WASHINGTON -- Sen. S.I. Hayakawa, R-Calif., introduced a proposed constitutional amendment Monday that would declare English to be the official language of the United States.
The Canadian-born senator, one of three of Japanese ancestry, is a semantics expert.
'This amendment is needed to clarify the confusing signals we have given in recent years to immigrant groups,' Hayakawa said.
He said requirements for obtaining citizenship say immigrants must be able to 'read, write and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language,' and that many states require bilingual ballots.
In addition, he said, the Carter administration proposed that certain schools teach courses entirely in a student's native tongue.
'I believe we are being dishonest with linguisitc minority groups if we tell them they can take full part in American life without learning the English language,' Hayakawa said.
He also said, 'If I spoke no English, my world would be limited to the Japanese-speaking community, and no matter how talented I was, I could never do business, seek employment or take part in public affairs outside that community.'
Hayakawa said the amendment would:
--Establish English as the official language of the United States to be used for all official government business.
--Do away with requirements for bilingual election requirements.
--Prevent 'dual-language' education for non-English-speaking students while allowing transitional instruction to help immigrant students become proficient in English.
--Prevent a city council from enacting a law requiring that council meetings be conducted in any other language.
He said the amendment would not:
--Prevent the establishment of foreign language schools such as Hebrew schools or Japanese cultural schools.
--Stop public schools or colleges from requiring students to take foreign language instruction.
--Ban the use of signs in a second language for the purpose of convenience and safety.
--Establish a standard for proper English.
'The purpose of this proposal is to ensure that American democracy always strives to include in its mainsteam everyone who aspires to citizenship, to ensure that no one gets locked out by permanent language barriers,' Hayakawa said.
The proposal would still have to go through committee and then be approved by two-thirds majority in both House and Senate and be ratified by three-fourths -- 38 -- of the states.