Amendment is hard to understand

Amendment is hard to understand
I recently purchased an amazing bit of technology � a digital voice recorder. It comes in great for a guy like me who constantly needs to take accurate notes.

I was nervous about making this buy, however. The old-fashioned, microcassette machines, that recorded sounds on, as the name implies, a tiny cassette of tape, seemed more reliable.

I mean, just where does the sound in a digital recorder go, anyway? I had these nightmares, before taking the plunge and making the purchase of my new machine, of having limited recording time, of it bombing and losing everything on a regular basis, and of it being too complicated for me to figure out how to use.


I was wrong. Again and again. And again.

My new machine, as I noted earlier, is amazing. Its performance is exceeding all of my expectations. I share all of this with you because I think it's important to realize something. This company that built my recorder was begun, humbly, by one man, in Japan, who was mainly interested in building microscopes.

Soon, his firm began delving into other fields. It became a leading camera manufacturer, and expanded its product development line to include office and personal electronics.

It has corporate locations in Germany, Austria and Belgium, Croatia and the Czech Republic, Ireland and Italy, Poland and Portugal, Serbia and Slovenia, Hong Kong, China and India.

And even Mexico and the United States.

I realized this company had no fear of going global when I started reading the manual that came with my purchase. The first set of instructions were in English. Flip a page at their conclusion, and there was another set of instructions, in Spanish. Then German.

In other words, this company realized that to truly have a global presence, it had to adapt to make sure no potential customers were being left behind.

The company's directors didn't sit in their board room one day and say, "We are only going to sell our product to people who speak (and you can fill in your favorite language here) Japanese."

This firm never would have had such a world-wide presence with such a philosophy.

Congress unfortunately seems satisfied in operating in its own, increasingly shrinking world. The latest sign of that occurred earlier this month, when the U.S. Senate declared that English should be the national language of the U.S. Who knew the national language was even on the table?

Lawmakers somehow believe that this move will help solve the problem of 12 million illegal immigrants currently living and, might we add, working, in the U.S.

The Senate measure � an amendment to a landmark immigration reform bill � affirms that English is the pre-eminent language spoken in America. It calls on the government to "preserve and enhance" that role and spells out that nobody has "a right, entitlement or claim" to have government services provided in any other language. A second measure passed by the Senate declares that English is the "common and unifying" language of the nation.

It's not clear why any of that requires an act of Congress. Or why this sort of language might bridge the differences between, for example, the lawmakers who believe in putting many illegal workers on a path to "earned citizenship" and the lawmakers who believe in sending them all home.

What is clear is that, despite all the heated rhetoric in recent days, neither amendment would have much practical effect. Neither would prevent a state or local government from, say, providing driver's license exams or marriage licenses or emergency advisories in other languages.

Nor is it likely to speed immigrants on the path to assimilation. It's obviously not in the country's best interests to have large enclaves of people who function apart from the rest of society, and nothing fosters such an environment so much as the lack of a shared language. But history tells us this is a problem that will solve itself in short order.

If you think everyone who originally settled in Tabor or Tyndall or Tripp or Freeman or scores of other South Dakota communities more than a century ago originally spoke English, well, you've got another think coming.

The classic assimilation pattern for American immigrants goes something like this: The first generation struggles to get by on limited English while their children struggle to become fluent via the public schools. The third generation speaks English.

We don't need a law declaring English our national language. We do need comprehensive immigration reform, and if someone thinks this will help us get there, then fine: English is our national language. Now let's figure out what to do with those 12 million illegal immigrants.

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