America Needs an Official Language
The first American pledge of allegiance read, "We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!" It was written by Civil War veteran George T. Balch. He included the English language among the four things that define and unite Americans. English has always been a central part of American life, but its future as America’s common language is unsure. According to the US Census Bureau, over 20% of Americans speak a language other than English at home. Mass immigration has caused this number to triple since 1980. Almost one out of ten Americans speak English poorly. Although recent surveys find that over 80% of Americans support making English the official language of the United States, many politicians and activists oppose establishing an official language. In a time when Americans have little in common, it is vital to find things that can unite the country. Making English the official national language is crucial to strengthening one of the few ties that still bind Americans together.
Since the founding of the United States, Americans have recognized the central role of the English language in American society. The founders knew that a common language was essential to a united nation. John Jay believed that a common language was a blessing from God. In the Federalist Papers, Jay wrote, “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people–a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government.” John Adams envisioned an American nation united in the English language. Adams proposed that Congress establish an American Academy with the purpose of “refining, improving, and ascertaining the English Language.” He also believed that language affects government and culture, “It is not to be disputed that the Form of Government has an Influence upon Language, and Language in its Turn influences not only the Form of Government but the Temper, the Sentiments and Manners of the People.” English is the foundation of American government and culture. The founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Federalist Papers, were all written in and best understood in English. Likewise, all significant American cultural works like the great novels, classic films, and music were all created in English. From the beginning, the King James Bible has shaped the American mind. These texts, films, and music are the driving force behind American identity, strength, prosperity, and unity.
A common language allows a diverse nation like the United States to grow and flourish. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “We have room for but one language in this country, and that is the English language.” English is one of the few remaining things that still unites most Americans. Without a common language and culture holding America together, the culture will grow increasingly divided. A growing cultural divide will eventually cause the nation to break apart or be forced together by an authoritarian government. Self-government in America requires a common language.
A typical liberal objection to an official language is that it would weaken the country by reducing diversity. The left claims that language diversity strengthens countries, but this is not the case. Other countries that have multiple languages are not strengthened by it. Two modern examples are Quebec, Canada, and Catalonia, Spain. In both countries, language divides have contributed to cultural divides, which have resulted in political divides that weaken them.
Turning America into a multilingual people is unrealistic and unproductive. Unlike many Europeans, most Americans do not work or live in places where knowing a second language is important. The average working-class American does not need to know multiple languages to succeed, and America would not be much stronger if he did. A common language brings more people with diverse backgrounds together than language diversity.
A population that does not understand each other cannot trust each other. A national language is essential for a free and strong America. Legislation that makes English the official language, like the one recently proposed by Senator JD Vance, will promote English by requiring the government to carry out most of its business in English. It will also create more comprehensive language tests for acquiring citizenship. An official language will ensure all Americans of every background will always have something in common.
A common national language is a blessing. Establishing English as the official language of the United States is the best way to conserve that blessing.