TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:English Only Legislation From:Paul David Marvel <marvel -at- BRAHMS -dot- UDEL -dot- EDU> Date:Sat, 22 Jan 1994 11:20:26 -0500
.02? I'll ante.
I prefer to use "Common Language" here instead of "Official
Language" because it better reflects my thoughts.
The times I've experienced the greatest cultural exchange has
been when I could communicate with a common language. Travelling
without a common language = Finding food and a place to sleep but
having trouble finding the shower on the hall. Travelling with a
common language = Learning about the traditions, history,
politics, values, etc. of my neighbors.
Another good example of the value of a common language is this
forum. If we all used different languages to write our messages,
dialogue would be limited. Catharsis requires understanding.
Understanding often requires a common language.
Extending these thoughts to the thread, a common language would
promote cultural exchange, not hinder it.
Although the US presents a unique situation, looking at other
countries can be instructive. For example, Italy has at least a
dozen regional dialects. Each region keeps its diversity and
language but Italian unifies the nation. One might argue that
Italian culture is more uniform than US, but remember that we're
perceiving this uniformity through US eyes.
The extreme example is Hindi. The common language allows Indians
to communicate what is common to all: politics, government, and
national news. However, regional language is used in the
_l'Acadamie Francais, et al_
l'Acadamie Francais is the most zealous of its cousins, however,
it's still subject to the people. For example, a couple years ago
it came out with a few pages of spelling changes. In theory, it
was a good idea because there are sometimes 10 ways to spell the
same phoneme. The French didn't want it so it was "returned to
Such groups can be helpful, though. If there were one in the US
we would now have universally accepted genderless pronouns. (Call
me Boxcar Willie.) As far as removing "Taco Bell" from I-95, it's
hard to imagine in a market-driven economy.
_A German Idea_
Part of the tension over the language issue comes from the state
of public education: The current programs to educate non-english
speakers do not work.
In Germany, an incoming student spends the first year studying
only German. The second year (s)he joins the mainstream and
studies all subjects. Germany adopted this system because, after
the war, they were required to accept all immigrants and had to
deal with a veritable cornucopia of languages. Friends who have
gone through this system liked it.
Sorry this turned out so long- the thread stimulated a lot of
All these observations are from discussions with friends from
numerous countries speaking a common language.
Auf Wiedertippen, mis amigos, scrivo quando ho quelque chose a
Paul D. Marvel
marvel -at- brahms -dot- udel -dot- edu