Only English Spoken Here

Language as politics spawns a backlash against immigrants

At a Los Angeles hospital, the head nurse forbade workers to speak anything but English and urged employees to report anyone overheard using another language. The city council in Monterey Park, a suburb of L.A., ousted the trustees of the library for buying foreign-language books and magazines. The manager of an insurance company in Los Angeles ordered Chinese-American staffers to speak only English unless they were dealing with a Chinese- speaking customer.

These incidents and others like them occurred in the wake of California's adoption two years ago of an initiative declaring English the official language. Until recently language, which has...

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