Bridging Language Divides: Embracing Diversity in the United States

In many ways, being bilingual is a gift. But having English as a second language in a country that favors monolingualism can be a detriment in many ways. The United States, while becoming more culturally diverse, is currently going through a lot of setbacks. It’s quite perplexing how language works in this country. There are parts of the country that still favor monolingualism, with English as the only language. The United States must actively embrace and encourage linguistic diversity to promote a more inclusive society, recognizing the value of bilingualism not only as a personal value, but also as a critical factor in economic growth, cultural understanding and equal opportunity. This requires changing educational priorities, challenging discriminatory language ideologies and reforming policies to support language inclusion.

Amy Tan, a Chinese-American author, has written novels since she was 33. Her immigrant mother played a vital role in her life, despite their rocky relationship. Her mom’s speech patterns inspired her to pursue fictional writing. Her mom’s English, while not fluent, speaks a lot of things in a few words. Despite her unique speech patterns, it is not enough to be fully respected in the United States. Tan uses a couple of anecdotes to prove her case. She cites,“She had cashed out her small portfolio and it just so happened we were going to go to New York the next week, our very first trip outside California. I had to get on the phone and say in an adolescent voice that was not very convincing, “This is Mrs. Tan.” Even her mother realized the limitations of her English, so she had Tan make phone calls under her name. Can you imagine being denied healthcare because your English isn’t perfect enough? Especially in a life threatening scenario?  This was one of the many instances where her mom wasn’t taken seriously because of her English. Despite being bilingual, the quality of her English isn’t good enough to be seen as proper.

Next, there are challenges of learning a second language. In Allian Sandy’s  article,Are there any disadvantages to being bilingual?, she highlights the disadvantages of being bilingual. One of the disadvantages being that pressure from parents to not learn another language can be another detriment to people who want to learn another language. Going along with monolingualism, some parents may have lots of pride in their native language and the idea of their kid learning a new language at school may be seen as an attack on their culture or negatively affect their grades. “Learning a second language in schools is not usually appreciated by parents as it is seen as an attack on their culture and way of life. Learning is often faced with strong opposition from parents since learning a second language is believed to slow down their children’s learning in other subjects. This is a common misconception that affects prospective bilinguals”. A student wanting to learn French in school may be pressured to drop out of the class by their parents because they fear the student won’t perform as well in their math and science classes and are worried they might lose their English heritage. However, this view is biased and may cause further discourse between the parent and child.

Next,  monolingualism is falling behind in the modern world. In Glenn C Altschuler and David  Wippman opinion piece “ Remaining monolingual is a surefire way for America to fall behind”, they argue remaining as an english-dominated country is a huge setback in today’s economy, encouraging educational institutions and parents to prioritize language learning for students and children. They use statistics to show the decline in language proficiency in the United States. With 96 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, most unable to speak English, monolingual culture undermines America’s economic standing. One out of every five U.S. jobs depends on global trade, and demand for workers with foreign language skills is growing. According to the American Council of Foreign Language Teachers, a quarter of U.S. employers are losing business because of a lack of foreign language proficiency.” There’s a growing demand for bilingual people in jobs because only speaking one language isn’t enough.  Of those 96% of consumers worldwide, some of them may not speak English at all. This is why monolingualism isn’t enough.

Then, authors Wiley and Lukes explain the different language ideologies in the U.S in their journal article “English-Only and Standard Language Ideologies in the U.S”.  They mainly speak to educators and policy makers through academic language, and use logical quotes to prove their case. They explain how accent and dialect can affect an individual’s societal treatment as an example of how biased English monolingualism is in the country. They state “(a) the mass media,  promote hegemonic ideas about acceptable accent and dialect as false perceptions( about the “neutrality” of certain speech patterns; (b) the Civil Rights Act, which leaves room for discrimination bas accent or dialect; (c) the legal process, which gives employers room to (legally and successfully) argue in court that accent stands in the way of job performance; and (d) the courtroom, in hegemonic media are upheld and can be used against defendants to legally discriminate against them based on accent or dialect.” The legal system and mass media still leaves room open for discrimination for imperfect English speakers, silently judging them on how they speak their thoughts.

        Furthermore, This graph created from The Washington Post shows the states that made English their official language, with dates of adoption. 31 of 50 states have English-official legislation. Well it is important to note English-official is not the same as English-only, this legislation still has an adverse effect on non English-speaking immigrants. The effects vary based on state, such as boat sales, agriculture jobs, health care, and getting an education. It’s not as bad as english-only where you can only get by if you speak English, but it’s arguably a threat to non-English speakers.

In conclusion, the landscape of language in the United States reflects both the advantages and challenges associated with bilingualism. While being bilingual is a gift in this diverse world, the growing ideology of monolingualism in certain places in the United States and bias against imperfect English are threats. Amy Tan’s anecdotes illustrate the consequences of language limitations. The negative pressure on individuals trying to learn a second language and the economic disadvantages of a monolingual society underscore the need for a shift in mindset. By prioritizing language learning  in family and education and addressing the discriminatory practices is key to creating a diverse and respectful environment.


Source 1

Wiley, Terrence G., and Marguerite Lukes. “English-Only and Standard English Ideologies in the U.S.” TESOL Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 3, 1996, pp. 511–35. JSTOR, Accessed 13 Nov. 2023.

Source 2

Glenn C. Altschuler and David Wippman, opinion contributors. “Remaining Monolingual Is a Surefire Way for America to Fall Behind.” The Hill, 15 May 2022,

Source 3

Liu, Amy H., and Anand Edward Sokhey. “When and Why Do U.S. States Make English Their Official Language?” Washington Post, 7 Dec. 2021,

Source 4

Allain, Sandy. Are There Any Disadvantages to Being Bilingual? 29 Aug. 2023,

Source 5

Tan, Amy. Mother Tongue

The Threepenny Review, 1990, pp. 315-320