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The Problem with Language Police

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 10, 2008 1 min read
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Ruben Navarrette, an editorial writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune, writes about how it’s a recurring pattern in this country that some Americans periodically appoint themselves as language police and push for shortsighted policies.

He touches on the controversy sparked by school officials in Terrebonne Parish, La., who started thinking of requiring commencement speeches to be only in English after Cindy and Hue Vo, co-valedictorians at Ellender High School, spoke a few sentences of Vietnamese during their commencement addresses. (See my earlier post, “What’s Next? English-Only Commencement Speeches?”)

Two Asian-American groups, by the way, sent out a joint press release today calling on the Terrebonne Parish School Board not to prohibit the use of languages other than English during commencement speeches.

Here’s what Mr. Navarrette has to say about the Lousiana incident:

Here's what I don't like. I don't like it when busybody officials think that because they don't like something, they have to outlaw it. I don't like that language has become a proxy for the immigration debate and the anxiety that some people feel over a changing cultural landscape. ... I don't like the idea that some people would try to tell two Vietnamese-American girls, who through hard work and discipline earned the privilege of addressing classmates as co-valedictorians, the circumstances under which they can make the address.

(I picked up the column from HispanicTips.com.)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.