American Babel

Back in June, a belligerent New York City attorney briefly became a symbol of “xenophobia” for those who make it their business to deconstruct what’s left of American identity. Viral video of his tirade in a restaurant over staff speaking to customers in Spanish served as but the latest example of what the media portray as an epidemic of bigotry they are duty-bound to cure through incessant coverage and expressions of outrage. Harmeet Kaur, for example, capitalized on the moment to remind the public from her perch at CNN that “the US has no official language,” while simultaneously conceding that there is “no question that English is the de facto language of the United States.”

“Most people in the US only speak English,” Kaur concedes. “[A]lthough the US is increasingly becoming more multilingual, English probably isn’t going anywhere any time soon.” This line suggests that while most Americans speak English for now, the country is continually moving toward becoming “more multilingual,” though Kaur claims we need not worry about this—and that those who do worry are under the influence of President Trump and a general spirit of “isolationism” that Trump suddenly conjured out of thin air.

Kaur is comforted that “moves to bring back bilingual education programs” indicate “that the English-only movement may be becoming less prevalent.”

Read the rest in Chronicles.

Photo Credit: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Tower of Babel, 1563, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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