English please


Solamente Ingles, por favor.

That was the message Wednesday at a House State Government Committee hearing on legislation that would designate English as the state’s official language.

The proposals, being pushed by a pair of GOP lawmakers from Central Pennsylvania, would essentially require that all official government acts, documents or transactions occur in English.

The reasoning, its sponsors argue, is simple: English is the “common language” of the United States - and of Pennsylvania - and that knowing English is “essential to full exercise of constitutional freedoms, informed and knowledgeable empowerment as voters, citizen checks against government abuses and individual prosperity and independence,” according to one of the two bills being considered by the committee.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), who chairs the committee and supports the bills, also noted that there is a cost savings to taxpayers, since government will no longer have to shoulder the cost of translating and printing documents in other languages. Quite a big deal was made that one of the Capitol’s tourist brochures is in Spanish.

“I don’t believe that someone who doesn’t know the English language will be able to realize the American dream,” Metcalfe said in his closing remarks, also noting that more than half the states have some form of law or provision concerning the English language.

The conservative Republican then paid homage to the late Joey Vento, owner of the landmark South Philly cheesesteak shop who made national headlines when he hung a sign asking customers to “Speak English” when ordering.  

“He [Vento] was working to help people, and that is what this legislation will do - it will help people assimilate in our culture and realize the American dream,” said Metcalfe.

Rep. Babette Josephs (D., Philadelphia) was having none of that. She called the legislation “unnecessary, punitive, pointless, divisive, self-defeating and inconsistent with American values.”

“The message is, if you can’t speak English as well as the native-born … you are inferior,” she said. “This is a waste of time and energy.”


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