Having grown up in a Puerto Rican household, the Spanish language was frequently spoken between my family members. I understood all that I heard, but my ability to communicate fluently in Spanish was minimal. Once I entered high school, I decided that I wanted to further my education and knowledge of the language I was accustomed to hearing by taking Spanish courses. After four years of having studied Spanish, my appreciation for not only the Spanish language but all languages grew immensely, making me feel privileged to be able to call myself bilingual. I knew that by being able to communicate in another language, I was immersing myself in a world of culture like none other. I, myself, was opposing the bigoted English-Only movement in America
Early English-Only Movements
Since the early 1750s, there have been disputes of whether or not the American people should communicate in English only. Beginning in Pennsylvania when British settlers began to resent the speaking of the German language in their colony, American nativists sought to discourage multilingualism in America. During the time period, this unpopular notion of an English-Only America was later emphasized in 1780 by future president, John Adams. After the United States acquired French-speaking populations as a result of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the dominance of the French language in Louisiana caused concerns in Washington. Up until the Civil War, Louisiana continued to operate bilingually - English and French - and the publication of documents in French was deemed as a practical necessity. Following the Mexican-American War in 1848, the United States acquired roughly 75,000 Spanish speakers, expanding the diversity of languages spoken in the United States. The eradication of minority languages expanded even more in 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt claimed that "[w]e have room for but one language in this country, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house." Since then, many English-Only groups and organizations have formed in the United States. These groups advocate English as a similarity that unites us, compared to multilingualism that differentiates and divides us.
Modern English-Only Movements
While English-Only campaigns across the nation have targeted various non-English-speaking groups, Spanish-speaking immigrants are the most targeted this day in age.
A common misconception is that immigrants, particularly Hispanic immigrants, do not want to learn English. That is false. The truth is that immigrants know they should learn English in order to succeed. In 2015, 33.2 million Hispanics in the United States were proficient in the English language. Although English proficiency continues to rise, one-third of Hispanics still do not English very well.
Most recently in the English-Only movement, President Donald Trump removed all Spanish-language content from the White House website in order to make it an "English only" site.
Since the 1980s, 31 states have declared English as their official language. If English were to ever be declared as the official language of our nation, the rights of individuals with limited English proficiency would be abridged.
Multilingualism is extremely beneficial for a society. Research has proven that the ability to speak two or more languages improves mental performance. Multilingualism also helps to create job opportunities in today's society. Besides becoming more intellectually and socially advantaged, multilingualism allows citizens to become more globally competent. A multilingual mind is one that will allow you to succeed in any environment.
It is time for us Americans to change the way immigrants are perceived in our country. Our great nation that we live in today was not solely founded on the language of English, but Spanish, French and German. It is of utter importance to keep the languages of Colonial America and Modern America alive. The United States has no official language. The English language in America is not threatened. The unity of Americans has never been determined by the language we do or do not share, but by our political and social ideals. The importance of multilingualism in America lies in the value of seeing different perspectives and moving us toward becoming a better society.