Our Portugal and Japan, could be a

Our native tongue is a
fundamental part of our identity. That is because the culture where we are
born, its history and heritage, are also shaped by language. Comparing two
completely different countries, like Portugal and Japan, could be a good
example of that. In Portugal, people speak louder and use swear words more
often than in Japan. They also have a more relaxed attitude towards life. Like
the language itself, Japanese people are stereotyped as very composed and well
behaved, a cultural mark that can also be observed in the complexity and
politeness of their language.

However, there are other aspects of identity and
culture: things from traditions and history to entertainment and food. In
Robert’s words “Things big and small, noble and petty, important and trifling.”
(419).This is why, even though language is such an important issue in many
countries today, influencing culture and national identity, it is not the only
element that counts. Still, language unity has been an issue for a long time.

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In America, even Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt considered English should be the
country’s official language: “the
language of the Declaration and second inaugural”. Ironically, this idea
that a strong national unity needs a common language has caused more harm than
good. Despite initial opposition, Americans have accepted wave after wave of
migrants, and most families assume an American identity. But some immigrants
don’t want to give up their native language, culture and identity. This was a
good excuse to try to implement English only legislation, as “the US House of
Representatives approved a bill that would make English the official language
of the United States. (…) The debate was intense, acrid, and partisan.”(411).

However, this backfired since “English only” laws divided the country and some
states, like Arizona, even appealed to the Supreme Court (411).

According to Robert
King, there are several problems with Official English. Most of them are linked
to basic rights of immigrants and minorities, but some wonder: “Is America
threatened by the preservation of languages other than English”? (413) He
defends that countries with a strong national identity don’t need a common
language because they have “something transcending language” (418). To that “something” he
calls “unique otherness”. (418) He also gives plenty of examples from country’s that successfully
managed several languages without losing their national unity and identity,
with India used as an example, since “Contrary to public perception, India gets
along pretty well with a host of different languages, English among them.” He
also claims that “language is a convenient surrogate for other national
problems. Official English obviously has a lot to do with concern about
immigration, perhaps especially Hispanic immigration. America may be threatened
by immigration, I don’t Know. But America is not threatened by language” (419)
and “Benign neglect is a (…) good policy for America” (420)

For me the most
important part of this text is the page 419. This page demonstrates that
despite the problems that can arise from the convergence of several languages and
cultures, a single common language doesn’t have to be a law because there are
other aspects to make countries “unique”. Page 413 is also important because it
asks some essential questions, linked to the rights of immigrants and
minorities, and to children’s education.

In conclusion, in this
text the author never mentions that English has to be a law, in fact he defends
that multicultural and multilinguistic countries should try to preserve their
differences, instead of trying to forcefully change their citizens.