Last week’s blog post focused on the English Only movement and its proponents who want to make English the nation’s official language. Their hard-line approach, which many feel attempts to negate the benefits of a multilingual society, is countered by the English Plus movement.
Those who support English Plus encourage second-language acquisition for immigrants and citizens alike. Rather than looking at those who are not native English speakers as somehow disabled linguistically, English Plus attempts to celebrate their native language ability while providing immigrants with the resources to become proficient in English.
Furthermore, English Plus encourages monolingual English speakers to acquire skills in a second language. While in certain parts of the country, American-born people are proud to have learned a second language, the country as a whole remains staunchly monolingual.
In fact, the world jokes about the prevailing attitude of Americans that forces others to learn English without reciprocation:
What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
What do you call someone who speaks one language?
English Plus proposes to counteract popular opinion of monolingual American citizens as well as support newcomers’ acquisition of English as a Second Language.
But what do they seek to do on the legislative front?
• Oppose any English Only policies at the state and federal levels.
• Expand opportunities for English language learning.
• Enable newcomers to participate in civic life even if they are not yet proficient in English.
• Encourage the retention of immigrants’ native languages for the benefit of both the individual and society.
• Retain and strengthen language assistance systems, especially in the public sector.
But what are the main barriers to our moving towards a society that respects people’s rights to retain and use their native language while supporting their desire to learn English? Two things: attitudes and funding. The English Only movement boasts 170,000 members, and there are plenty more people who feel threatened by languages other than English who aren’t official members. And as the U.S. economy flounders, funding for state and federally supported English classes is being cut.
To read more about English Plus, follow the links to two resources: