Afterthe reading of the article we get an idea of Robert King’s point of view andarguments concerning language. It is correct that our native tonguehas a lot to do when it comes to shape our personal identity, “giving us notonly words and literature in common with people who speak the same language butperhaps even habits of mind.
” (409) But in Robert D. King’s words “just howmuch of a country’s identity is tied to its language? (…) is language diversityreally threat to national identity?” (409) On august 1, 1996 a bill was sanctionedby the House of Representatives in the United States that would make theofficial language of the country English. The “English Only” Law was passed in Arizonain October, 1995. King also emphasises the fact that theFounding Fathers didn’t feel the need to legislate that English had to be the officiallanguage of the Country and that “it has always been taken for granted that Englishis the national language and that one must learn English in order to make it inAmerica.” (411) But back in 1753, Benjamin Franklin showed his concern aboutthe immigrants, especially the German ones. He believed that they would not beable to preserve their languages because they would end up out numbering them.
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EvenTheodore Roosevelt said “we have room for but one language here, and that isthe English language (…) we must have but one flag. We must have also but one language.That must be the language of the Declaration of Independence”. (411) I think that one of the biggestquestions in King’s mind was “is America threatened by the preservation oflanguages other than English?” (413) Through the Middle Ages you owed loyaltyto a ruler not to a nation as a language unit, but a lot of people think ofnation as a “totality of people who speaks the same language” (414, JacobGrimm, 1846) or that “languages originally distinguished nations from oneanother”. (414, Rousseau) Therefore, almost by default, language became thedefining characteristic of nationality. Robert King gives us examples of howcountries deal with the language differences. For instance, Estonia has passeda law demanding knowledge of their language as a requirement for citizenshipeven though Ethnic Russians make up almost a third of Estonia’s population. At thesame time, other countries manage to stay unified in the middle of the multilingualism.
For example, Switzerland and India, who recognizes 19 official languages. Both countries,in King’s opinion, have a “stable national identity” (418) and maintain theirunity through their beliefs, religions, memories, customs, among other things. Just like any other country, theseones have complications too when it comes to language, particularly when youhave so many. But like King says “there is almost nothing the government (…)can do to change language usage and practice”. You can’t make or stop someonein a free country to express themselves how they want and in any language theywish to. “wise governments keep their hands off language to the extent that itis possible to do so.” (418) I believe that the most convincingpiece of evidence given by King is when he says that “language is a convenientsurrogate for other national problems” (419), because people can deal with languagedifferences. There are other ways to communicate and make yourself heard.
People,especially in America, are just threatened by language and “not many of today’simmigrants will see their first language survive into the second generation” (419)if we don’t accept and respect each other and our differences. People shouldtake a look at themselves and ask, is this really what we want? All of us to bethe same? I don’t think we do. How boring would that be?