Language Rules in the Workplace

The United States of America is a country that was founded on immigration. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol for America welcoming people in. Because of the immigration from around the world, the USA has become well known as a culturally diverse nation. For being a country that claims to be so big on diversity and acceptance, America has had a very turbulent history when it comes to diversity, acceptance, and equality. Many obstacles have already been overcome in these areas including the civil rights movement and affirmative action. There are still ongoing struggles with acceptance, such as gay rights. What I was really surprised to learn is that there is actually an ongoing problem when it comes to language in the work place.

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Companies such as Verizon, Whole Foods, and even the NYPD have some form of English Only policy that require their employees to only speak English while on the job unless it is necessary for them to speak another language(usually Spanish). Language is something that you grow up with. You learn it from your family, and whatever your cultural background is; you probably speak a language to go with it. Yes, English is the most commonly known language in America and it would make sense for employers to require the ability to speak it. But should English be the only language allowed in the workplace?englishonly

According to the Verizon article, the policy came about when two employees were speaking Spanish in front of another employee. This third employee did not know Spanish and filed a complaint with the company because they felt excluded. It wasn’t a business conversation, just a casual conversation between two friends.

It can be extremely frustrating when you are on the job and your coworkers begin to have a conversation in a foreign language. I have been in this situation in multiple jobs with multiple languages. It can really make you feel excluded from your group of coworkers, and you might want them to speak in English. Even though I might want that for my own convenience, I believe that to force employees to only speak English on the job is just ridiculous. Yes, if you are dealing with a customer who only speaks English, you should definitely speak English, just as you would speak Spanish, for example, to a Spanish speaking customer. There are no policies that I have ever heard of that prevent employees from coming up with code languages based in English, for example, giving coworkers secret nicknames and then talking about them. Using code words can make others feel very left out, yet still fits within the policy. Code words are a very private and exclusive way to communicate whereas a foreign language is public information. Anyone can take their time to learn a foreign language. If someone has not taken the time to learn a language, they are responsible for their own feeling of exclusion. It is completely nonsensical to punish others because a few people lack the desire to learn.

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