English Please

While shopping for clothing, for my husband a few days ago, we were discussing shopping excursions and I was surprised to learn that Grandma refuses to shop at Mervyn’s Department Store. Of course I was all ears and couldn’t wait to hear the details.

As it turns out, Grandma had been shopping at Mervyn’s, when a sales clerk made an announcement over the loud speaker – in Spanish. Grandma, being Grandma of course, marched directly to the managers office and demanded to know if it was the store’s policy to make announcements in Spanish.

After being answered in the affirmative, Grandma handed the manager her Mervyn’s Credit Card, and demanded that he cut it up in her presence. After she was satisfied it had been destroyed, she informed the manager that she would no longer be shopping at Mervyn’s and for over thirty-years she has kept her word. To this day she refuses to shop there.

You could have knocked me over with a feather, as I listened as she told her tale.

Multilingual Instructions

Just day’s prior to this conversation my husband, Shawn, and I had purchased new Sauder Multimedia Storage Tower’s for our home. I was more than a little ticked off as Shawn was attempting to assemble the storage towers, to discover that the instruction booklet was written in three interspersed languages. Each page of the instruction book contained instructions in English, Spanish and French, alternating each language for each detail, which of course, made it more difficult to read.

Interestingly enough, Sauder’s sales brochures, which were also included with the paperwork on our new Multimedia Storage Tower’s, were written entirely in English.

Is More Really Better?

Western Digital got creative with their “Quick Install Guide,” they created a booklet that has English on one side and Spanish on the reverse, which is also upside-down. Maybe the company is trying to say something here?

Last week my ice pack sprang a link and needed to be replaced. We purchased Sensaflex ® Reusable Hot and Cold Compress packs – really nice large blue felt covered ice packs. I was shocked to find their instruction sheet, contains instructions labeled in the following languages: English, Espanol, Portugues, Italiano, Deutsch, Francais, Nederlands, Dansk, and Svenska. You’ve got to be kidding me? It’s an ice pack for pity sake. Do we really need instructions in nine different languages?

I grew up with General Electric (GE) and still remember their catchy little slogan, “GE, We bring good things to life.” General Electric retired that advertising ditty last year after a memorable 24-year run.

I was delighted when I found the Product Service Guide for my Contact Indoor Grill made by GE. It was small, understandable and in English. Only English. Thank you General Electric.

I am happy to also report that our new Axeus Paper Shredder, purchased just days ago, also offers instructions exclusively in English. Apparently, there are still a few patriotic companies out there who can appreciate that American’s are expected to know and use the English language.

English Around the World

Did you know that over 65% of the Internet is in English? Japanese is the third largest language used on the Internet and comprises a mere 3.1% of all Internet users.

In fact, almost every other nation in the world teaches their children English as a second language, some start at a very early age. I was surprised to learn that the Chinese are concerned about current trends in language instruction.

The Chinese school system is placing increasing emphasis on learning English, perhaps to the detriment of Chinese language curriculum. English is mandatory in China starting in the third year of primary school, and proficiency is integral for Chinese applying for jobs in foreign companies. However, many criticize the quality of English education and worry that it is detracting from studies in Chinese. But the need for a domestic and global lingua franca will likely outweigh such concerns.

In 2001, the Chinese government adopted putonghua as a national common language in order to meet the challenges of a growing market economy and increases in country-wide exchange. Putonghua is now a requirement for all teachers and is used in government operations, the mass media, and public events. Many dialects used by the Chinese people have undoubtedly suffered due to the switch to putonghua and the popularity of English, but this seems to be the price China is willing to pay to modernize the country and join the world. – YaleGlobal

Children Taught English Early

Globally, Kindergartens have started teaching English, showing that demand is high for English-language training from an early age. In Shanghai, for example, about a fifth of kindergartens provide English-language lessons.

In Germany, all students learn English, but in grades 5 and 7 they can take up additional languages such as French, Latin, Spanish or Russian.

English is the language taught most often at lower secondary level in the EU. 93% of children there learn English. At upper secondary level, English is even more widely taught.

English is one of the most widely used languages in the world. Recent estimates suggest that around 375 million people speak English as their first language, with around another 375 million speaking it as a second language. Around 750 million people are believed to speak English as a foreign language.

English is the favoured language of the world’s major airlines and international commerce. Over 80 per cent of the world’s electronically stored information is in English and two-thirds of the world’s scientists read in English. Of the estimated 200 million users of the Internet, some 36 per cent currently communicate in English. English is an official language, or has a special status in over 75 of the world’s territories. – I-UK

I find it ironic that while the entire world is fixated on learning the English language, to compete in the global marketplace, manufacturers in the U.S. continue to provide manuals in every conceivable language on earth.

To make matters worse, our government encourages the use of Spanish at every turn. I was dismayed when a flyer was delivered to my mailbox, just two days ago, taunting “Free Booklets in Spanish,” offered by none other than the Federal Citizen Information Center. I’d like to know exactly, which “citizens” our government is catering to with my tax dollars. Would those tax dollars be better utilized by offering ESL classes, instead of printing publications – official U.S. publications – in Spanish?

Perhaps I should borrow a page from Grandma’s book and simply stop doing business with companies who refuse to speak and write wholly in English.

It’s high time voters let those self-important, blow-hard legislators, in Washington know which country it is they were elected to serve and demand that they stop catering to immigrants who refuse to assimilate into the country where they choose to reside.

The American Way

People coming to the United States to fulfill their dream of a better life for themselves and their family members, must learn to adapt to their new life and new surroundings. Imagine what it would be like if immigrants refused to drive on the right-hand side of the road and continued to drive on the left-hand side. We would have more accidents than I care to contemplate.

Learning the language is just as important.

While Grandma isn’t disillusioned that cutting up her credit card made a difference, or was even noticed by Mervyn’s Department Store owners, she sleeps just fine at night, knowing where she stands – on firm red, white and blue, United States soil – where incidentally, we speak English.