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CHAT: French in Louisiana and Spanish in California (was CHAT: The EU expands)

From:Danny Wier <dawiertx@...>
Date:Sunday, May 2, 2004, 23:16
From: "Jean-François Colson" <fa597525@...>

> French and English in Louisiana. Hawaiian and English in Hawaii. Spanish
> English in I don't remember which state for sure, California?
I looked it up, and I was only half-right about English being the sole official language of Louisiana. Legislation is required to be published in English, but the State Constitution does specifically allow for translations into French. So French is semi-official. California has only one official language, despite being the most linguistically diverse state in the nation. Linguocultural reactionarianism is big in the Golden State, as the English Only movement pretty much started there and has its most passionate adherents today in that state (as well as the other states along the US-Mexico border, and also Florida which has large numbers of Cubans and Haitians). Of course there are much more pressing matters than language policy, like the 'Wars' on terrorism and drugs and saving Social Security and Medicare. (Remember, we're a federal republic, so State governments have a lot of freedom in deciding policy that the Federal government can't touch; the Tenth Amendment states that in theory.)
> Does that mean that English and the other official language must be spoken > by the officials in those states? > Or that in the administrations there must be bilingual persons
> Are laws discussed in English only or in the other language too? > Can you sign a contract or sell your house in any-one of the official > languages? > In one word, what does that mean in the everyday life?
Just because the official language of your State is English, Spanish, Tech or whatnot (or the whole nation, if Congress does declare an official language and the President signs it into law - that would probably have to be by a Constitutional Amendment) doesn't mean you *can't* use another language publicly. California uses five languages on its ballots and Florida uses three, and anywhere across the land you'll find businesses with signs in Spanish or German or Vietnamese that don't even have English on them! Which is confusing to me since I don't speak a word of Vietnamese (well, I know what Pho is at least), but it's a right protected by the First Amendment. The real controversy is over bilingual education (or dual language which I like better; I'm an English Plus guy myself). There is such a major need for bilingual service workers in the US; we're in a peak period of immigration we haven't seen since probably the late 1800s. We got plenty of Spanish speakers already, but the average American is kinda scared of a language like Arabic or Vietnamese. And many of us never heard of Tagalog. I would also advise being careful about debate over language policy on this list (especially in the US or Canada), just as auxlang flamewars are a no-no. (No, I'm not trying to be a list Nazi. ;) or a high school civics teacher for that matter...)


Paul Bennett <paul-bennett@...>