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Proteas
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English Required for Official Feb. 1st, 2012 @ 07:58 PM Reply

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Arizona Candidate Challenged Over English Skills
By MARC LACEY
Published: January 25, 2012

SAN LUIS, Ariz. - When Alejandrina Cabrera speaks English, her face takes on an expression somewhere between deep discomfort and outright despair. Her tongue, which darts around her mouth in her native Spanish, slows to a crawl.

"I speak little English," she said in a hesitant and heavily accented interview in her lawyer's office. "But my English is fine for San Luis."

Mrs. Cabrera may be able to get her point across in English, but whether she is proficient enough in the language to serve on the governing board of this bilingual border city has deeply divided the 25,000 residents.

What began as an effort by political opponents to block Mrs. Cabrera from the ballot for a seat on the City Council has mushroomed into an uncomfortable discussion of just how fluent Arizona officeholders need to be. Like many other states, Arizona has long required politicians at all levels to speak, read and write English, but the law fails to spell out just what that means. Is grade-school knowledge enough? Must one speak flawlessly? Who is to decide?

"I do feel this opening a box of Pandora, and we don't know where it's going to lead," said Mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla, who filed a legal challenge of Mrs. Cabrera's English ability.

He acknowledged on local television that his own English was far from perfect. "I feel I don't dominate 100 percent, but I can still get by," said Mr. Escamilla, who graduated from the same Arizona high school as Mrs. Cabrera. "I can write, read and understand it very well."

It was Guillermina Fuentes, a former San Luis mayor, who first raised Mrs. Cabrera's English skills as an issue last month. Former friends, the two women had a political falling out.

"You're hearing my broken English," Ms. Fuentes said in a telephone interview. "I know people have a hard time understanding me at times, but I understand the language and I was the one always interpreting for Alejandrina Cabrera."

Ultimately, the matter is to be decided in court. On Jan. 13, Judge John Nelson of the Yuma County Superior Court ordered a linguist to evaluate Mrs. Cabrera after she took the stand and failed to answer a straightforward question from her lawyer, John Minore, about where she went to high school. Mrs. Cabrera explained later that it was anxiety, not failure to understand the question, that had her tongue tied. She went to a hearing specialist in an effort to show that auditory problems were also an issue.

"I was in shock," she said. "My brain, my mind was white. That was my first time in court."

The judge, though, heard enough to have doubts about her language abilities. He ordered her to be tested by a language expert hired by the city.

In his report, which was detailed in a court hearing on Wednesday, William G. Eggington, a professor of English and linguistics at Brigham Young University in Utah, said that based on interviews and tests he conducted with Mrs. Cabrera, she had "basic survival level" English that fell well below that needed to participate in city business.

"I admire Ms. Cabrera for her courage and ambition, and wish her well," Professor Eggington wrote. "However, in my studied opinion, based upon the results of the range of tests and analyses described above, she does not yet have sufficient English language proficiency to function adequately as an elected City Council member."

Read more a The New York Times.

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It should be noted that in the article, it mentions that the town is 90% Mexican-American, and Spanish is the spoken language of the town. Even the electric and water bills are sent in Spanish. This lady has twice tried to get the Mayor recalled, and is on the outs with a friend of hers who is also on the council, so she has that going against her.

But the main issue here is, the city council is English, and this woman apparently can't communicate in English well enough to be on the council itself. She doesn't even have what is considered a "survivable" grasp on English, which would make it difficult for her to do business and converse with the rest of the city councilmen.

Is this fair?


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Dawnslayer
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 1st, 2012 @ 08:28 PM Reply

What if she hired an interpreter and wore an earpiece during meetings? That would protect her civil liberties and create a job at the same time.

Camarohusky
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 1st, 2012 @ 09:37 PM Reply

English or Spanish, or Japanese, or Latin, I don't care what you can and cannot speak. However, regardless of what you speak, if you are unable to effectively communicate in a job or position that requires a great deal of communication you are just unfit for that job.

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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 1st, 2012 @ 10:17 PM Reply

At 2/1/12 09:37 PM, Camarohusky wrote: English or Spanish, or Japanese, or Latin, I don't care what you can and cannot speak. However, regardless of what you speak, if you are unable to effectively communicate in a job or position that requires a great deal of communication you are just unfit for that job.

While I do agree with that as a general rule, this is a community that is made up of mostly Spanish speaking people and as such the council itself should probably represent that. So many of the people in this community are so much more fluent in Spanish that bills are sent out in Spanish and even the mayors who have spoken out about the issue also have difficulty speaking English. It seems like requiring council members to speak English is an unreasonable job requirement when most of the people there will better understand her when she's speaking Spanish as that is the language they speak.

At 2/1/12 07:58 PM, Proteas wrote: "I do feel this opening a box of Pandora, and we don't know where it's going to lead," said Mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla, who filed a legal challenge of Mrs. Cabrera's English ability.

He acknowledged on local television that his own English was far from perfect. "I feel I don't dominate 100 percent, but I can still get by," said Mr. Escamilla, who graduated from the same Arizona high school as Mrs. Cabrera. "I can write, read and understand it very well."

It was Guillermina Fuentes, a former San Luis mayor, who first raised Mrs. Cabrera's English skills as an issue last month. Former friends, the two women had a political falling out.

"You're hearing my broken English," Ms. Fuentes said in a telephone interview. "I know people have a hard time understanding me at times, but I understand the language and I was the one always interpreting for Alejandrina Cabrera."

Even the mayors themselves admit to having extremely flawed English.

Warforger
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 2nd, 2012 @ 01:07 AM Reply

Yah I do sort of hate the "This is America we speak English" thing because it's pretty stupid, to begin with Spanish speaking communities had existed in the SW BEFORE the English speaking Anglo-Americans flooded it. On top of this it is totally disregarding people like the Cagan's who have their own language and culture, and where else is it found? Oh right nowhere.


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Camarohusky
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 2nd, 2012 @ 09:00 AM Reply

At 2/1/12 10:17 PM, djack wrote: this is a community that is made up of mostly Spanish speaking people and as such the council itself should probably represent that.

That would be a different requirement then. That would be a requirement for the council to speak Spanish. However it doesn't always work that way. In South Africa the highest positions are conducted in Dutch, not Afrikaans. In the US they are conducted in English. Unless the counsil becomes filled with enough people to conduct in Spanish, all member should be able to use the default, being English.


Even the mayors themselves admit to having extremely flawed English.

But flawed Englished is still workable English.

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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 2nd, 2012 @ 11:42 AM Reply

Given that she was elected to the Council, her constituents evidently didn't see her lack of English skills as too much of a problem. Add to this that the wording of the English requirement is so vague and loosely defined, and the idea of removing her from office on this basis starts to seem ludicrous.

On the larger topic of requiring minority-majority community office holders to have knowledge of the English language, I don't quite see the logic of it. If 90% of the community speaks mainly Spanish, why shouldn't their elected representatives do the same? Say the roles were reversed, a community where 90% spoke English and only 10% spoke Spanish, would there be anyone calling for the removal of an elected official because he or she spoke English but had only a rudimentary understanding of Spanish? It wouldn't happen, and it doesn't happen.


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Angry-Hatter
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 2nd, 2012 @ 11:49 AM Reply

At 2/2/12 11:42 AM, Angry-Hatter wrote: Given that she was elected to the Council, her constituents evidently didn't see her lack of English skills as too much of a problem.

Ah, whoops. She's not an incumbent running, is she. Sorry, I thought she had already been elected, but apparently she's still just a candidate.

My point still stands, if her constituents are willing to give her their vote and elect her, then I don't see the problem.


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Ranger2
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 3rd, 2012 @ 12:51 AM Reply

It's ridiculous. Citizenship requires that you learn English. She shouldn't have the job if she can't speak English.

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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 3rd, 2012 @ 02:02 AM Reply

At 2/3/12 12:51 AM, Ranger2 wrote: It's ridiculous. Citizenship requires that you learn English. She shouldn't have the job if she can't speak English.

Wow, I must have missed that part of the constitution. I guess the fact that she was born in Arizona doesn't count for much, huh? No, being able to speak English trumps that, so I guess it's back to Mexico with her, right?

Oh, wait, she does speak English, and she passed English in High School.

Weeeiiiird.... It's almost as if you're completely full of shit....


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J1993
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 4th, 2012 @ 08:29 AM Reply

At 2/3/12 12:51 AM, Ranger2 wrote: It's ridiculous. Citizenship requires that you learn English. She shouldn't have the job if she can't speak English.

The main thing for an elected representative is to understand their constituents, if you make speaking English the priority over that you disenfranchise a lot of citizens, also I was under the impression it was a requirement for immigrants not people born there.

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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 4th, 2012 @ 11:16 AM Reply

This is why the US should just announce English as the official language.


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J1993
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 4th, 2012 @ 02:17 PM Reply

At 2/4/12 11:16 AM, CritcalOne wrote: This is why the US should just announce English as the official language.

Itd be fairer to admit that they are a bilingual country when the first language of 1/3 of the populace is Spanish.

Camarohusky
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 4th, 2012 @ 05:26 PM Reply

At 2/4/12 08:29 AM, J1993 wrote: The main thing for an elected representative is to understand their constituents, if you make speaking English the priority over that you disenfranchise a lot of citizens, also I was under the impression it was a requirement for immigrants not people born there.

I'd say that's the #2 priority. The #1 priority is being able to basically function as a representative. You can't do shit for the will of your constituents if you can't do you basic work.

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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 4th, 2012 @ 06:30 PM Reply

At 2/4/12 11:16 AM, CritcalOne wrote: This is why the US should just announce English as the official language.

Easy for you to say. Learning another language, expressly when you get older is difficult. Besides the US has done just fine without an official language.


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LordZeebmork
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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 5th, 2012 @ 12:06 AM Reply

Civic nationalism is rad as fuck.

At 2/4/12 06:30 PM, LordJaric wrote: the US has done just fine without an official language.

Not really, no. I like being able to communicate with the people I'm around in my home country.


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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 5th, 2012 @ 12:10 AM Reply

At 2/5/12 12:06 AM, LordZeebmork wrote: Not really, no. I like being able to communicate with the people I'm around in my home country.

I grew up in a town not so fondly nick-named "Hillsburrito" and I rarely ever had a situation where I could not communicate with those around me. Oh, and I don't speak Spanish.

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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 5th, 2012 @ 12:30 AM Reply

At 2/5/12 12:10 AM, Camarohusky wrote: I grew up in a town not so fondly nick-named "Hillsburrito" and I rarely ever had a situation where I could not communicate with those around me. Oh, and I don't speak Spanish.

Consider yourself lucky. The guy behind the counter at a McDonald's where I grew up is less likely to speak English than one in Germany.


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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 5th, 2012 @ 01:16 AM Reply

At 2/5/12 12:06 AM, LordZeebmork wrote: Not really, no. I like being able to communicate with the people I'm around in my home country.

Nations like China, Japan and India seem to be fine with having hundreds of languages as the official ones, well Japan none at all.


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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 5th, 2012 @ 07:56 AM Reply

At 2/5/12 01:16 AM, Warforger wrote:
At 2/5/12 12:06 AM, LordZeebmork wrote: Not really, no. I like being able to communicate with the people I'm around in my home country.
Nations like China, Japan and India seem to be fine with having hundreds of languages as the official ones, well Japan none at all.

Ahahaha, you're kidding, right? India has Hindi as its official language, over 99% of the population of Japan speaks Japanese, and China has been trying to wipe out minority dialects of Chinese (actually different languages, but nobody's going to admit that) and force the spread of Mandarin for A Very Long Time. (And if you go high enough in China or India, things will be done in English a lot of the time. I'm not sure about Japan, though.)


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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 8th, 2012 @ 06:10 PM Reply

At 36 minutes ago, RightWingGamer wrote:
At 4 days ago, J1993 wrote:
At 2/4/12 11:16 AM, CritcalOne wrote: This is why the US should just announce English as the official language.
Itd be fairer to admit that they are a bilingual country when the first language of 1/3 of the populace is Spanish.
Does the president ever give speeches in Spanish? No, that's because the language of our government is English, and only English.

I'm sick of people saying that it "wouldn't be fair" to have a national language. It's not discrimination, people, there's nothing preventing an immigrant from learning English and communicating with the rest of the nation. In fact, that's EXACTLY what my father did when he moved here from Spain.

And of course it should be a requirement to hold public office. If you can't take the time to learn how to speak English fluently, then you shouldn't even be running in the first place.

It's been pointed out before but clearly it needs to be pointed out again, SHE WAS BORN IN AMERICA AND SHE DOES SPEAK ENGLISH. She isn't some immigrant trying to force equality by running for public office without any knowledge of English and she isn't the president trying to speak Spanish to a largely English speaking country. She's a U.S. citizen living in a community with so many Spanish speaking people that there is no justifiable reason to demand English as a job requirement even for public office.

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Response to English Required for Official Feb. 8th, 2012 @ 07:02 PM Reply

At 3 days ago, LordZeebmork wrote: Ahahaha, you're kidding, right? India has Hindi as its official language,

As well as English, this is of course ignoring the regional laguages.

At 3 days ago, LordZeebmork wrote: over 99% of the population of Japan speaks Japanese,

That's like saying Austria speaks German, while they do there are completely different dialects on some of the islands, some of which have completely different alphabets.


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