It was thought that the adoption of English as the first language of the second generation immigrants and the abandonment of original languages was essential to save the country’s future. Many steps were taken to suppress the use of languages other than English (Tatalovich 1995). The motivation for these actions was not only popular xenophobic fears but also the Functionalist school of thought amongst the intelligentsia, the proponents of which argued that in order to become fully functional members of the host society, the minority communities must undergo complete social, economic and cultural assimilation into the society (Feldman and Huddy 2005).
The United States congress passed legislation requiring English language fluency for citizenship 1906. During the First World War, the government’s anxiety over minorities speaking their native languages rose to a new height. In the states of Iowa and South Dakota the use of any language other than English in public places or over the phone was banned (Piatt 1990). In 1919, the state of Nebraska forbade schools from teaching any language other than English prior to ninth grade (Piatt 1990).
Anti-Spanish discrimination persists to this day. The common sentiment regarding Hispanic immigrants is that upon immigration they should completely abandon their native culture and language and adopt the American English as their primary language (Citrin & Sears 2001). Particularly in the American South, there exists a great amount of hostility towards the Spanish language with numerous popular efforts to forbid progressive efforts such as the teaching of Spanish in schools and multi-lingual road signs (Piatt 1990).
Anti Spanish discrimination is often a facet of generally racist, anti-immigrant or anti-Catholic beliefs and ideas (Tatalovich 1995).
Many researchers advocate that assimilation be a two-way street with the Spanish language being taught to non-Hispanic children of regions with high Hispanic populations. In 1989, the states of New Mexico, Oregon and Washington passed legislation encouraging the teaching of languages other than English in Public schools (Zavodny 2000). According to a 2008 study, for 88% of the Elementary Schools that teach a language other than English, that language is Spanish (Centre for Applied Linguistics 2008).
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