A gift to Nashville, or, Who doesn’t want to learn to speak English?

The third reading of the ‘English first’ bill is scheduled for tonight’s Metro Council Meeting. I have a few questions I’d like to ask the city council members before they vote, but first I want them to consider the season and to consider what a great country we live in.

When we go over our list of things to be thankful for, I need to always remember to be grateful to live in a country where people want to get IN, rather than a country where people are dying to LEAVE. I’m thankful I live in a city that is much more diverse than the city I grew up in (I grew up here in Nashville). I’m thankful that people like Avon Williams and James Lawson decided that enough was enough – if we claimed to be Christians, how could we live in a city that was basically an apartheid system. Things aren’t perfect, even yet, but that just gives us all something to attain.

I’m thankful for the many ethnic groups who are gracing our city – Kurds, Hispanic, Laotian – the list could go on and on. The English language is organic and thanks to infusions of other cultures, our language is enriched and vibrant. One of the greatest components of prejudice and fear is ignorance. When we live and work side by side with people who don’t look exactly like we do, we learn that they pretty much eat, breathe and want to prosper pretty much like everyone else.

Finally, I’d like to ask the city council a few questions:
1) What Hispanic and other ethnic leaders did Councilman Crofton work with in order to create this bill? He claims it is for the good of ‘those people’, but with whom did he work to get to this point?

2) Do you know any immigrants to Nashville who DON’T want to learn English? From what I’ve read there is a demand not being met for English classes serving both adults and student aged immigrant?

3) Why don’t you focus on helping these people learn English by offering more opportunity and more accessibility to classes where they can actually learn English?

4) What real purpose is this bill going to serve? What does English first really mean? English is already the official language of Tennessee. Based on my knowledge of geography and capital cities, Nashville is in Tennessee.

In all the noise about the what this season should be called – Holiday or Christmas – we tend to obscure what we really ought to be about – giving, tearing down barriers and being thankful for what we have, and more importantly what we are, and can be.

Join the Chamber of Commerce and the major mayoral candidates in saying NO to this mean-spirited bill. Please urge your councilman to vote NO tonight and show the world that we are truly a great city.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “A gift to Nashville, or, Who doesn’t want to learn to speak English?

  1. I know of many people who want to learn English because we have a waiting list of students to get into our ESL program at church. One thing I’ve learned from our Korean students is how important a person’s first language is to them and their culture. We ask them, ‘do you practice English at home with your family?’ And they say, ‘not much, because my children are forgetting Korean, and we don’t want that to happen.’ Their children will inevitibly learn English – maybe even as their first language, but their parents want them to also know the language of their home country. This is an important piece of their heritage that SHOULD be passed down and preserved. Unless the parents are speaking in their native tongue at home, their children may never be exposed to this part of their ethnicity. So not only do we have people struggling to learn English because they want to, they also struggle with giving this gift of bilingualism to their children.

  2. You are asking all the right questions John. And Emily makes a good point. I have lived this exact scenario. My father did not allow Spanish in the home once the school district baned it. As a result, my Spanish is at best sketchy, and I have relatives I can barely communicate with.

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