Language law raises questions but no solution

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The issue: State Sen. Scott Beason wants a constitutional amendment making English the state&8217;s official language.

Our position: This needs some more thought.

From the there-ought-to-be-a-law department: State Sen. Scott Beason, a Republican from Gardendale, wants a constitutional amendment in Alabama to make English the state&8217;s official language.

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This apparently is a poke toward the immigration issue, bringing it home, as it were, and out of the national arena, basically, where matters such as this belong.

But we see Beason&8217;s point.

The two basic arguments for English as the national language usually follow conservative reasoning.

English only would allow everyone to communicate with one another, which in turn would ease tensions among races and unite Americans and ensure that education, government and business matters, to name a few are dealt with swiftly and with ease.

Also, those who argue for English as the national language see the stand as encouraging immigrants to learn English.

On the other hand, most of us who live in this country are the sons and daughters of sons and daughters of immigrants. Many of them spoke different languages and enjoyed different cultures.

The United States has long been known as &8220;the melting pot.&8221; To institute a move toward English as a second language would denigrate a basic tenet of America.

This is a major argument of those who are against making English the national language.

Additionally, those who oppose Beason&8217;s stand reason that living in a country where people speak different languages make the country more interesting.

Some of those in opposition to the state senator also believe the U.S. should have two national languages: English and Spanish.

Beason said he intends to introduce legislation to require the state diver&8217;s license examination be given in English only.

Alabama already gives the test in 14 different languages, including Arabic, English, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese and American sign language.

It&8217;s interesting Beason should bring this up about a month after the Alabama Supreme Court rejected in a 5-4 decision a move by the ProEnglish organization to end the foreign-language versions of the test.

In 1990, voters in this state approved a constitutional amendment that read &8220;English is the official language of the state of Alabama.&8221;

After that, the state began giving the driver&8217;s exam in one language, but a lawsuit by a Spanish-speaking resident of the state in 1998 changed all that, and the state went back to having the test in multiple languages.

It seems to us Beason&8217;s proposal is redundant. Sure, traffic signs are in English or the universal sign pictures. But many questions should be answered before we go jumping to making another law.