Categorized | Editorial

When being American is defined by language

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Even if you missed out on the 2014 Super Bowl, chances are you saw some of the commercials, especially Coca-Cola’s hugely controversial “It’s Beautiful” ad. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a 60-second commercial featuring the iconic patriotic song, “America The Beautiful” sung in seven different languages. As beautifully as it was filmed and sung, with scenes of American life: of families, pool parties, road trips, vacations, etc., the amount of controversy it stirred was astonishing.

Hate crowded social media in all forms and ignorance seemed to seep from every corner of the country. Americans confident in the English language as the only American form of speech flooded even the television. And what was found completely enraging, #SpeakAmerican quickly became a trending hashtag on twitter.

Firstly, the United States of America does not have an official language. In fact, it is discriminatory by law to restrict services or information to those who are not proficient in English. So, when you tweet “speak American,” it’s hard to understand what you mean. Secondly, there are about 380 languages commonly spoken within the U.S. In addition, 60 million people in the United States, about 1 in 5, speak a language other than English in their home. And the final and most important point is that nearly everyone, with the exception of those with Native American ancestry, is a product of immigration.

America is known as the melting pot of the world. Almost every one of us came in some way from another part of the globe, and our ancestors migrated with the intention of bettering themselves and their children. We are supposed to be an image of inspiration, freedom, power, dignity and the American dream; the idea that anyone can make it in America, no matter your background or status. What kind of image are we giving those reading our narrow-minded tweets besides bigotry, hate and ignorance of our own history and future?

Fortunately, not all the posts were against the advertisement. Many thought it beautiful and truthful, while others took it upon themselves to defend the ad against the onslaught. The problem becomes that there shouldn’t be sides to take on this topic. Are we used to hearing the song in English? Of course we are. Was it wrong to have it sung in languages commonly spoken in our country? Evidently, the answer isn’t a clear consensus, but until you can teach someone how to speak American, the answer has to be no.

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