Sprechen sie EnglashPublished 9:53am Friday, May 7, 2010
I attempted one foreign language in college, German, but performed miserably. It was, as I recall, the only course I failed…even though the professor gave me two “incompletes” before dropping the ax.Despite my inability to perfect Germanic linguistics, I did remember three things about the language…how to count to ten, how to ask if a person spoke English or German and how to say “I love you.”That small portion of a second language first and foremost impressed my future wife and helped a few years back when we toured Germany. Upon encountering a hotel clerk or a waitress, the first words out of my mouth would be “Sprechen Sie Englash?”It’s too late for me, but I believe it is important for their individual success that our students should be required to master a second language and Spanish, I believe, is the most important one in which U. S. students should become proficient.But it appears that Tim James who’s running for governor of our great state believes differently. James wants to reverse the policy, in place under the administration of Gov. Bob Riley of offering the drivers license exam in 12 languages.James launched a campaign commercial last week in which he says: “This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live hear, learn it.” James is the son of two-time governor Fob James (one term as a Democrat, one as a Republican) who once floated like a fairy across an auditorium stage mimicking a monkey. Has Fob returned to again haunt Alabama’s image and intellect, this time in the form of his son Tim?Of course we all know the racial and ethnic overtones of this proposal are designed to resonate with the lowest denominator of intelligence in the state. But as bad as that is, what kind if message does it send to the world’s business community we have spent years so carefully cultivating to bring foreign industry to Alabama? Think Mercedes from Germany, Honda from Japan and Hyundai from Korea. Is “Tinker” Tim going to tell the spouses and children of the executives of these companies which are employing thousands of Alabamians they must be proficient in English to drive here? Bill Johnson, like James, a candidate in the Republican Primary, said his opponent’s ad is not good for business in Alabama. “If Tim wanted to take out after illegal immigrants, I wish he would have just said so without hurting hundreds of people from other countries who have brought thousands of jobs to Alabama,” Johnson told us this week. “I believe his ad sent the wrong signal and insulted thousands of sophisticated international citizens and business partners,” he added. Another GOP candidate, Bradley Byrne, called the proposal a publicity stunt. Some Capitol Hill observers believe the ad was designed to boost what they say was a “faltering campaign.” But they all admit that it has certainly made waves on the internet throughout the U. S., and unfortunately, the world.Obviously, the James campaign failed to understand that foreigners can drive legally in Alabama without ever having to obtain a state drivers license.The United States is a party to a treaty that gives residents of one country the right to drive in other countries using the drivers license issued by the government where they live. This treaty created the international driving permit (IDP) to make this arrangement easier. An IDP translates your state-issued driver’s license into 10 languages so you can show it to officials in foreign countries to help them interpret your drivers license. I have used one to drive legally in five European countries. You can get one at AAA for ten bucks. Thus the importance of rejecting the notion that Alabama should not offer a driver’s license exam in multiple languages is really a no-brainer since foreigners can drive here anyway as long as they have a valid license from their country…and without Alabama’s permission. Our gulf in perilThe tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico has demonstrated and brought home to me the importance of protecting the environment. Whether or not deep water drilling is necessary in the Gulf is basically up to us and how we conserve what God has given us. By conserving our precious resources, we can help sustain our planet for future generations. It is obvious we can’t control those who would pollute our land and sea for profits and will continue to do so…as long as we demand what they can produce.Like many of you, I am waiting and watching to see when the oil hits my little share of the beach at Gulf Shores. This is a tragedy for all of us.
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org