Tom O'Halloran: Learn English


In response to the article "Spanish-speaking parents list concerns," (Steamboat Today, Oct. 30), it is evident that a severe communication breakdown exists between Spanish-speaking families and their children's teachers.

Contrary to the parents' proposals, however, the solution to this problem lies not with the school district but with the families themselves. It is simply not the responsibility of the district to provide translators and hire new teachers, all at the taxpayer's expense, because Spanish-speaking immigrants fail or refuse to learn English, the national language of the United States.

First, it is necessary to point out that the United States is and always has been a "melting pot." People come to this country from all over the world hoping to find a better quality of life with the many opportunities this country offers. The cultural heritage they bring with them enhances and diversifies our society in countless ways. Because of this diversity, many languages are brought across our borders that are spoken freely within our country. Immigrant parents should be encouraged to keep their heritage alive by passing these respective languages and customs down to their children. Only through diversity and understanding can we combat fear and hatred.

In a country as diverse as our own, however, it is vital to maintain a universally spoken, "national language." The importance of maintaining effective communications among all citizens in the event of a national crisis cannot be overemphasized. Even in everyday life, efficiency in business and education depends on a common language that is understood by all. Although many different countries played a part in the initial exploration and colonization of what is now the United States, it is most widely recognized that the birth of our nation was most directly a result of a revolution spawned by colonists to declare independence from English rule. The founding forefathers were English-speaking, and the Constitution was written in English.

For generation upon generation thereafter, the primary language spoken in business and in our schools was English. It is therefore logical that English be recognized as the official language of the United States, just as Spanish is recognized as the official language of Mexico.

It is the responsibility of all citizens to learn the national language of their country. If an individual chooses to emigrate to another country in search of new opportunity, then that individual must learn to speak the new language and also adapt to cultural norms that may very well differ from those of the homeland. It is simply neither practical nor realistic to expect the new society to change its ways to accommodate someone who refuses to adapt. Likewise, it is not the responsibility of our school district to provide translators to families who refuse to "step up to the plate" and learn our language. Educators play an important role in the development of young people, but they cannot achieve their goals without parents living up to their own responsibilities as citizens. There should also be an immigration law mandating a working knowledge of the English language as a requirement for naturalization.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all of these new citizens to the United States of America. I admire the courage and determination that it inevitably takes to succeed in a new environment and warmly welcome these families as new neighbors in our community. With all new opportunity, however, comes a certain amount of sacrifice in order to adapt to new surroundings. As the old saying goes: "When in Rome..."

Tom O'Halloran
Steamboat Springs


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