General Question

JackAdams's avatar

Should there be a Federal law that states that you cannot become a naturalized citizen of the USA, unless you can read, write and speak English, fluently?

Asked by JackAdams (6492points) August 28th, 2008

This question is prompted because a Federal judge refused to administer the formal oath to an elderly woman (at a public swearing-in ceremony), because it was revealed to him that she didn’t speak/understand English.

None of the signs at the US Post Office are in any languages other than English, which indicates that our federal government might have an “English-only” attitude.

August 28, 2008, 5:24 AM EDT

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

11 Answers

hearkat's avatar

Noy many US citizens can speak, read or write English “fluently”... there is plenty evidence of that right here in Fluther!

sarapnsc's avatar

Well I have to agree. If you can’t speak or understand English, exactly how are you understanding what the judge is saying and still taking an oath. I don’t believe the USA should give them an oath in the person’s native language. Your in someone else’s country, for goodness sakes. One should learn and understand the language, especially if you are going to be sworn in, what’s the point of it, if you don’t understand.

I don’t feel you should have to be able to read, write and speak it fluently, but you should be able to understand and speak english well enough to become a citizen of the USA or learn/understand the language of any country you want to become a citizen in.

SeekerSeekiing's avatar

Many of our ancestors wouldn’t have made it in then…. Folks who do not speak English well can know about the USA and it’s rules because they go to classes in their language and learn them.

I think like our ancestors, many first wave immigrants come knowing their own language. But as each generation grows up, and is schooled in American schools, they learn English and most become bi-lingual. Subsequent generations are likely to lose their families origianl language.

I’m not for “English Only” citizenship.

As for reading, writing, English fluently—give America a test and we’d have to kick many of us out ;-) But that’s just me….

sndfreQ's avatar

First off, who would evaluate that proficiency standard? As others mentioned above, there are many “citizens” here and in our country that were born here and don’t speak fluent/proper English.

No I would have to disagree with you on that assertion JA; it would seem that somehow those trying to naturalize would essentially be discriminated against based on their intellect / aptitude, and while not a lawyer, this to me would also seem like an infringement on their first ammendment rights, so in principle your suggestion IMO seems antithetical to the ideals of our constitution and civil rights.

There are already basic standards in place that require cursory knowledge of English, as well as comprehension of our nation’s basic laws, constitution, and Bill of Rights.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t think you should have to be fluent in English to become a citizen. However, the government shouldn’t have to speak/write in another language for an immigrant’s benefit. The immigrant should bring along someone who can translate for them.

JackAdams's avatar

I need to clarify that I would not advocate such a law; I was just quoting what others have proposed, to facilitate intelligent discourse.

Not everything I mention, is something that I personally support.

Sometimes, I play the role of “Devil’s Advocate,” because I’m curious about the feelings or opinions of the collective.

August 28, 2008, 2:36 PM EDT

sndfreQ's avatar

Thanks for the clarification; I’ll make it a point to read the description more carefully next time.

JackAdams's avatar

Allow me to point out that bandleader Lawrence Welk (1903–92) was born in Strasburg, North Dakota, into a tiny village where the residents spoke German, and that he didn’t learn to speak English until he was 21, according to his autobiography.

As I believe I have mentioned before, I worked with a Mexican-American guy on a job, who was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in the barrio section, never learning to speak English.

One day I saw him in 1976, and he was speaking English, better than I, so I asked him why he finally decided to learn it. He replied, “The American involvement in South Vietnam is now over.”

When I asked for details, he reminded me that no American citizen can be drafted for forced military service, unless they read, write and speak English, fluently. So, by continuing to be “English illiterate,” he had come up with an ingenious way to avoid forced military service, without moving to Canada, or being jailed. Our government simply did not want him under his “circumstances.”

Did you know that there was a time in the history of our country, where our federal government would not allow you to be a federal employee, if you DID know English? It’s true.

It was at Alamagordo NM in the 1940s, and the USA was working on “The Manhattan Project,” hoping to develop the first Atomic Bomb.

At this remote location (20 miles in any direction from other human beings), scientists lived and worked together. But, these technicians had to have their meals prepared and served, had to have their residences cleaned (and their laundry processed) and the military vehicles needed to be serviced. Lastly, food had to be grown and harvested, “on site.”

It was decided by the brass in Washington that the maids, gardeners, auto mechanics and kitchen help could not accidentally overhear the scientists discussing details about the construction of the atomic bomb, and if they did accidentally overhear such conversations, they could not be able to understand the content, “due to reasons of national security.”

This was a redundant measure, because the workers would be hired with the understanding that once they entered the property where the project was underway, they could not ever leave, until the project was completed, and they could have no written or verbal contact with any loved ones.

The decision was made to use only Hispanics who knew no English. Tests were put in place that ensured that any person being considered was not faking their English ignorance, and all positions were filled by workers who had no idea just how much they were helping the allied war effort.

All of the military supervisors placed in authority over them were bilngual, of course, and these workers were indeed outstanding at their jobs, and the story is told that each received a written commendation from President Harry S Truman, in Spanish.

August 28, 2008, 3:40 PM EDT

pathfinder's avatar

Local language between public in that curent country Is problem.For exampe_I know one guy.He is english and he was trying to bring me closer to this problem. This way .He was complaining about people who does not know about english nuch.The point of this is televizione and posters witch has been broght a more uncalm among domestices.

pear_martini's avatar

How is anyone supposed to learn if they dont live here for a few years to pick up the language?

My mom moved to the US from South America when she was in her twenties. She was legal but could barely speak and had a very thick accent.

By her thirties her English vocabulary and grammer surpass many born and raised Americans. Frequently, she knows the meanings of obscure words that I don’t even know the meaning of.

She learned by socializing with Americans, checking words she didn’t know if the dictionary while reading, reading a lot of complex lit., and raising a daughter in English only.

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