This Is America. Vote (And Order Cheesesteaks) In English!
April 28, 2008, 03:31 PM
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It's not his (her?) main point, but VDARE.com letter-writer Long Live Liberty mentions (A California Asian-American Reader Says Jared Taylor Needs A Broader View) a "Chinese for Ron Paul website (Mandarin only) that attempts to educate limited-English speaking voters so that they can make informed decisions when casting their ballot."

But why should people who can't understand English well enough to follow American political debates be voting in the first place? And, thus, why should they be citizens?

My objection isn't easily dismissible. As Jim Boulet, head of English First, has written

Translation requires a remarkable amount of trust in the translator, unless everyone involved is fluent in both languages. A translator with an agenda can be a dangerous person if no one else notices what he is actually doing. [The Peril of Perfidious Translators, October 8, 2003]:
(Of course, if everyone were fluent in two languages—English and Spanish, say—then no translators would be needed! And, in fact, one of the languages would be superfluous, a point that doesn't seem to have occurred to those who argue that native-English-speaking Americans should all become comfortable in Spanish.)

While outright perfidy may not have been involved, VDARE.com's Mexican correspondent Allan Wall has written that 2002 Texas gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez (who ultimately lost to Rick Perry) campaigned on very different themes before English-speaking audiences and Spanish-speaking audiences. And given what Allan tells us (trusting this translator!), those who were limited to English might have been highly unenthusiastic about what Sanchez was saying to audiences who understood Spanish.

Reader Long Live Liberty's remark was only about electioneering materials, and we don't know his (her?) views on multi-lingual ballots, but perhaps the distinction isn't so important. Consider a bit of 1995 Congressional testimony by then-president of Boston University John Silber. Silber remarked that such ballots "impose an unacceptable cost by degrading the very concept of the citizen to that of someone lost in a country whose public discourse is incomprehensible to him."

The Silber quote comes from a 1996 article (English Is Broken Here) by John J. Miller in the Hoover Institution's Policy Review. Miller added his relevant two cents:

Not everyone need speak English all of the time, but it must be the lingua franca of civic life. Since the voting booth is one of the vital places in which citizens directly participate in democracy, it must be the official language of the election process.
While it would, indeed, be un-American to forbid electioneering in languages other than English, the points made by Boulet, Silber, and Miller all suggest that we should discourage it.

And we should encourage ordering cheesesteaks in English.