Should a candidate for office have to speak fluent English? And just what is the definition of fluent? “It’s a live issue in the bilingual border city of San Luis, Ariz.,” the Wall Street Journal reports, one that" has divided its 25,000 residents."
A state court is considering whether Alejandrina Cabrera, who trying for a spot on the City Council, is proficient enough to hold office. Arizona, like many other states, requires office-holders to speak, read and write English, but the law doesn't say how well.
Cabrera told the New York Times that she speaks "little English," but that "my English is fine for San Luis."
...Judge John Nelson of the Yuma County Superior Court ordered a linguist to evaluate Cabrera after she took the stand and failed to answer a straightforward question from her lawyer. The linguist's report, detailed in a court hearing on Wednesday, concluded she had "basic survival level" English -- below that needed to participate in city business.
Nelson will ultimately decide whether to strike her from the ballot.
German is an official language of Belgium, while there are only about 75.000 German native speakers (out of 11 million). To me it seems that there are in terms of percentage more Spanish native speakers in the US…
Imyirtshem, I strongly disagree with the idea that “There’s nothing inherently bad about an official language”.
As soon as an official language is decided it instantly disadvantages anyone who does not speak that language and it becomes ‘okay’ to silence them for not speaking the ‘nation’s’ language. Where I am (the UK), we don’t have an official language, and that means that the people in Wales are free to have Welsh road signs if they want to instead of English. While this isn’t helpful to tourists in the area, they should be in the language that the people in the area want on display, not a language set by someone else.
Another issue is that to have an official language, you would first need to define the language (otherwise it’s meaningless), and this would open the door to people who would like to shape the language to suit their own means. For example, French is a regulated language and l’Académie française has the legal backing to modify the meanings of words, the grammar of the language and the orthography. While (to my knowledge) they haven’t used their power to shape the language, the threat exists that the language is no longer the people’s, but is property of this group.
In order to be fair, all languages spoken in the country would need to be “official languages”, which would make the label irrelevant, anything less would mean that some languages are being snubbed by the others. Regarding Wales having two official languages, these are de facto official languages and not de jure, which is an important difference. The best solution, in my mind, is to have no de jure languages and rely de facto ones for a country’s “official language(s)” (like the UK, USA, Australia, etc.). This would mean that a speaker of any language would be able to run for office without impediment.
As for academies shaping languages, it doesn’t matter to me whether they have done it or not, but that they have the legal backing to do so. It would be like giving someone the power to enslave others; even if they don’t use it, it’s not a good thing to have. It isn’t so much a fear of Newspeak (which I don’t think would actually achieve its goals in practice), but fear of a body being able to limit speech.