BBC: Wanting National Language is ‘Anti-Spanish’



Es acceptable hablar español en los Estados Unidos. Mucha gente ya lo hace, incluyéndome a mi. It is okay to speak Spanish in the United States. Many people already do, including myself.

Today, more than 41 million individuals – roughly 13 percent of our nation’s residents – speak Spanish in their homes. This makes Spanish the second most spoken language across the country. By 2060, millions more will add to this total as Hispanics will make up nearly 30 percent of the nation’s population.  

This demographic change has led the United States to embrace the Spanish language in recent years. Through translating official documents and signs into Spanish to as offering Spanish instruction in most K-12 schools and universities, the U.S. has gone to great lengths to accommodate this shift.

Despite its good intentions, some think that the U.S. is actively seeking to repress the use of Spanish. BBC reporter Beatriz Díaz uses this false dilemma fallacy in a recent article, titled ‘‘’English Only’: The Movement to Limit Spanish Speaking in US.”

She suggests that lawmakers, activist groups, and private citizens aim to make English the official national language by restricting the use of Spanish. What Diaz first fails to acknowledge is that establishing a national language does not come at the cost of eliminating the use of another language. There is no legal penalty for speaking Spanish. There are no official calls to ban speaking Spanish. If anything, Spanish is openly welcomed and frequently seen as a compliment to English.

The United States is only one of three countries worldwide that does not have an official national language, indicating that the vast majority of countries believe in the necessity of a common, standardized language. Notwithstanding our lack of an official language, we consider English proficiency to be important enough as a condition of becoming a citizen. Thirty-two U.S. states have officially listed English as their official language also revealing its importance.

Indeed, it is important. Establishing English as the nation’s official language likely would save U.S. taxpayers millions from paying for translations, would create a common cultural identity, and ultimately assist Spanish-speaking immigrants in securing a job in a competitive, English-dominated workforce by encouraging its adoption.  

Díaz’s ‘either-or’ assertion that wanting a national language is somehow ‘anti-Spanish’ is completely baseless. Not only has the U.S. largely accommodated the language, but the fact that nearly every other country has a national language reveals that the U.S. is perfectly fine in wanting to do the same.

Her piece then goes on to assert without citing evidence that “viral attacks generally do not occur against tourists who speak Dutch, French or Italian, for example. They are usually directed against people who speak Spanish and who, because of their work or simply because of their physical appearance, are classified as immigrants.”

There is no objective evidence or study indicating that Spanish speakers are more likely to face “attacks” than individuals speaking other languages. Citing “videos on social networks show people criticizing others for speaking Spanish in public places,” as her evidence, Díaz comes to a hasty generalization, which is not sufficient enough to support her argument. 

More importantly, however, Díaz conflates tourists with immigrants permanently residing in the United States. Individuals from all backgrounds should be treated with the utmost respect, but those residing permanently in the country have civic responsibilities and should be able to speak the nation’s most spoken and de facto language. We do not expect the same from those simply visiting for vacation.  

BBC (the public service broadcaster in a country whose official language is English!) just doesn’t get its facts right in this piece. Its convoluted assertions do a disservice to those genuinely wanting to have discourse on the national language debate.

About Author

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Matthew joined FAIR in 2018 as FAIR’s communications specialist. Matthew is a primary media contact for the organization and assists with all of the organization’s communication activities. He brings previous experience in government research, writing, and communications. Before joining FAIR, Matthew worked in the Wisconsin State Senate as well as a Wisconsin political non-profit. Matthew holds a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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