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Controversy Over Speaking English

March 10, 1985

If any one thing becomes clear in looking at the controversy over speaking English in a government job (Southeast / Long Beach section, March 2/3), it is that ignoring basic principles can lead to burgeoning problems and conflicts. Perhaps, with regard to this particular subject, the Tower of Babel was just such a product of neglect to first principles.

To begin with we should ask two clear and simple questions about ourselves and our country:

1. What was the language of our Founding Fathers?

2. Do we want to remain a cohesive nation?

Everyone knows the answer to the first. But the immigrant has to take into account the pressures created by different languages and cultures. Such pressures have been the cause of conflict in many parts of this country at various times; and sections receiving an influx from a particular country, even after several generations, retain the cultural flavor of the fatherland of those people.

But it should be obvious that no matter how thickly populated an area may be with people from Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, China, Japan, anywhere, we still expect the official business of the land and our government to be conducted in English. Immigrants in the past have relied, and expected to rely, on relatives, friends, neighbors to help them when they were new here to conduct their business with the offices of the state . . . and rightly so.

In understanding the difficulties and making accommodation for the problems of communication, it should be kept in mind that it is the migrator who takes on and must deal with the problem primarily, and not the other way around.

Assimilation is never easy, but in weighing the arguments with respect to language of employees in government offices, it is to be hoped the courts will give careful consideration to the larger perspective of the effect on our primary objectives.

JAMES E. FARMER

Huntington Park

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