English-Only in Knoxville?

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Knoxville (WVLT) - The city of Nashville is considering a move to make English the city's official language.

This means all city communication would have to be in English, and only in English.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford spoke with Knoxville community leaders about whether or not the idea would fly here.

Some folks are really torn over this with mixed emotions. Nashville's English-only proposal states that all communication, publications, and telephone answering systems of metropolitan government boards, commissions and agencies, shall be in English only.

So what if Knoxville considered the same proposal?

"I would totally vote for it," Brian Dunn says English should be your one and only option here. "It may sound hard and it may sound rude, but we need to stay to our roots."

Knox Countians like Ronnie McGaha agree, "That's part of the American way. If you go to other countries, you have to speak their language."

County Commissioners, like Ivan Harmon, would have to vote on the proposal if it made its way to Knoxville.

"I would rather not see it come, but if it does, I'd be willing to support not putting in the Spanish language," Harmon says everyone should learn and understand English…period. "If you come to America, you should be prepared to learn the American language and go through that barrier till you learn it."

More and more often, when you call an automated answering service you here the familiar, "para el Español, prensa dos." Under the proposal, that second language option wouldn't exist.

And people may not get the help they need in an emergency without a translator.

"If this should pass, it would be really harsh, really harsh, on the refugee community," Lisa Barba of the Tennessee Immigrants & Refugee Rights Coalition says forcing English upon people who have a hard time learning is flat-out discrimination.

"It would be horrible to know they have nowhere to call, no one to talk to," Barba says. "They're gonna be running around without vaccinations, simply because of a language."

"I think people would suffer," Richard Robinson helps legal refugees adjust to American life. "You don't get off the plane speaking English, and there are essential services that have to be accessed."

But some argue that bilingual options discourage people from ever learning English.

"People come here because it is great, but we don't need people to come to America and try to change what America is," Knox County Commissioner Scott Moore says.

"It makes me upset, but we shall overcome it," Barba says.

Clarksville, Tennessee's city council turned down a similar proposal earlier this month.

Voting for Nashville's English-only proposal begins next week.

Some commissioners say if it passes in Nashville, it's very possible it will come to Knoxville.


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