Oct 21, 2008

Professor Geoff Nunberg Discusses Missouri's Proposed "English Only" Law

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch
October 21, 2008

English only at meetings? Missourians will decide
By Doug Moore

Missouri has a scant number of foreign-born residents. Folks who grew up here tend to stay here. And bilingual households are few and far between.

Still, there is a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot next month that would make English the official language at all public meetings. The amendment would replace a 10-year-old state law listing English as the "common language" of Missouri....

Opponents say the need simply does not exist to make a change to the state's guiding document....

Numbers aside, the two sides agree on one issue: People need to learn English to succeed in this country.

"You can't live in America and want the best for your children and not learn English," said Geoffrey Nunberg a linguist at the School of Information at University of California at Berkeley.

Nunberg said the wide support for English-only laws receive come from the assumption that immigrants don't want to learn the language.

"People underestimate the allure of the English language," Nunberg said. "American culture is so seductive. By the third generation, they are speaking English exclusively."

California, Nunberg's home state, recognizes English as the official language.

"We also have official colors — blue and gold," he said. "Does that mean we can't wear read and white to work?"


Last updated:

October 4, 2016