April 28, 2010

This Is Alabama; We Speak English The Republican gubernatorial candidate [Tim James] is running a provocative ad arguing that Alabama's driver's license exam should be given only in English.

"This is Alabama; we speak English," James says. "If you want to live here, learn it."

  • We, in Australia, had something similar not that long ago. And on a related note: I'm very happy that this racist has decided to emigrate and am not surprised that she refuses to sell her house to a Muslim when she's leaving. Seriously, has this women done her research and is aware of the immigration intake in England? It makes me smile.
  • 72 percent increase in work/traffic-related fatalities to drivers' inability to read road signs in English And just how many of that 72% have English as their native language, hmmmm? Myb thr 2 bzy txtg 2 rd sgns? The campaign spot has had more than 60,000 views on YouTube. Which is why I refuse to watch it, lest the ignorant fu&k think I support him.
  • This might be a coincidence, but the one time I paid for an item at Home Depot having chosen to make a Spanish transaction at the automated teller line, a buzzer went off and security came to examine my bag. Of course the purchase was legit. And no doubt I hadn't been flagged as suspicious by the mere use of Spanish... Still that COULD happen. Accordingly, the driver's license test should have NO variable that could be used against some group or other. So maybe this politician is really a defacto liberal?
  • I consider myself pretty darn far to the left. However, I have to say that if I were in Germany and taking a test to drive in that country, I would expect the test to be in German. The road signs are in German. Public announcements about traffic and weather are in German. I wouldn't think for a moment that I can drive in Germany or China or Japan without reading the native language. The tone of his ad and the language he chose to use might have been very offensive, but I really think it is completely sensible to give the test in the language all the signs are in.
  • On the other hand, I've driven in Mexico where I was able to use my California license. I had a vague understanding of what their road signs meant, and the shapes and colours are consistent with what I already know. The only one that tripped us up was one on a winding mountain road that just said "Peligroso". We had to look that one up (not while driving). I imagine for many immigrants to the US it would be very similar. At the time I knew enough Spanish to get around, but certainly not enough that if I was required to sit a driving test I could manage it. However it's more important to understand the road rules clearly than to speak the language fluently (being a non-English speaker shouldn't kill anyone), so to me it's more important to offer the test in a variety of languages and ensure people understand the road code than to force them to try and understand not only the law, but the language it's written in.
  • There are so many local variables. Making a right turn in Australia (a mirror image American left turn?) was a harrowing and dangerous experience for everyone concerned, even though I do speak pseudo-Aussie, and carried an International Driver's Licence.
  • Yeah, that whole driving on the other side of the road thing is much more of a challenge than any language barrier. Mr. James is just another ignorant bigot.
  • WTF is with 'murkins? How many kids in European countries are polyglots? It's the norm rather than the exception for the majority of the people in other countries of the world to have at least a passing acquaintance with two, if not three languages. Even the poor of other countries that Mr. James doesn't hold in much respect: Mexico, China, Africa, have at minimum their native tongue and English. Many are fluent in French or German, also. Canadians are familiar with French as well as that Eh-nglish they speak up thar. Guess what department is being gutted in the school district as well as in the state university this year? Yup. Language. We're so happy and smug in our ignorance.
  • The driving instructions and tests in Spanish still have the signs in English, but they make sure the no-se-habla-ingles-ers know that STOP means ALTO! Only the "English Only" people are stupid enough to think they don't.
  • Most US road signs are symbolic not textual, and where they do have words (like "Yield") there is a symbol and color (downwards pointing red triangle border) to help - so you know it means "Give Way" ;-) This is necessary because... - symbols are more quickly recognized - they can be seen better from a distance - many US English speaking drivers are illiterate. So while I would think it dickish of me to go to Portugal, apply for a driving test, and then shout at the tester "DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?", it still makes sense to encourage more US drivers to get a license (by offering tests in many languages) because we have a growing number of unlicensed and uninsured drivers here. Perhaps the subliminal fear that Tim James is appealing to in his redneck voters is that giving illegal residents a license in some way makes them more like citizens. The majority of US citizens don't have passports, and the drivers license is used a lot here as "picture ID". So perhaps there is a fear that "foreigners" are becoming "documented". Personally I'd feel happier with more people's faces and thumbprints in a database, wherever they are from and whatever language they speak.
  • I've been able to navigate roads in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Mexico without speaking more than basic French or Spanish (and no German or Italian, really). Did so very well, too, using locally-produced maps. I wouldn't expect to do that well in Russia or China, but Alabama, for those the legislator is obviously scared of, is not Russia or China. Yep, it's another hurdle in the you-don't-belong-here-even-tho-we-love-the-depressed-food-prices-your-tiny-wages-afford-us race.