be treated as such. Spanish and other languages have just as big an impact on our culture, and we should make proportional efforts to learn them as such.

jryan said...

AMEN!! I'm here in Burnsville, Minnesota. Why on earth should I first respond to "English or Spanish" when selecting my US Bank ATM transaction.

There oughta' be a law!!

J. Ryan
Burnsville, MN

Anonymous said...

Hooray! I had seen the story in the trib and was really upset. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront on the op-ed page. I sincerely hope it will rouse enough indignation that will turn the idea of forcing 'locals' to learn another language if they want to keep their jobs.
I don't know what is the matter with this country when the only ones demanding to continue to use their own language are the Hispanics. All the others might not be too happy about it but they make a go of it anyway they can.
Thanks for your article.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! It is about time people start speaking up regarding this issue. I am waiting for the day that other immigrants start complaining to companies that they are upset because signs, labels, cooking directions, etc. aren't in their language too. I wonder what would happen if other immigrants started to complain, would we have everything in 30 different languages? I don't think so. We need to have one common language and that is English.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic commentary! You hit a homerun. While others, esp. at the Tribune, are too politically correct and afraid to face reality, you factually addressed the two language numerous problems, not to mention the huge costs. The quiet acceptance of Spanish, via "Press one for English..." etc., hurts the Hispanics the most. They would benefit the most from learning English, assimilating into the mainstream and increase their earning power. The only thing you forgot, and the reason why I nolonger shop at Home Depot and Loews is the dangerous situation set up with non English customers. If there's ever an emergency, I don't want folks next to me, potentially helping me out(?) and/or hindering me by NOT being able to communicating in English.....that's a bad situation. Please keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic commentary! You hit a homerun. While others, esp. at the Tribune, are too politically correct and afraid to face reality, you factually addressed the two language numerous problems, not to mention the huge costs. The quiet acceptance of Spanish, via "Press one for English..." etc., hurts the Hispanics the most. They would benefit the most from learning English, assimilating into the mainstream and increase their earning power. The only thing you forgot, and the reason why I nolonger shop at Home Depot and Loews is the dangerous situation set up with non English customers. If there's ever an emergency, I don't want folks next to me, potentially helping me out(?) and/or hindering me by NOT being able to communicating in English.....that's a bad situation. Please keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree!! My grandparents didn't have the advantage of their languages (Swedish and German) being available and they learned. English should be the common language here in the USA

Anonymous said...

"The Hawaiian language has been another battleground. The mother tongue of the islands was once banned. But Hawaiians didn't give up. They worked for reform, and now Hawaiian is one of the state's two official languages (the other being English), is taught in schools and can be overheard in everyday situations." (Hawaii, Hot-Button Issues, Toni Salama)

So what is the "national language" for Hawaii?

The only thing sillier than the two language signs for bathrooms is the paranoia among people like me who are not Spanish speakers about the two language signs.

I recently traveled overseas, and was very greatful to have signs for bathrooms in English. Thank goodness those countries are not as nuts as Dennis Byrne.

JMNOR55 said...

Well, I think that we need to have more backbone and stop catering to these ethnic groups. There were other people who came to America not knowing English who learned it (Jews, Italians, Poles, Chinese, etc.). Why can't the Spanish and Middle Easterners do so?

Anonymous said...

BROVO Dennis!!!!

Well said and much needed! We the english speaking need to start speaking up. I could not agree more and sounds like most of your Bloggers agree with you. Now, what can we do?

A friend sent me your link, its a joke on the internet right now. A JOKE, can you believe people are actually finding humor in your article? It's not funny at all and it really makes me sick! I have two children in school and on one side of the papers they bring home is in english and the other side spanish.

I remember seeing that same sign on my Blockbuster door and making a rude comment to my husband. We don't go to Blockbuster very often but I do remember driving up to the store and him running in to grab a quick movie and looking at the front of the store. When he got back into the car, I said "Look, now they have the word enter in english and spanish". What's next? That's just it, it won't stop, nothing we can say or do will make a difference. Please prove me wrong.

Thanks for the story and letting me vent.


English professor said...

C'mon, folks. Get used to it and kwitcherdambellyakin. The world is "moving your cheese". Embrace the change. Learn another language

57 nationalities are represented among the workers at Coca-Cola HQ in Atlanta. You think they start each day by saying the Pledge of Allegiance?

What good is it to make English - or any other language - "official" when businesses happily become multi-lingual in order to boost the bottom line? What do you say to the cheerful, hospitable business managers in LaPorte, IN - that hotbed of globalization?

From the LaPorte (IN) Herald Argus for 8/31/07

Some LP County businesses are (literally) speaking their customers' languages

LA PORTE -- Hispanic residents make up nearly 4 percent of La Porte County’s population, and some area businesses are starting to take notice by offering new services and providing materials and signage in Spanish.

The Lowe’s store in Michigan City installed bilingual signage and employees in some stores wear name badges that identify the languages they speak.

Plus, every store has a “Language Line.” With the touch of a button, customers can access a translation service of more than 100 different languages to help answer questions.

Lowe’s spokeswoman Maureen Rich said it helps the retailer provide good customer service.

“It (Hispanics) is a rapidly growing customer group. We want to make people feel welcome and comfortable,” Rich said. “It is a way to reach out to them to help them feel welcome in our stores.”

Wells Fargo bank branches in the county are also displaying signage and offering financial documents in Spanish. Plus, the bank has Spanish-speaking employees and a Spanish Web site to aid customers.

Kevin LeCavalier, community bank president for La Porte, said the bank has noticed a real need for these services.

“I would say there is a noticeable demand for product information and account information in Spanish,” LeCavalier said.

“The right thing to do is reach out to our Spanish-speaking customers,” he said. “Offering Spanish resources to our customers helps meet our customers’ needs.”

But, LeCavalier said, it’s about more than signage and marketing material. He said the bank has a true commitment to the Hispanic community.

“Community involvement is important,” LeCavalier said.

Wells Fargo plans to work with the Hispanic organization El Puente to present educational and financial material to members of the community.

Plus, the bank has sought bilingual employees and is helping Hispanic business owners with loans.

“Wells Fargo works to be representative of the community we live in,” LeCavalier said.

Maria Fruth, a board member and treasurer of El Puente, applauds these companies.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to speak English, but there is a transitional time,” Fruth said. “It is very nice of them to be sensitive.”

“It is a very good move for a business,” she added. “The Hispanic community has money to spend.”

Maria Schwieter, director of El Puente, agreed.

“People do want to learn English. But English is a difficult language to master,” Schwieter said.

“It is wonderful that these organizations are offering this in Spanish,” she continued. “There has always been a need. They are realizing there is a population out there that contributes to the economy. They are on the forefront.”