Opinion | Parlez-vous français?

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Victoria Simpri

In the beginning, “all the world spoke one language and was of one voice thus” according to the Bible.

But, in an attempt to be closer to God, “man decided to build a tower tall enough to reach heaven.”

With all the people of the earth being of one language, man was able to do anything. So God created languages and scattered man among the Earth, leaving the tower unbuilt.

Presently, only a small percentage of people have sought out to learn more than their mother tongue, or birth language.

In order to become united once again, we as a people should work to learn more than the language we grew up speaking.

The issue of being monolingual seems to be more of a problem within America than foreign countries.

Outside of the U.S., it is more common for the citizens to speak more than one language. As of 2009 the United States Census Bureau reported that about 20 percent of Americans speak another language at home.

With over 327 million people living in the U.S., that makes just 65 million people who are at least bilingual. That leaves more than half of the population that does not speak another language. Unfortunately, I am a part of the 262 million people that are monolingual.

Half of the citizens of the Member States of the European Union assert that they can speak at least one language other than their mother tongue, at the level of being able to have a conversation, according to fieldwork done by the European Commission.

Why is it that we Americans have grown comfortable in the idea of only speaking and understanding one language?

It’s ironic because Americans like to travel. We like to see the world and what it has to offer us. But when we visit a foreign country and are unable to communicate with the people of the country, we ask them if they speak English.

This is wrong because when foreigners visit our country some berate them with profanities and ecstatically proclaim that they “learn English” or “speak English.”

So if it is true that when others visit a country they should speak the language of the country, then why do we insist that everyone know English?

English became the national language of America in 2006 when the Senate voted to designate it as the national language and effectively ban any and all federal government ordinances and services in any language other than English.

One can argue that it is easier for European countries to learn multiple languages because they are surrounded by varying countries while that is not the case for America.

But America is the country of immigrants. At one point or another, our ancestors hopped on a boat or on a plane and sought out the American dream.

They came in huddled masses and formed the melting pot that we are proud to call our country. Unfortunately, at some point, someone decided that English would be the dominant language in the country.

Children stopped learning the language of their parents and conformed to the norm of the country.

As a first generation American, I have first hand access to the language, culture, and lifestyle of my parents who grew up in a different country. My parents speak their language in the house, on the phone and to each other – but not to us their children.

It is important to know and understand other languages because it brings us closer as a people.