John McWhorter ― What Sarah Palin's 'speak American' is all about
McWhorter: English isn't under siege, and the fear of Spanish expressed by Sarah Palin and others is about xenophobia against Latinos.
Sarah Palin is hardly alone in her sense of some threat to the hegemony of English in the United States.
You know the drill -- Jeb Bush answers a question in comfortable Spanish, and Palin, after some perfunctory compliments that Bush's conversational Spanish will be good for connecting to Latinos, gets in that here in the United States we need to "speak American."
The problem with this kind of rhetoric is that it corresponds to no crisis. There hasn't been any documented tendency for native-born Americans to be uncomfortable in English. Those born here to non-English speaking parents speak their parents' language not as well -- if at all -- and just as often do not pass it on to their own children.
In Benjamin Franklin's time, it was German that one heard as often as we hear Spanish these days, and even Franklin was given to wondering whether German was taking over. We chuckle at the notion now -- one of the rare times that even the venerable Franklin was off-base.