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The Argument for Official English

Regarding the article "In Many Tongues, Alaskans Debate English as Official Language" (Sept. 15), no one wants to wipe out any languages, native or immigrant. But as a Californian, I am aware of the problem of immigrants who refuse to learn English.

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The problem, though, is not just with Spanish speakers, most of whom can speak, read, and write at least a little English. My next door neighbor is from Iran. My sister-in-law is from Taiwan. The man who helps me with my garden is from Guatemala. My husband's economics professor is from Bavaria. There are many, many stores and entire strip malls where there are no signs at all in English! There could be anything at all going on in those stores, and I would never be aware of it.

The other day there was an auto accident in front of my house. If the participants had not spoken English, much time could have been lost in getting the proper emergency help. It goes on and on.

This is not the bad old days when people who meant well (or evil) tried to wipe out the languages of the native population - far from it. And no one wants to strip immigrants of their individuality, either. We just want to be able to understand the people we must deal with in daily life. We would also like to be able to meet and understand others in social and educational situations.

I know two languages besides my own, well enough to manage. I can't learn all the languages of the people who refuse to join the country they claim to have adopted. I don't propose that we treat others rudely. I do think it is right and reasonable for those who come here to try their best to live inclusively.

L. Hunter Washington Tarzana,


Your bias shows in your front page caption about "an English-only initiative" in Alaska. Reading the story inside reveals that the ballot initiative requires government to use only English and does not affect private or commercial use of any language.

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If you defend the use of native languages instead of English in village councils, school boards, and fish and game advisory boards, then are you prepared to defend equally the right of an Alaskan school board of mainly Korean immigrants to do the public's business in Korean or a city council dominated by Russian immigrants to conduct business in Russian? Would that be fair to the Japanese and Mexican immigrants who want to follow the proceedings in their native languages?

If the Tower of Babel were being built in Alaska today the ACLU would be there suing to ensure that no common language could be used.

Thomas P. McKenna

Montpelier, Vt.

Stand by your books

Bully for Jacqueline Seewald's opinion article "Rustle of Pages vs. Click of Mouse" (Sept. 8). She writes that books often stimulate intellect more than a computer might.

It was at the public library in a nearby town that I first accessed the Internet a few weeks ago. An instructor with me asked what I wanted to investigate. Off the top of my head, I asked, "Let's see a map of Billings, Montana."

That's when we ran into trouble. No matter how we typed in the search words, we were continually shown a map of the coast of France, telling me that one must not fervently believe all that is spewed forth from a computer. It is only as accurate as the material provided to it by human mind and hand, which are sometimes prone to error - or deceit.

Often a book is easier to use and its contents have been edited, ensuring greater accuracy.

Richard Zacher

Oceanside, Calif.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to

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