Press One for English

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This music video features a clearly Anglo couple singing in thick Southern U.S. accents about the need to speak English in the United States. It clearly showcases many examples of languages ideologies and subtle racism. The video indexes a strong relationship between an American identity and English ability by using many flags, referencing the U.S. military, and blatantly saying "English is the language of the land." They also support the dominance of English, associating it with the opportunities of America, even ironically saying that "We share this land of liberties, so please speak English". Language is closely tied to one's identity, and it is a great abuse to force language upon another person. It's also very difficult to learn another language, especially to full proficiency, once one has passed puberty. Despite these facts, the lyric "You chose to come, now choose to speak English", insists that to be accepted as an American, you must alter a fundamental aspect of your being. The song goes on to associate different languages with "others", saying " I don't live in China, Mexico, no foreign place," and frequently implying that to speak another language is to be lesser, especially in the U.S. These attitudes surrounding English are what create the English hegemony in the U.S., but just because it is the norm doesn't mean it is positive. Many nations are multilingual and there are massive benefits, but this song maintains that it is absurd to have "subtitles in 5 languages" and that as an American, "why should I have to press one for English?". English is massively dominant in the U.S., despite the present of many other varieties over time. The dominance of English is closely tied to the systematic oppression of various ethnic groups in the U.S. over time.

Posted by Elayne Carey on May 7, 2017


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