HB 477: Torturing the ones we want to welcome, torturing ourselves

Multiple Ohio blogs have posted entries in a foreign language today:

And it’s been noted that maybe, to some people, surfing from blog to blog and being unable to understand most of the posts (until you go here for the translation of each one) proves the point that Ohio and maybe even the United States should standardize, through legislation, the language most of us use and which is already being used by the state and federal goverment: English.

Why would we want our governments to do that? Because everything we try to read otherwise is pretty incomprehensible and that’s exactly what we want to avoid. It’s torture to stare at something and not have any idea whatsoever as to what it says, what it argues, what it tells you to do, what it tells you not to do.

Sounds logical, right?


Why? Why is that logic wrong?

Because those of us reading this blog and those blog posts are primarily native English speakers. Of course blog posts in Polish, German, Croatian, Korean and so on look like gobbledyguck to us.

So what’s the point of this little demonstration?

To non-native English speakers, blogs – and so many other forms of communication that native English speakers take for granted – look like nonsense. How does it feel, going to the most familiar places you know on the Internet to gather information about the day, about issues and policy that matter, about breaking news and urgent messages, and find that the shoe is on the other foot: you can’t understand a word, you can’t glean even the essense of what’s being communicated?

What kind of humans would legislate torturing literally hundreds of thousands of fellow Ohioans that way?

Here’s a list of the Ohio state senators on the State and Local Government and Veteran Affairs Committee, which appears to be the one that has HB 477 right now. Please contact them and let them know how you feel about HB 477.


Gary Cates

Teresa Fedor
Ranking Minority Member

Timothy J. Grendell
Vice Chair

John Boccieri

John Carey Tom Roberts
Robert Schuler  
Bill Seitz  
Mark Wagoner  

19 thoughts on “HB 477: Torturing the ones we want to welcome, torturing ourselves

  1. Daniella – I haven’t had a chance to tell you, I love your idea and I agree – it is REALLY easy that way to learn foreign languages. Sitting in ulpan for seven hours a day every week for three months was painful but I did learn Hebrew, primarily when I visited my Orthodox relatives who didn’t speak English!

  2. “If anything language can disenfranchise, if an employer requires Spanish then all that do not speak Spanish are systematically disenfranchised.”

    Are you SERIOUS? Ok, then, let’s take your statement to its logical extreme. If NASA Glenn (right down the road from me) requires knowledge of particle physics for a position there, I am disenfranchised. If Fairview Hospital requires knowledge of phlebotomy to draw blood, why, THEY’RE DISENFRANCHISING ME. I know about space stuff. I know about sharp needles and drawing blood. Why won’t they hire me? Meanies.

    What are you afraid of? Smart employers — and employees — know that language skills are a plus, not a minus. Of course we can’t have a translator at every single police station, fire station, etc… but you know what? The police officer or fireman who speaks Spanish (or any other language, for that matter) has an advantage their monolingual colleagues do not.

    “Its important that Mexico should be also working toward bilingual and should be recognizing English and promoting the use of English.”

    I can’t even justify that one with a response. Suffice it to say that the bilingual Spanish speakers in Mexico and elsewhere are considered to have improved their overall chances for employment — why can’t we believe this, too?

  3. Much of the immigration into the United States is legal, the US has the highest immigration numbers in the world.

    This is not a subjective statement it is not for or against it is factual.

    The highest percentages are Latino and Hispanic and include estimates of non documented illegal immigrants.

    This is not a subjective statement it is not for or against it is factual.

    To label my writing as stereotypical, why?

    First we hypothesis, if there are instances of proof then a theory is formed, if that theory holds true then it becomes a law. The law would be for the actual numbers that results, not in a legal sense but more in the sense of inevitable proportional results.

    In a democracy the majority rules, the majority can possess attributes and one can be language. Majorities can and do differ by geographical regions, the purpose of a majority is to promote the interest and concerns of that majority of people.

    If anything language can disenfranchise, if an employer requires Spanish then all that do not speak Spanish are systematically disenfranchised.

    Ohio has a commission for Latino and Hispanic affairs, its charter is to assimilate immigrants to existing language, laws and culture. Its charter is not to convert all government communications to address individual language needs. You cannot have interpreters at every police station, fire station, licensing and title bureaus, it would go on for ever and the process of hiring would discriminate against the existing majority that is not bilingual. The commission directs immigrants to not-for-profit agencies that assist in acclimation to our society.

    In Mexico historical legislation required all signs must be in Spanish, all news papers and televising broadcasts as well, Mexico recognizes as many as 60 other languages all of which are that of native peoples. They do not recognize English even though English is more widely spoken then nearly all of the indigenous languages.

    Not speaking both Spanish and English will be a disadvantage in the not so distant future and addressing that correctly is imperative. The behavior of leaving an area because of race is historical prevalent behavior in American society, do not confuse that with leaving because of an in ability to communicate or not being able to gain employment because of that inability to communicate.

    The only countries that have any language protection legislation are those that have issues of major migrations. If you say welcome one and all then you encourage the migration, if you say you must learn the language then it is a deterrent.

    The legality of immigration exists and those that are illegal should be registered and put on the list for legal immigration and sent back, if they return then they could be told you will loose your rights to legal immigration and again sent back again, if they then return they could be incarcerated.

    The US really is working to address the issue and should be doing more on the other side of the border offering services and developing. Its important that Mexico should be also working toward bilingual and should be recognizing English and promoting the use of English.

    We are in sense inviting colonization, other countries would be wise to do the same, simply inviting a system of American education is catalytic, providing education and then also addressing the needs of the community the funds begin to form economies. They could offer low cost of living opportunities to American immigrants the retirees offer capital and then require services and goods, more economies. Many south of the border countries are doing this I use the expression miraflores, its my own and I believe a good concept. What I dislike is wealthy venture capitalist seeking profit in these countries, I believe that the ventures should be more based on building in long term sustainable economies that are low cost alternatives not high profit real-estate ventures.

  4. The potential changes to demographics is unprecedented, the areas of concentrated transformation are not dispersed. The forecast of one in four being by 2050, that is an assumption based on a dispersion across the nation. The growth rates are not equal across states or even counties.

    Again Dade county transformed in a few decades, a county can change rather quickly and if English is displaced the move away is functional particularly in respect to employment. A simple requirement of “must be fluent in Spanish” can change everything.

    The largest employer in any major population is government, collective government is the largest employment areas in our economy.

    The assumption that discrimination or favoritism is mutually exclusive to any particular group is faulted. In fact globally Anglos are the most accepting and tolerant of diversity. Do not assume that other ethnic groups will not seize opportunities to gain political control and when doing so that they will not have their own set of preferences.

    Population concentration lead inevitably to high levels of political representation, and in so without any legislation they can disregard English and the existing population that comes with it. If you call any resistance to this racist or bigoted you in fact empower them to do so.

    With no protective legislation any language in any region can become the defacto language of government and with out regard to any other language. Again it is only Spanish that is in this unique position.

    It can and will become organized with time, the events will lead to strategic initiatives as with any group in society.

    The approach should be an initiative at the national level to be educate the population to be bilingual, I do not believe that primary education offer Spanish in most systems, it is an elective in high school. To go further in reality it would have little impact, accept in regions that have the highest growth rates. Florida, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina are a few. Language is difficult to retain without a opportunity to use it.

    Ohio with it 3% Hispanic/Latino population is not a high growth state, it actually ranks 43 I believe, it is not a state of choice. This legislation makes it less of a state of choice, not sure if that is good or bad? It is also important to point out that it is still possible to work for government if you speak Spanish, but it makes it less probable that interviews for government positions would ever be conducted wholly in Spanish.

    You really have to look at the growth rates to understand why that is of any concern. Going from a government that can not speak outside of English to a government that can not speak outside of Spanish.

    That’s the catalyst, can you speak Spanish, if no then you can not work for us. Based on the growth rate that is actually is inevitable, those that are not bilingual will be at a disadvantage. It changes the demographic, do not assume that change is devoid of its own discriminations. The transformation actually will make the discrimination systemic once a new majority form it will have the same attributes of the old majority. They can not discount English if the law forbids it.

    The next generation will be forced to address this, they may opt for bilingual as the default?

    I would avoid logic because logic would say one language is best. Nearly all wars are based on ethnicity and an inability to communicate and understand. The diversity you embrace is actually a from of separatism which breeds discrimination. But we have to deal with what exists, but it is wise to look at it with a goal in mind and it is very realistic to encourage the use of English and unfortunately that mean a disadvantage to those that do not. Then to hedge the bet make sure you have Espanola a comuique.

  5. What might be an easier alternative is to offer foreign language music video- I learned English by listening to the Beatles and Bob Dylan. It worked.

  6. Pingback: Blogging in Tongues Against HB477 | Brewed Fresh Daily

  7. Let’s see … The nub of the HB 477 seems to be “the English language shall be used for each meeting of a public body and for each official action of any state agency or political subdivision, including each record prepared, meeting held, policy issued, or other action taken under color of law.” The bill also allows for the use of foreign languages by government in multiple circumstances.

    So, the bill basically requires that state business be conducted in the language used by the vast majority of citizens, with certain exceptions. And, as one translation of today’s polyglot blog postings notes, “the bill actually changes very little.”

    So, why all the strong emotions about the bill?

    To those who oppose the bill, the bill seems to symbolize “intolerance.” So, to them, opposition to the bill is opposition to intolerance.

    To the bill’s sponsor, Bob Mecklenborg, “This bill […] sends a clear and concise signal to all those who want to participate in our state as citizens that there are responsibilities, as well as benefits. Recognition that English is the official language of the state is such a responsibility.”

    It seems to me that opposition/support of the bill is largely dependent on one’s preferred allocation of responsibilities. Should government be responsible for communicating with non-English speakers in their native languages? Or, should non-English speakers be responsible for learning English to communicate with the government? (I don’t think that anyone would disagree that there are certain instances in which the government should communicate in whatever language is necessary with non-English speakers.)

    Approximately thirty states have passed laws making English the official language of government. Has anyone assessed the ACTUAL positive and negative effects of those laws?

  8. Pingback: Once more, in English « Blogesque

  9. Bruce – I think you’re comments are very fair. It’s not a simple issue, it tugs at a lot of different values that we have to prioritize. I just am of the mind that efforts that exclude more people than they invite or make feel welcome are, at their core, not the way to get the best results, or even the desired result. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Russell – I like the part about lessons, I do not like the part about how we should be a one-language country. Every country does indeed have its own language but you don’t actually think that there are that many French who don’t or couldn’t speak Spanish or Italian and vice versa?

  11. Jason,

    Most of the jobs were government jobs.

    Yuma, AZ brand capitalism poverty, poverty, poverty. Just south of Yuma the unemployment rates soars to 60-70% when their are no crops to pick.

    Learning English “might” help get them out of the fields. (and I am not demeaning the work. It just doesn’t pay well)


  12. I don’t think it is a stretch to require an employee speak Spanish if they live in an area in which Spanish is widely spoken. It’s capitalism baby. They are trying to reach the market. What a dichotomy for our conservative friends.

  13. Jill,

    This is a tough issue.

    I was administrator of a new private school in Texas years ago. A number of the kids came from Hispanic families. Their Spanish was fluent but their English skills were lacking.

    I think we can insist on English without doing an injustice to the ethnic languages of others.

    In the US English is our common tongue. We should expect those who live here to speak the common tongue.

    I lived in Yuma, AZ in 2004. Most jobs REQUIRED you to be bilingual. Required! If you couldn’t speak Spanish and English the job market was pretty narrow for you.

    Having said all of the above……….I oppose politicians pandering to our nationalism with “fell good” English only legislation. Here in Ohio we have plenty of real issues to contend with……..like a tanking economy.


  14. I think that we have the cart before the horse here. What I see happening is that many Mexicans are already here. Before we worry about giving the Spanish blogs and fondue sets we need to give them some free English lessons.

    US citizens will not make a lot of effort to learn Spanish over the next decade. Unless we want to devolve into a two-language culture (full of pitfalls and Theodore Roosevelt pointed out) we need to be realistic about HOW to keep this a one language country.

    If we don’t we will end up with separate economies and separate everything else. Stating that one’s blog should be in multiple languages while most immigrants don’t yet have computers is cynical narcissism.

  15. That is PRECISELY the point Ben. (Thank you!!!)

    “So yes, it feels weird for me, but I wouldn’t be going to a website for information in a language I dont understand. Does anyone?”

    YES! That’s the whole point – all the Ohioans who come here from whereever who do not speak English fluently visit places as well as websites that will be inaccessible to them because of the language.

    There’s no question that people who learn English have the greatest chance of success, but to deny opportunities to gather information, from the state no less, simply because other people want to make a political statement and not recognize that so many Ohioans came from somewhere that wasn’t American soil, is beneath all of us.

    Scott’s post does an excellent job outlining the arguments.

  16. “What kind of humans would legislate torturing literally hundreds of thousands of fellow Ohioans that way?”

    Jill, whats really the point here? if someone speaks Korean I dont think they are coming to your blog or any of our blogs for news anyhow. So yes, it feels weird for me, but I wouldn’t be going to a website for information in a language I dont understand. Does anyone?

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