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Not speaking a common language is not a good thing
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The fact that we are increasingly not speaking a common language is not a good thing. I am not the only one who finds it more than troubling that two languages are being mostly spoken in California or the rest of the nation for that matter.

Why be troubled? There's plenty of reasons.

The first problem is the division it causes. I was raised to believe that America was a land for immigrants and that we rejoiced in the fact that we were Americans, coming from diverse backgrounds to become one people. Now it seems that there are some who want all the spoils of a great country but cling to other languages and flags of their native lands. I've heard stories of local minority students refusing to repeat the words to the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom. I find this more than troubling.

Canada has problems from two official languages spoken there which have been discussed extensively in its national debate. The eastern half of Canada speaks French, while the rest speaks English. The nation has felt the division it has created. But it's a different issue here. There is not one geographical half of our country where Spanish is spoken and one half where English is spoken. The languages are commingled throughout the entire country whether you're in California, Missouri or South Carolina.

It's safe to say that most people who are born and raised here are speaking English. Many immigrants, however, are not bothering to learn English. Is it unreasonable to expect a couple who made their home in Stanislaus County for 26 years and own a house, to be able to speak English in their neighborhood? I think it's very reasonable yet, I know of one. How can a person live in a country for 26 years and not be able to speak the language? It's simple: They've isolated themselves from their environment. Consider, too, that banks, businesses and government agencies often cater to such groups by offering services in Spanish.

By not being connected with their community, immigrants deprive themselves of relationships and indeed essential information. They cannot be effective parents if they don't know how to communicate with school officials, nor learn the system, such as resources. They don't attend PTA meetings. They don't show up at City Council meetings. Their alienation with the system stems from partly from the fact that they haven't bothered to learn the language of the nation.

The communication break-down can have terrible consequences. Summers ago three children from an Empire household where parents only spoke Spanish, went to a spot on the Tuolumne River near Santa Fe Avenue. The children perished as they did not realize - nor were they told - of the dangerous drop-offs in the water. A Bee article mentioned that the father didn't know of the dangers of swimming there. Why? Could being cut off from the community, its language and its commonly-shared knowledge have anything to do with this information not making it to the father? It's entirely plausible.

Another reason for a common language needs to be understood in this way: Having people who speak another language other than English causes constituencies and robs from the whole. People who speak Spanish, for example, start identifying themselves with the subgroup and not the whole. They form advocates for their group, not the whole. It becomes a "we" versus "you" thing when we are supposed to be the great melting pot looking out for the best interests of the whole, not the parts.

It's also very apparent that those immigrants who have not learned the English language limit their economic power. For the most part they are held to a small pool of service jobs that don't pay enough to raise a family and they become more dependent on taxpayer funded social services.

If you don't think language can cause problem, I suggest you visit history. In a word, Babel. The book of Genesis in the Bible explains a time in which people tried to build a tower to reach God and God was astounded at their arrogance and futility. To curse their ability to work together, God confounded their ability to communicate. He mixed up their languages. Without a common language, they were unable to work together toward a common goal. We know that project as the Tower of Babel.

Nothing has changed. Until a nation is able to communicate with itself, we're going to some major problems.

I realize that the knee-jerk reaction of some will be to call me and others with my opinion racists. I realize it for what it is: A handy and common deflection tactic but a grossly inaccurate one at that. They'd rather not debate the topic but try to attack the messenger. To those who whip out the race card I say that I've always had an ethnic diverse family. I have two cousins of Mexican descent, one of Japanese descent, a Japanese aunt, and a new son-in-law who is half Mexican - and I love them all dearly. I have dear friends from both Mexico and El Salvador. I also spent a week during nine consecutive summers to help poor colonies near Tecate, Mexico. If anything, I have seen how this country has been good to immigrants and seen the beauty of finding commonness with each other - and a common language is oh so important.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at