One Nation. One Language.

at 12:35 AM

We are a nation of immigrants. We are perhaps the most successful experiment in multi-culturalism ever. We assimilate not only foods and customs from all over the world, but even words and phrases into our language. This inclusiveness makes me proud to be an American.

Our political process depends vitally on informed citizenry. We want our voters to be informed, not intimidated. So we have started printing ballots and offering language assistance in Spanish and Mandarin in San Francisco and in Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese in Los Angeles County. Soon, L.A. will be printing ballots in as many as 11 languages. Wonderfully, people speaking hundreds of native languages pour in.

Why not print ballots in all those 300-plus languages? Because it is prohibitively expensive. So, which language groups deserve this special status is becoming increasingly arbitrary and in my opinion, unfair and divisive. Instead of printing ballots, why not spend the money in English language education?

I am an immigrant. I know how difficult it is for an adult to learn a new language. I came here in my early 20s speaking broken English. It took me over a decade of commitment and effort to be proficient in English.

I love my adopted country. It has given me individual freedom and opportunity I could not have dreamed of. The least I can do is to make a strong, continuing effort to be a good citizen, which includes working on language proficiency. I believe it is crucial for all citizens to have a common language in a country as diverse as ours. When we talk to each other, we can understand each other deeply, to live together in harmony while honoring diversity and most of all, evolve common values and culture.

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Let us unite our diverse voices in one language.

With a Perspective, I am Kay Brown.

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Kay Brown is a retired founder and CEO of an international molecular biology software development company. She lives in Palo Alto.

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