When the multilingual Coke ad came under siege at first I couldn't be bothered to listen to the noise, because that's all it was to me -- misguided rumbling that didn't deserve attention. But as the #speakamerican clamor crowded headlines and my twitter stream, I knew our children were the ones who had the most powerful message for us all:*
Bilingualism is the proud voice of the U.S. with a growing percentage of children growing up bilingual and multilingual. For these kids, bilingualism is just as American as French fries, apple pies and pizza. And then add in some curry, tagine and tamales too. Currently one in five households, including my own, speak a language other than English at home. And those statistics don't even count the speakers of English at home that are learning a new language at school. There are over 530 immersion schools in this country and demand for them is outpacing supply in many communities. When I hear polemics about English only, it confounds me why so many see language in zero-sum terms. English can and does peacefully coexist together with hundreds of other languages, as it always has. English-only discourses are a rearview mirror perspective of our nation, one that fails to confront the reality of the present or consider the future of our country in the context of a globalized world.
Speaking another language is not a threat to the fabric of the U.S. -- it is the very thread that makes the fabric beautiful. And more than that, it is the thread that when woven together gives us strength. So let's stop looking in the rearview mirror and start considering the America that will lead us into the future.
What language does America speak? English and over 300 other languages.
I speak English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. I've studied Russian, Japanese and German. And I'm learning Arabic.
What languages do you speak?
* Please note: We tried very hard to find a Native American language to represent in our clip, and regret we could not find one in time. There were also many other languages we wanted to include, and it was strictly a matter of timing that we couldn't represent more.
This video was originally published on InCultureParent, an online magazine for parents raising little global citizens.
Follow Stephanie Meade on Twitter: www.twitter.com/incultureparent