I used to live in Germany. I was fortunate enough to land a temporary teaching job there. Before I even got there, I studied the language hard, and when I got there, I studied it even harder every day. The result was I became highly proficient in German. I wasn't perfect. I still had some accent, but I could say anything I wanted to say and hold any conversation I wanted to. It wasn't easy, but I did it. I did it because I respect Germany and am grateful for the opportunity I had to live there. I was there by the grace of the citizens of that country. They didn't have to allow me a work visa, but they did. I took it as my responsibility to be able to communicate with the citizens there and not the other way around.

At the time, there was controversy about people moving to Germany and not bothering to learn to speak in German. Most such people came from Turkey. When Germans got upset about people’s reluctance to learn German, they were accused of racism. Of course, it didn’t help that Germany has had a history of racism. However, their belief that foreigners coming to live in Germany should learn German was not racism. It was nothing more than an expectation that someone from outside behave responsibly. I did. It would have been absolutely ridiculous for me to move there and not learn the language.

Americans aren’t being racist or xenophobic by expecting people who move here to learn English. We’re only expecting people to be responsible. For that man to have been in the country for 23 years and to still insist on testifying in court in Spanish is absurd. His answer to “Why aren’t you speaking in English?” should have been, “Because I’m irresponsible. I don’t have enough respect for the United States to have learned English well enough in 23 years.” If he had only been here a short amount of time, I would be willing to cut him some slack. It’s hard to learn a new language. But with 23 years under his belt, he’s had time to learn it and to learn it well.

English has been the unifying language of our country since its inception. Immigrants have always been expected to learn it, and rightfully so. To not learn it is to be irresponsible. End of story. The Federal Government hasn’t made it the official language, but it should. That doesn’t mean no one has the right to speak in another language within our borders. I do. I speak German when relatives of mine come to visit. However, if a relative from the old country came here to live, I would insist that he or she learn English if he doesn’t already know it. If you live in a country whose language you don’t know, you should take out a part of every single day to study the language until you know it well. Imagine if that man had done that for 23 years. You can guarantee that he would speak well enough to testify in English.

Be responsible. Learn English. No excuses.