there is the pesky question of the concerted effort the U.S. government put forth, to eradicate the languages of Native American people whose lands were invaded and appropriated. The xenophobia underlying these measures was not veiled at that time. Nor is it subtle today. Anti-immigrant sentiment has undoubtedly contributed to the ongoing quest for monolingual domination of the nation. Many countries have sought to control populations with this tactic.
It is a peculiar quest for insularity. Learning and speaking different languages not only has immense benefits, but it is a portal to other cultures, and can lead to a greater understanding of people and the socio-political context that informs their actions and collective understanding of the world around them.
Why, then, in a world that is becoming increasingly smaller, due to technology and ease of travel, would we seek to inculcate in the mentality of the U.S. populace, that it is important to remain the monolingual wonder of the world? While the proponents of the single language crusade will quickly point out that officially, the movement is about keeping the official business of the community English-only, the subtext is clear: implicit state-sponsored condescension toward the use of languages other than English. It is easy to extrapolate that having the backing of a state-sponsored monolinguist bias bolsters the biases that lead to the “I don’t want to push #1 for English” bumper stickers that abound.
There is rarely a good reason to seek to close yourself off from methods of communication with your neighbors. This is especially true when you’re seeking to enhance peaceful and respectful co-existence with an international community. The U.S. would do well to foster respect, and encourage the exploration of other cultures, through the embracing of multilinguilism for all citizens. It is the mindset of openness that is directly attacked with the cries for, “One country, One language”. The European method of multiple language instruction should be our model. It would be an important stride to be able to disprove the old joke:
What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual.
What about someone who speaks two? Bilingual.
What about someone who only speaks one? An American.