CityLab Got it Wrong: The Real Story is English Monolingualism


Is the U.S still influenced by Anglo-centrism? In an article published yesterday by the CityLab project at the Atlantic, researchers at the Urban Institute claim that “one in fifteen children are linguistically isolated.” By “linguistically isolated”, they mean that a child lives in a home where no one over 15 years of age speaks English less than “very well.” This research is based on census data that reports language proficiency in the home.

Map From Article

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While the researchers may be right that English proficiency is an important factor in accessing public services, and certainly may have an impact on socialization, I read this and wondered if this conclusion is not only inadequate but ethnocentric. Rather than dive into the conclusions of the investigation, I want to reverse the claim to illustrate what I mean.

Are we aware of the enormous linguistic isolation of American children all over the country? Are we aware that in the majority of states, children from a young age are inflicted with monolingualism as a result of parents who are carriers of the monolingual illness? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about the ignorance and prejudice that results from having no way to communicate across language barriers? I decided to draw up a quick map (below) of the percent, by state, of residents who are monolingual in English. The map shows that in most states, that number is above 75%, with the national average being at 79%. In other words, 79% of the people in the United States are linguistically isolated by only knowing English. I think that’s a more important story about racial and linguistic segregation.

My Map of Percent English Monolinguals (by State)

data

 

Monolingualism is contagious, but it is also treatable. It seems that more children in the U.S. should be required to vaccinate as early as kindergarten so that we can build a future where no children is “linguistically isolated”.

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One thought on “CityLab Got it Wrong: The Real Story is English Monolingualism”

  1. It goes to the efficacy of language that there should be a common standard of communication rather than that our quest of the stars, so to speak, should result in tower of Babel. that English is the language of commerce and the most widepread language makes it the ideal standard, which can adopt and incorporate other languages into itself. That it historically emerged from ethnocentric origins does not mean that it is intrinsically so. English is a melting pot of various languages even in its genesis.

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