Anti-Bilingual Initiative
"Babel" in Schools
Bilingual Ballots
Bilingual Education
Bilingual Research
Demographic Change
Endangered Languages
English Only
English Plus
Language Rights
Language Legislation
Life After Prop. 227
Muhlenberg Legend
"Multilingual Government"
National Identity
Official English
Opinion Polls
Puerto Rico
Research Controversy

Issues in U.S. Language Policy

The English Only Movement

Among special-interest lobbies, the English Only movement stands out. It's easy to understand the origins of the Tobacco Institute or the Peanut Advisory Council or the Valve Manufacturers Association. But how does a language acquire a multimillion-dollar advocacy group? Cui bono? Who seeks to benefit by pushing the idea of English as the official language? Certainly not the National Council of Teachers of English or the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages or the Linguistic Society of America – these organizations strongly oppose English Only measures.

U.S. English and English First, two national groups spearheading this legislation, started small in the mid-1980s. Drawing support mainly from direct-mail contributions, they have grown steadily in budgets, staffs, and influence. H.R. 123, the leading "Language of Government" bill in the 104th Congress, boasted nearly 200 cosponsors. Public support has exceeded 85 percent in some opinion polls. English Only is no longer a fringe movement.

Who are these people and what do they want?

  1. Citizens who want to preserve our common language and avoid ethnic strife
  2. Bigots seeking to roll back civil rights advances for language-minority groups
  3. Conservatives hoping to impose a sense of national unity and civic responsibility
  4. Liberals who fear that bilingual education and bilingual voting discourage assimilation 
  5. Nativists trying to fan animosity toward immigrants and build support for tighter quotas 
  6. Euro-ethnics who resent "unfair advantages" enjoyed by Hispanics and Asians today
  7. Politicians attempting to exploit a national mood of isolationism and xenophobia
  8. Racists who equate multiculturalism and ethnic separatism
  9. Americans who feel threatened by diversity, among other unsetting changes
  10. All of the above
A good case could be made for "all of the above." You be the judge. I have elaborated my own analysis in "Hispanophobia," a chapter from my book Hold Your Tongue. For differing views, you may want to visit the home pages of U.S. English and English First.


Others taking positions on English Only legislation include:

Copyright © 1997 by James Crawford. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this page for free, noncommercial distribution, provided that credit is given and this notice is included. Requests for permission to reproduce in any other form should be emailed to this address. But before writing, please read my permissions FAQ