Thursday, June 08, 2006

quick comment on our president

Lord Bush offers a modest proposal: immigrants should learn English (link via Drudge).

In and of itself, I don't find this an evil policy. It might be an unworkable idea, given the rate at which immigrants enter the US and form ethnic enclaves, but it's not a bad idea. America isn't Switzerland; we're arrogantly assimilationist, and I think that's actually a good thing. Here in Korea, I think Koreans have every right to expect us foreigners to try and learn their language and understand their culture, especially if we plan to suck off the teat of their economy for years on end. It's a gesture of appreciation made toward the country that feeds and houses us. It should weigh on our consciences when we make no effort to learn the language of our hosts. Assimilationism isn't a hateful or harmful stance to take.

But where Bush goes wrong is in how he frames the "debe aprender inglés" issue. He apparently said:

...immigrants should know there is a legal way to stay, if they are willing to make the effort: "One is to say you got to pay a fine for being here illegally. You got to learn the English language. In other words, you got to repay a debt to society and learn the skills necessary to assimilate into our society. Show us you've been working hard."

I think I understand Bush's intention here, but equating language learning to paying a fine is, to put it politely, a clumsy way to approach the problem. Overall, Bush is saying the same thing I'm saying: you should feel some sense of obligation to the country that now nurtures you (by implication, if you're looking to become a citizen of that country as opposed to a mere consumer of its resources, the obligation is even greater). But inadvertently implying that learning English is a penalty (as opposed to a doorway to a wider, bilingual world) is just silly. Bush could've phrased his thoughts more positively. Maybe he chose that approach to pander to his hard-line constituency. I don't know. I suspect he wasn't pandering; he was simply misspeaking again.

You got to learn the English language.

Ayup. You said it, hoss.



  1. I think Bush should set an example and make an effort to learn English himself.

  2. Tho practical, to have those who engage in commerce to have a common language, I did find irony in the fact that someone who has used the word "strategify" would suggest that others learn to speak English.



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