Issuu on Google+

And no accents, either, comprende? story l marlee cox writer

“This is America. Speak English.” This statement, emblazoned across t-shirts, collectible ashtrays, and—probably—the flabby bicep of some middle-aged, beersucking trailer park inhabitant, unsettles anyone whose moral compass points even slightly North. Americans, it seems, are as protective of their language as they are of cable television, Big Macs, and the right to stash a 32 caliber rifle under the floorboards “for emergencies”. Well. Listen up, melting pot. The United States of America has never declared English (or anything else) its official language. This is unlikely to change any time soon. So, be ready to keep pushing one for English; el dos para el español. In a country as vibrantly diverse as America, it is unrealistic to expect all people to speak a single language. In a school like Mehlville, though, that represents just as many cultures and creeds, it is entirely reasonable to require all students to communicate with one another in a single tongue. Wait. What? “We’re one of the most diverse schools in the area, maybe even the state,” said Tom Harper, English teacher and varsity soccer coach. “[Multilingual students speaking their native language within a classroom] doesn’t bother me, personally.”

Harper is not alone in his views—Mr. Bill Ebert, psychology teacher, places no more restrictions on students speaking foreign languages than he does on students speaking English. “I’m fine as long as, when being spoken to by a school staff member, they speak in English,” said Ebert. “If they need to speak with someone who speaks their native language, fine with me.” Both Harper and Ebert believe most students who are fluent in more than one language will often divert to their first—or native—language in an effort to be more comfortable in a school environment. “Within their peer group, they’ll use what’s most comfortable,” said Harper. “Mostly in a friendly manner.” Unilingual students—i.e. students who speak only English—often interpret a few foreign mutterings as anything but friendly, though. While teachers worry about students sharing answers in a language they don’t understand, Unilingual students tend to assume any conversation they don’t understand is, (a) negative, and (b) about them.

Asmer Halilovic is a junior here at Mehlville High School. He came to America last year, without knowing a word of English, and immediately enrolled in an English-speaking school. Confused and surrounded by a language he does not fully understand, Asmer said he will often speak in Bosnian to his peers, in the same way and about the same kinds of things English-speaking students converse. “This is how our country is founded: on different cultures and people,” said Ebert. How very true. In all honesty, no one is inherently American; since this nation’s beginnings, it has been peopled by immigrants seeking better opportunities and a better life. Trying to force a single language upon a magnificently dissimilar— yet essentially united—group of citizens is a heinous display of bigotry. The world’s wisdom and beauty, after all, cannot be contained in the confines of any singular tongue.

This is ridiculous and egocentric, but— perhaps—just human nature. “…We have an uncomfortable feeling that people are talking about us, or have an opinion if us,” said Ebert. “It goes along with age, and insecurity. It’s not surprising that this issue arises in a high school setting.”

For every person talking about you in a foreign language, 14 Student Prints Special

Gossip is a part of life, no matter how old you are or how many languages surround you. And, in reality, there are probably many more English-based rumors than any other kind.

there are 5 more talking about you in English. cartoon l jessie franklin


14