01 March, 2007

Me, Weighing In On The English-Only Thing

I've kept mum on this topic for two reasons. My general point of view isn't a popular one and until now I haven't bothered myself to read the full text of the current bill. Of course, when Sarcastro brings it up, I feel a sort of libertarian pull to join the conversation.

Feel free to gear up for calling me a racist bigot, but do please allow me a moment to explain my point of view and reasoning behind legal language limitations.

Companies should be free to choose their operational language

Because I'm all about individual liberty, and for the purposes of law a Corporation is the equivalent of an Individual, I believe that any company should be able to operate with whatever languages serve them best. There are stores here in Nashville where the signs are in English only. There are other stores with signage with nearly every language you can think of. Spanish, Russian, Farsi, Greek, Hebrew. These businesses know their customers and react accordingly.

Over the course of the last 15 years, the market has adjusted to an influx of Spanish speakers. Most large businesses now offer Spanish-language services. I think that's good for the community on many levels. But it has always been a 'personal' choice of the corporation.

Dual Language Operations are expensive

In my previous job we sold products into Canada. Part of my unwieldy scope of duties was to get our packaging, catalogues and products (Baby books) translated into French to meet Canada's dual language guidelines. Just as I mentioned above, it was our corporate choice to do business in Canada so we gladly undertook the expense. However, when the dual language laws passed in Quebec, forcing companies to do business in both French and English it had the effect of nearly crippling the economy of Montreal, as most Anglophone businesses either shut down outright or relocated to Toronto. It was simply too expensive for these businesses to essentially double their operations to meet the legal requirements.

Passing English-As-Official-Language Laws Can Make Economic Sense When Handled Appropriately

I dread the day when a law is passed saying that ALL Businesses must comply with dual language regulations. When most people think of 'businesses' they think of places like Verizon and Sears. Big companies with deep pockets for whom adding a line in Spanish to their signs and paperwork is just an inconvenient blip on the radar. Places like small mom and pop stores in other ethnic sections--think a Russian market or an Indian hair salon--would be forced to follow the same regulations. It would be financially prohibitive and functionally unnecessary. For that reason I would favour some type of up-front statement that we will not force any entity to operate in a dual language capacity.

6 Comments:

At 11:51 AM, March 01, 2007, Blogger dolphin said...

I'm guessing since your post suggests that you expect to be called a "racist bigot," you are in fact in favor of legislatively creating an English-only Nashville, but your post really isn't clear about your point of view.

Now I'm not a Nashville resident (I still am not exactly sure how I managed to get pulled into the Nashville blogosphere, though I believe it was through a random comment Glen Dean left on my blog ages ago), but I read enough Nashville blogs to be familiar with the legislation (plus I read the link to the bill you posted). I understand (though strongly disagree with) some of the ethno-centric reasoning that others have used to argue in favor the bill, but your post doesn't engage in that and instead seems to argue AGAINST the bill (or probably more accurately, against something else all together) after you state your support for it.

Every example you gave is an example of problems caused by the government stepping in an regulating the use of language. How can the answer to that possibly be for the government to step in an regulate the use of language?

While I'm not a libertarian myself, it seems to me that (unless I am severely mistaken on the meaning of the ideology) the propriety of unnecessary government regulation of language is a libertarian no-brainer.

 
At 12:31 PM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I'm guessing since your post suggests that you expect to be called a "racist bigot," you are in fact in favor of legislatively creating an English-only Nashville,

It honestly depends on the language of the bill. I don't think I am, but I am catagorically opposed to creating any dual-language regulations--all city documents MUST be in English and Spanish, etc.--and might favour an English only bill as a pre-emptive strike against a dual-language movement.

I don't think the current bill does that, though. But I don't think I'd be opposed to one that did.

after you state your support for it.

Did I state my support for it? I don't think I did.

How can the answer to that possibly be for the government to step in an regulate the use of language?

The only time I would see it as an answer would be in a first-strike scenario. Some people think we're at that place now. I don't know that we are.

the propriety of unnecessary government regulation of language is a libertarian no-brainer.

Yes, you are right. But the key word there is 'unnecessary'. I still think there might come a point in time where it is necessary to say "we will not pass dual language imperatives."

I'm a freelancer. I quite honestly could not afford to pay a translator to have all my promotional materials upgraded to dual language and I certainly couldn't afford to hire a Spanish-speaking person to have on hand in case I had any Spanish-speaking clients turn up. Any dual language laws (like the ones up in Quebec for a time) would drive me and others like me out of business.

 
At 12:45 PM, March 01, 2007, Blogger dolphin said...

Did I state my support for it? I don't think I did.

Ok, that's why I acknowledged I was guessing at your position, based on some of what you had written.

 
At 12:50 PM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I wasn't meaning to be a jerk there. I truly slept like 2 hours last night and honestly thought that perhaps I wrote something I didn't mean to write. It's been known to happen.

 
At 2:51 PM, March 01, 2007, Blogger dolphin said...

I didn't interpret it as you being a jerk. I was just clarifying what I meant.

 
At 7:58 AM, March 02, 2007, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

My understanding of the bill, Kat, is that it requires all government business to be conducted in English.

Private entities are not affected.

 

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