How do you say “Coke” in Mandarin?
I’m Just Sayin’
by SHEILA SMITH
By now I am sure most of you have seen Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl commercial, which featured a number of Americans singing “America the Beautiful” in English and other languages.
I personally found the ad beautiful but many did not. In fact, the ad sparked the usual “When you come to ‘Murica, you speak English!” debate. (Of course, nothing is more American than a good old-fashioned debate.)
In response to the fury, I actually posted on my personal Facebook page that America was built and paid for by our ancestors, most who primarily spoke French, Spanish, German and English, among many other languages. The rights we enjoy today – including the right to fight about language – are because of those individuals. Still today, we have bilingual soldiers fighting for America while also cherishing the language and customs of their ancestors.
After all, look around Southwest Louisiana. The majority of our dishes, towns and customs are not English, but hail from European ancestry. In everyday life, we use words that are not English, but rather Cajun French.
Many others, however, feel differently. I have heard the same opinion from people I know and even one radio talk show, and read this opinion multiple times on Coca-Cola’s official Facebook page: The English language is what unites us. Without it, we are separated into different groups, and therefore are not united as Americans. (I’m not so sure about that. Consider the Civil War.)
Many have also said that we all must learn English because it is the official language of the United States.
Well, we should also learn how to research. America does not have an official language. Call your congressman, Google my previous statement, locate a civics or history teacher: We have no official language.
Even if we did, half the people crying, “Speak English!” have little grasp of the English language. They use “words” that are not actually words (such as “supposably”, “conversate,” “nauseous” and “expresso”). They cannot distinguish between “there”, “their” or “they’re”, but they preach that others should speak English.
Some have also argued that if an American visits a foreign country, he would be expected to know the language there. This is true. Of course, consider the European countries, where most people are fluent in two or more languages, including English. They constantly interact with one another and travel to each other’s countries for business and pleasure.
But the people coming into those countries, including Americans, have most likely had a full education, sometimes an extended education. Consider many of the Hispanic immigrants we have in this area who arrived in recent years. Most have no money and little education. Still, they work and contribute to this country. I personally would not fault them for not knowing English. They have never asked me to speak in their tongue.
I am not sure what unites us as Americans. Maybe our love of freedom and shared values. Maybe we are united simply because we are in the same country.
However, I do not personally see English, or language, as the main item that pulls us all together. If that’s true, some who were born and raised here cannot be a member of the club.
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