This may seem an odd question to ask. After all, most of us grew up knowing no other language than English and the thought of not knowing how to speak it seems ridiculous to us. But times have changed and there are millions of immigrants in our country that speak little to no English.
Most people agree that anyone wishing to be a citizen of the United States should be required to speak the English language but that doesn’t really answer the question does it? What about foreign workers that come to America on a temporary work visa? Should they also be required to speak our native language? Obviously, if a guest worker in our country is dealing with the public in some capacity (such as a retail store clerk or a sales person) than speaking English would be mandatory. This would be a requirement of the job itself but what about other workers?
Let’s say for instance that a visiting laborer is working for a construction company that is building new homes. Certainly it is not part of his/her job description to speak English and under normal circumstances this worker would not have any interaction with the client whatsoever but how does the client feel about this?
The concern here is not that the laborer can or cannot speak English but some people may feel that his/her ability to follow directions accurately might be in question. As an example, how does a non-English speaking person know to screw the drywall to the frame every 6 inches if they were so instructed or to do anything else in a precise manner when told by their immediate supervisor?
The issue here is not about any type of prejudice or bias on anyone’s behalf. Perhaps it is more about ensuring that the job is done quickly and correctly. Is it unfair to question whether or not a worker is able to take direction in a reasonable manner and to perform their job satisfactorily? Some people feel that this is a requirement that all workers should be able to satisfy regardless of whether they are a U.S. citizen or not. Still others insist that the very mentioning of this topic is in itself a form of prejudice.
The bottom line is “Should a visiting worker be required to achieve a basic level of English before being allowed to work in our country?” What do you think?