John Boehner speaks to reporters about HR 401, a new law that would ban Spanish texting.
Special to the Web of Language
Washington, D.C., April 1, 2011.
The House of Representatives passed a bill today to ban text messages in Spanish.
The bill, known as the "Text in English Act of 2011" (H.R. 401), amends the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by prohibiting text messages in Spanish. It is sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa), and is co-sponsored by thirty-seven other Republican members of the House.
The bill would go a long way toward protecting English, which is becoming an endangered language in the United States, Speaker of the House John Boehner told reporters after the bill's passage.
The bill bans texting in other languages besides Spanish, but it protects texting in Native American languages such as Navajo and Wampanoag, Boehner said. Democrats opposing the measure pointed out that no one has spoken Wampanoag since the British banned the language in Massachusetts after King Philip's War in the 1760s.
According to the 2010 Census, speaking English has declined 37% in the past decade, while text-messaging has increased fifty-fold, Boehner said. But texting in Spanish has increased 300 percent, as more Hispanics adopt the practice, according to the Speaker.
"It's not enough to ban texting while driving or in classrooms," Boehner declared. "Texting in Spanish is out of control. We have to do something before everyone starts typing their question marks upside down, and English disappears altogether," Boehner added.
Tea Party leaders praised the House action, which passed handily over Democratic opposition. Presidential hopefuls Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Newt Gingrich also applauded the measure.
Gingrich repeated his assertion that Spanish was "the language of living in a ghetto."
"When you're in America, you should text in English," he said.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Spanish a ghetto language
Glenn Beck responded angrily to a question about whether he knew how to text. "Of course I do," he said.
"Texting is done with a series of tubes, and they should be filled in English, and not in Spanish," Beck added. "They come to our country, they buy our American cell phones, which are in the English language, and they start texting in Spanish," Beck complained.
"People who text in Spanish should go back where they came from," he said. Supporters of official English legislation like H.R. 401 tend to be strong advocates of immigration reform as well.
Ms. Palin objected that the bill didn’t go far enough in banning Spanish. "You know, squirmish is a Spanish word, and that’s why it's so hard for real Americans to say it," she said.
Palin had been criticized earlier in the week for calling the American intervention in Libya a "squirmish."
"Twitter is different from texting," continued Palin, who is known for her tweets. The former Alaska governor also said that she hoped Spanish would be prohibited on Twitter and on Facebook, but she thought that might require additional legislation. "I only tweet in English," Palin said.
A spokesperson for MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, says the organization is prepared to fight the ban on Spanish texting in the courts, if it passes. The measure is also strongly opposed by the ACLU.
A similar bill introduced into the Senate, S.B. 401, is not expected to pass. "Even if it did pass, it would certainly be vetoed by the president," Press Secretary Jay Carney announced in response to a reporter's question.
In a related story, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the 2020 Census will be the first to be conducted entirely in Spanish.