In 2006, Geno’s Steaks, a Philly cheesesteak stand in south Philadelphia, posted a small sign in its window:
This is America. When ordering, “Speak English”
This stirred a great deal of controversy, although it also inspired Donald Trump to pay a visit to Geno’s during the 2016 presidential campaign. Presumably, he was able to order without incident.
Nearly half of all Californians speak a language other than English at home
But today, on the other side of America in the state of California, a record number of people are not qualified to comply with the Geno’s instructions. Recent data released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 44.6 percent of Californians speak a language other than English in their homes, and that 18.6 percent speak English “less than ‘very well.’”
These statistics have prompted a great deal of Genos’s Steaks-like outrage on Twitter, where angry English defenders decry the dilution of La Lingua Pura.
It’s no wonder they want the whole state as a sanctuary state. Sounds like nearly half of population may be hear in this country illegally.
— Joe Jones (@Traconesu) October 24, 2017
Jones either speaks English poorly himself or is somehow concerned about illegal auditory skills.
They fight to get out of Mexico then they fight to turn it into Mexico . It don’t make sense.
— bill (@BStrausberger) October 25, 2017
Bill doesn’t make sense when it comes to proper English grammar.
….and 94% can barely speak Emglish in public.
— Cracktaculus (@cracktaculus) October 24, 2017
Cracktaculus ignored the fact that roughly 100 percent of Americans have never heard of Emglish, much less speak it.
An encouraging reality hiding in plain sight of the Californian numbers from the Census Bureau
The reality behind the Census Bureau numbers ought to be encouraging to those who see English as a mandatory requirement for participation in American civic life.
The difference between 44.6 percent and 18.6 percent means that 26 percent speak English very well, but that they simply choose not to do so when at home.
Presumably, many of these are second-generation Americans who use English in school and at work, but were also raised by a first-generation immigrant that had to adapt to a new country and a new language upon arrival.
The free market is the great persuader to speak English
This demonstrates that it is the free market that is the great persuader when it comes to English instruction. People learn English in the United States because the opportunities for those who can’t speak it are severely limited.
Government fiat is less of an incentive than economic necessity, and parents are eager for their children to have a better life than the one they had, so they encourage their children to become bilingual in order to make that happen.
This has always been the case. The United States is a nation of immigrants, many of whom arrived from countries other than the British Isles. Assimilation and English have gone hand in hand since the nation’s inception. It’s certain to continue well into the nation’s future.
It’s also worth noting that last year, after the death of Geno’s Steaks founder Joey Vento, his son Geno “decided to move on,” and removed it from the order window. In a statement, he said:
While Geno continues to honor his father’s traditions of good quality food, cleanliness, and giving back to the community, he has decided that after 10 years it is time to move on. It’s not about a sign. It’s about what you do and what your mark in life is, and Geno wants to change that mark in life.