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W. Va. Lawmakers Unwittingly Approve English As Official Language

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I thought they had to READ the bill before they passed it. http://www.local6.com/news/4370728/d...204122005&ts=H
W. Va. Lawmakers Unwittingly Approve English As Official Language

POSTED: 10:25 am EDT April 12, 2005
UPDATED: 10:26 am EDT April 12, 2005

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two days after the end of the legislative session, state lawmakers are discovering something few were aware of: They voted to make English the official language of West Virginia.

The language amendment was quietly inserted into a bill addressing the number of members that cities can appoint to boards of parks and recreation. Among mundane details about record-keeping, the amendment adds the provision that "English shall be the official language of the State of West Virginia."

Senate Majority Whip Billy Wayne Bailey successfully offered that change to House Bill 2782 amid a flurry of bills moving back and forth between the House and Senate on Saturday, the last night of the 60-day legislative session.

"I just told the members that the amendment clarifies the way in which documents are produced," Bailey, a Democrat, said Monday.

House Majority Leader Rick Staton recommended that his chamber agree with the Senate's changes. But Staton, also a Democrat, said he was unaware of the substance of the amendment until asked about it by The Associated Press Monday evening.

Efforts to make English the state's official language have been introduced annually since the late 1990s. A group called U.S. English has championed the cause.

"I think it's wrong that's something like that was snuck into that bill in the last minute," said House Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores, who helped kill an earlier proposal to forbid any state or local agency from having to print documents in any language but English.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Joe Manchin could not immediately be reached for comment.

Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, said English-only laws are based on the false premise that immigrants will not learn English without government coercion.

"And English-only laws do nothing constructive to increase English proficiency. They simply discriminate and punish those who have not yet learned English," Schneider
post #2 of 17
LMAO!
That's my Legislature for ya.... Geniuses, they are. Manchin (our governor) isn't much better...in fact, he's a slime!
WV lawmakers aren't known for their common sense.

In their defense....
Small amendments (riders) which have nothing to do with the actual issue addressed in the body of the bill are often buried at the tail end of a bill, and if you want to pass the bill, you have to pass the rider. Happens at the federal level, too.
From the Charleston Daily Mail (newspaper):
"The language amendment was inserted into a bill addressing the number of members cities can appoint to boards of parks and recreation."
CDM article
post #3 of 17
Umm, I'm pretty sure that English was already voted the offical language of the United States a couple of hundred years ago. So I'm not quite sure why it was felt that there needed to be a law saying that?

At any rate, even though it is not politically correct, I do believe that if someone moves to a country that speaks a different language they should learn that language. If I moved to Mexico I would learn to speak Spanish, if I moved to France I would learn how to speak French, etc.
post #4 of 17
Well legislative sessions are VERY busy. you have to pass, approve, or delcine hundreds of bills, motions and purposals in a 3 month period. You have committee meetings, sub-committee, sub-sub committee meetings, and floor debates. The legislatures don't have time to personally read everything that is presented to them. I'm not surprised that something slipped through.
post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by GrayKittenLove
... I do believe that if someone moves to a country that speaks a different language they should learn that language. If I moved to Mexico I would learn to speak Spanish, if I moved to France I would learn how to speak French, etc.
This reminds me of an incident some weeks ago while shopping. Mom and I were in the mall with my nephew and two of his friends (none older than 12) when the Michael Jackson case came up. As always, when discussing things that "are not appropriate for children" we switched into Spanish (which they don't understand).

We were talking about various aspects of the case when an older man passing by said, "why don't you people learn to speak English?" and started into a general rant about illegal aliens, welfare fraud, and a few other things that I couldn't catch.

Anyway, I guess my point is that if one hears another person speaking in another language, it may be for another reason than "they don't speak English."

(As for the gentleman at issue, we laughed at him. Didn't mean to - we just burst out laughing because this has never happened before)
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Bad Wolf
This reminds me of an incident some weeks ago while shopping. Mom and I were in the mall with my nephew and two of his friends (none older than 12) when the Michael Jackson case came up. As always, when discussing things that "are not appropriate for children" we switched into Spanish (which they don't understand).

We were talking about various aspects of the case when an older man passing by said, "why don't you people learn to speak English?" and started into a general rant about illegal aliens, welfare fraud, and a few other things that I couldn't catch.

Anyway, I guess my point is that if one hears another person speaking in another language, it may be for another reason than "they don't speak English."

(As for the gentleman at issue, we laughed at him. Didn't mean to - we just burst out laughing because this has never happened before)
I'm sure that often when people speaking other languages in some cases they can speak english. But in this case we are talking about what the offical language of a country is and whether or not special effort should be made to cater to those who can not speak the language to the point that government forms needs to be in both languages and etc. I have no problem with people speaking forgeign languages what I have issue with is the fact that there are many people who feel that it is their right to come live in a nation that English is the language and have the country conform to them instead of conforming to the country's norms.

I quite frankly can't imagine moving to Franch for instance and expecting their government or their people to cater to me because I couldn't speak the language. I can not see why expecting someone to learn and in most cases speak (ie when you they are communicating with the public ie working) the language of the country they choose the live in.
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by GrayKittenLove
Umm, I'm pretty sure that English was already voted the offical language of the United States a couple of hundred years ago. So I'm not quite sure why it was felt that there needed to be a law saying that?
Actually, the United States doesn't have an official language, which is why many states have made English their official language. I admit it looks pretty funny in almanacs or encyclopedias, since many countries have more than one official language, but there has never been any real necessity. Immigrants who want to fully integrate and get ahead have to learn English. Period. Germany's official language is German, but there are tens of thousands of Turks who have lived here for decades who speak little or no German. That's true of many Russians who have moved here in the past 15 years. Just making a language official doesn't change a thing, which Germany is just now learning, and requiring new immigrants to take language courses.
As a native English-speaker whose German is pretty fluent, I have to say that not providing official documents and forms, which are often difficult for native speakers to comprehend, in foreign languages is counter-productive. How can people be expected to know what they are required to do, their rights and options, if the information isn't provided in a form they can understand?
A case in point: I lent the 9/11 Commission Report to a German-Canadian colleague (who spent over half his life in Winnipeg, and spoke only English there) back in September. Yesterday I asked him if he'd finished it (hint, hint), and he told me he's still reading it, and finding it difficult.
post #8 of 17
How many people have met obnoxious tourist who goes abroad and becomes angry when none of the natives speak in English.

And why do people speak louder and slower when they are faced with a person who do not speak English, as if that will result in the other person suddenly understanding English.

There is also the interesting situation of immigrants who have picked up English but are now speaking better than the natives.

And there are people who ask for really funny things and when their server is confused they automatically blame them for not understanding English. I recall standing behind this person at KFC. This person ordered "3 pieces of white meat." He did not say chicken but white meat and when the server asked him did he means chicken the person said "white meat!" over and over. And finally when he left he was complaining that the server did not speak English. Oddly enough she understood my order for 1 coke just quite well.

Edit:
This is something from another post
http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/04....ap/index.html
It relates to the SAT. "He said one of his students who got 800 on the writing section considered math his best subject and speaks Chinese at home."
post #9 of 17
Another point that I'd like to make is that if immigrants are required to speak or learn English, then the government should finance it. It's totally unrealistic to expect, e.g., a Honduran slaving away in a "maquila" 10 or 11 hours a day, and earning about $150 a month, to have the time or money to take English courses before coming to the U.S.. I sincerely doubt that the majority of immigrants can afford courses after they immigrate, also. The little they can "pick up" in everyday life isn't enough to allow them to integrate fully.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eburgess
Well legislative sessions are VERY busy. you have to pass, approve, or delcine hundreds of bills, motions and purposals in a 3 month period. You have committee meetings, sub-committee, sub-sub committee meetings, and floor debates. The legislatures don't have time to personally read everything that is presented to them. I'm not surprised that something slipped through.
I agree that they are very busy and its not the first time something slipped through. On the other hand, what is the most important job that the legislature does? I would say make laws. Maybe they should be more careful!
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by jcat
Another point that I'd like to make is that if immigrants are required to speak or learn English, then the government should finance it. It's totally unrealistic to expect, e.g., a Honduran slaving away in a "maquila" 10 or 11 hours a day, and earning about $150 a month, to have the time or money to take English courses before coming to the U.S.. I sincerely doubt that the majority of immigrants can afford courses after they immigrate, also. The little they can "pick up" in everyday life isn't enough to allow them to integrate fully.
Thanks for letting me know we don't have an offical language per say, I was unaware of that. So let's call English the prefered language of the US shall we? My ancestors are German and I don't run around speaking German (Now as a child I did speak German at my Grandparent's house but never to strangers in public. Actually I am kind of sad that I don't remember much German anyone and am studying up on it to bring back my knowledge) so I'd say somewhere along the line as a whole the American population decided to adopt English as it's language.

I found a census report from 2000 showing the language usuage of Americans taking into account on one of the graphs both English and foreign languages, which shows that English is spoke by a large margin more often within America than any other language to support the perfered language assertion I made. here...

http://clk.about.com/?zi=1/XJ&sdn=us...2Fc2kbr-29.pdf


I'm not saying that they need to know it the moment they arrive here in the US. But I know people who have been here for 10+ years and still have not learned English. To me that says they don't want to or care to learn because they know they'll be catered to if they don't.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by GrayKittenLove

At any rate, even though it is not politically correct, I do believe that if someone moves to a country that speaks a different language they should learn that language. If I moved to Mexico I would learn to speak Spanish, if I moved to France I would learn how to speak French, etc.
This is, of course, the ideal situation. But often, people leave when they can. I teach English as a Second Language, many of my students come from Cuba. They leave when they can, to get out of an intolerable situation. They work on learning English when they get here, although a few studied some English in their home countries.

Part of it, too, is that when they are with their families or friends, they fall back into the comfort of their language. They are in a foreign country, so speaking whatever language keeps them in touch with where they came from. I have heard it described as the language of the heart, the first language you learned, from your parents, puts you in touch with your family and loved ones.
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
My great-grandmother taught herself English by reading comic books and paying attention to her kids.
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by bren.1
This is, of course, the ideal situation. But often, people leave when they can. I teach English as a Second Language, many of my students come from Cuba. They leave when they can, to get out of an intolerable situation. They work on learning English when they get here, although a few studied some English in their home countries.

Part of it, too, is that when they are with their families or friends, they fall back into the comfort of their language. They are in a foreign country, so speaking whatever language keeps them in touch with where they came from. I have heard it described as the language of the heart, the first language you learned, from your parents, puts you in touch with your family and loved ones.
Like I've said I don't have a problem with people speaking their first language amongst their family and friends. What I have a problem with is people wanting the society around them to conform to their first language. Say if someone is Meixcan and they move to the US, I think it's great that the try and hold onto a little of their culture inside their home including their language. And when I say home, I even extend it to being out and communicating with friends and family. But the moment they go out into society and say get a job working with the public, they should make an effort, yes an effort not magically begin speaking the language, to learn the language. Is that really so much to ask?

It quite frankly amazes me that this is such a touchy issues, it's not like anyone is saying that when you move to the US you can't ever speak your home country's language again, at least not anyone I know. All I'm asking is that if you want to live in the US for all it's advantages, then you should make the effort to speak the language. It's not anymore than any other country asks is it? I'm pretty sure that if I moved to say China they would expect me to learn some form of Chinese and if I moved to France they'd expect me to learn French, etc.

And it shouldn't be that hard to pick up on the basics of language if you are living amongst people that speak it. Now I'm not saying that you're going to be fluent but you should be able to at least ask for the bathroom. And another thing is just straight safety. Street signs are in English, all those falling rock signs on the side of the highway are in English, and so on and so forth. Heck even the warning signs on coffee and cigarettes are in English, they are chancing their health and safety if they don't learn the language.

Quite frankly I wouldn't have a problem with the Government offering English as a Second Language classes. It can't be any more expensive than revamping every government form and street sign in the US. And quite frankly would be a better use of money than some of the things they spend our tax dollars on.
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by GrayKittenLove
Like I've said I don't have a problem with people speaking their first language amongst their family and friends. What I have a problem with is people wanting the society around them to conform to their first language. Say if someone is Meixcan and they move to the US, I think it's great that the try and hold onto a little of their culture inside their home including their language. And when I say home, I even extend it to being out and communicating with friends and family. But the moment they go out into society and say get a job working with the public, they should make an effort, yes an effort not magically begin speaking the language, to learn the language. Is that really so much to ask?

It quite frankly amazes me that this is such a touchy issues, it's not like anyone is saying that when you move to the US you can't ever speak your home country's language again, at least not anyone I know. All I'm asking is that if you want to live in the US for all it's advantages, then you should make the effort to speak the language. It's not anymore than any other country asks is it? I'm pretty sure that if I moved to say China they would expect me to learn some form of Chinese and if I moved to France they'd expect me to learn French, etc.

And it shouldn't be that hard to pick up on the basics of language if you are living amongst people that speak it. Now I'm not saying that you're going to be fluent but you should be able to at least ask for the bathroom. And another thing is just straight safety. Street signs are in English, all those falling rock signs on the side of the highway are in English, and so on and so forth. Heck even the warning signs on coffee and cigarettes are in English, they are chancing their health and safety if they don't learn the language.

Quite frankly I wouldn't have a problem with the Government offering English as a Second Language classes. It can't be any more expensive than revamping every government form and street sign in the US. And quite frankly would be a better use of money than some of the things they spend our tax dollars on.
English as a Second Language courses are very common in Los Angeles where I live -- both free and inexpensive. They are taught in many high schools as Adult Extension Courses at night (along with GED and citizenship classes), in Community Colleges, at Parks and Recreations Buildings and other places. There are even TV courses.
post #16 of 17
Ok I got the scoop on how and why this happened. According to my professor, a former Chief of Staff for Gov. Wise, a Wyoming County Senator added it the English speaking line into a bill that would allow BOPARC, the organization that keeps the parks in Morgantown looking great, more members on the state park board and give more money to the organization for additions to the parks. He did it as a political stunt. He wanted to wrap himself in the flag and stuff like that. As a result of the addition, Governor Manchin may veto the bill. Poor BOPAC just wants to be able to be able to do thier job. If the bill is vetoed it may affect the events like concerts and clean up and things like that. If Manchin signs the bill, the English line won't affect much of anything according to my professor.
Unlike the south west, West Virginia does not have a problem of many people speaking many different languages. Yes Morgantown does have a lot of people speaking many different languages, but that is because WVU has students and professors from all over the world. And unlike many places, they speak English quiet well.
post #17 of 17
All 4 of my grandparents immigrated to the US from Italy. My grandfathers had to learn English in order to get a job. My grandmother had to learn English to get her citizenship at the age of 75. Now the citizenship test is given in 50 different languages.

There are people who refuse to learn English but expect us to learn their language to do business with them. I used to work in a bank in a city that was highly populated with Spanish speaking workers. Quite a number of them had been working in the area for years. One of my teller's father moved here before she was born and he still didn't speak any English!

Personally, I think that not having an Official Language leaves us open for criticism and someone slipping a codicil into the back of another bill expecting us to all learn Swahili or Piglatin in the future.
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