We have room for but one language and one loyalty

TRooseveltIn the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.’

Theodore Roosevelt 1907

2 thoughts on “We have room for but one language and one loyalty”

  1. Frederick Colbourne

    "We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language."

    I have not read anything about one language in the US Constitution. Would such a restriction not contravene the First Amendment?

    In my opinion, this authoritarian approach to language explains part of the reason why few Americans have much competence in foreign languages.

    It's not just the educational system, because it takes only about three months to learn enough in most European languages for everyday life. Ditto Indonesian. Egyptian Arabic is not a written language, so it takes about double the time of Spanish or Italian.

    Learning languages is a lot of fun. It's a shame that xenophobes and chauvinists discourage young people from having a hobby such as a second, third, or fourth languages.

    My wife speaks six languages fluently, but even someone like me with no special talent can learn three.

    1. Roosevelt's call for one national language and for immigrants to learn English has nothing to do with being competent in more than one language.

      Surely we can agree that it is valuable to know more than one language and still agree that immigrants to America should become competent in English.

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