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WHY, PEOPLE ASK, is everyone talking about official English? The American people are remarkably united about making English our nation's official language. Depending on the poll, up to 98 percent of all Americans endorse official English.

That majority support includes immigrants and native-born, Anglo and Hispanic, European and Asian. People all over the world know that English is the language of opportunity not only in America but increasingly the world.Students rioted in Cambodia recently for the chance to learn English. The French government has complained of too much English on the Internet.

Clear evidence has emerged that multilingual government programs are not only expensive but ineffective as well. The 1993 Chinese bilingual ballot in New York City gave the translation for "yes" as the Chinese character for "no." Recently, parents in New York City have actually filed suit to free their children from mandatory bilingual education "prisons."

Bilingual education does not mean what people think it means. A child in a "bilingual" program is taught entirely in the language of his parents, such as Spanish or Chinese, and is allowed just one English class each day. It is no wonder that advocates of this approach discuss things like increased self-esteem and improved native language literacy. You see, bilingual education fails to teach immigrant children to speak English.

It used to be that public schools were designed to help immigrants assimilate into their new country. Today the same schools are used to divide American children on the basis of language or ancestry. These failed programs cost state and local taxpayers at least $8 billion annually.

Did this happen at the request of immigrants? No. Immigrants still want to learn English and want their children to learn English.

Many of these anti-English laws were passed in the 1960s and 1970s because there was no effective opposition. That has changed. The members of English First and its allies are quick to let Congress know what they think. This organized effort has encouraged more elected officials to take a stand in favor of English.

Many politicians would like nothing more than to pretend to solve the problem while keeping the anti-English lobby fat with your tax money. This is why pro-English Americans should keep an eye on certain upcoming events in Congress.

First, watch the fate of the Istook-McIntosh-Ehrlich grants reform proposal in Congress. The anti-English lobby gets government grants, yet right now is allowed to lobby Congress for still more money. The Istook proposal puts an end to this taxpayer-funded lobbying.

Next, keep an eye on exactly what sort of official English bill is passed in Congress. Passing state official English legislation has generally been much easier than getting that legislation enforced. California passed its official English law in 1986. It has yet to be enforced.

For much of our history, America has benefited from being a nation of immigrants united by a common tongue. English First is determined that future generations of Americans enjoy that same opportunity.