HOLD YOUR TONGUE by James Crawford


Bilingualism and the Politics of 'English Only'
Email this review


 An exhaustively researched look at the history and political implications of legislating English as our official language. According to Crawford (a Washington-based journalist specializing in bilingual education), the squabble over English as the mother tongue goes back to the Founding Fathers, who argued over choices that included Hebrew and Greek. Nineteenth-century activists, the author explains, pushed for bilingual education and achieved it in many schools, with English and German the two acceptable languages, in deference to the many German-speaking immigrants. German took a dive during WW I, though, and Teddy Roosevelt pronounced that ``A hyphenated American is not an American at all.'' Crawford's thesis is that chauvinism lies at the root of current organized efforts to make English the only legal language in the country. Disturbed by what seems to be a flood of immigrants--from Spanish-speaking countries, Vietnam, China, and Haiti, for instance--who cannot or do not choose to speak English, ``English-only'' proponents, Crawford says, proclaim, ``We learned English, why can't they?'' The author cites studies showing that today's immigrants are, in fact, learning English faster than their predecessors--but he also examines closely the achievements and shortfalls of bilingual programs and of English-only legislation. One chapter looks at both sides of the controversy in Miami and surrounding Dade County, which has strict English-only laws, a predominantly Spanish-speaking population, and tense Anglo-Hispanic relationships. Other chapters, in gripping detail, take up ethnic tensions in California and the Southwest, where Mexican children once were beaten if they spoke English in school. Crawford conveys a strong message: Immigrants will learn English because it's the only way to get ahead in the US. Why not give them a helping hand?

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-201-55044-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992


MysteryBLOODY SCOTLAND by James Crawford
by James Crawford
NonfictionFALLEN GLORY by James Crawford
by James Crawford