- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2008

OP-ED:

The LPGA Tour has announced that beginning in 2009 all tour players must speak English. Veteran players will have two years to pass an oral exam but new players must pass the oral exam to join the tour. There are currently 121 international players from 26 countries on the LPGA Tour. Tour players who can’t pass the oral exam will be suspended.

Fortunately for the LPGA, it is a private organization and can set its own rules. The new English-language requirement makes perfect sense for an enterprise like professional golf that depends on the free market for its success. It must attract both fans and sponsors. Television revenues come almost entirely from American audiences who expect the commentary to be in English, even though one-third of its tour events are held outside the United States.

The LPGA is evidently not going to enter the “press one for English and press two for xyz” ballgame. English will be the official language of women’s professional golf played in the United States. This leads me to wonder. If English is good enough for the LPGA, why is it not good enough for the USA? Why can’t it be the official language for applying for a driver’s license at the DMV or applying for veterans’ benefits or food stamps? The LPGA Tour is worried about keeping sponsors and audiences for its events. Golf fans don’t care what nationality the winners are but want them to be interviewed without translators. Why can’t such simple logic be applied to our court system? One of the reasons given by the LPGA for this English-language rule is that it is in the best interests of the players themselves. “We want to help our athletes succeed off the golf course as well as on it,” said an LPGA deputy commissioner. In other words, English is the language of commerce, and professional sports is a commercial enterprise. If you want to advance in this world, learn English. This is the same message the federal government should be sending to immigrants: If you want to succeed, learn English. Instead, under pressure from “immigrant rights” organizations and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, government agencies bend over backward to make it easy for immigrants to avoid learning English. The elephant in the living room is that such policies do not promote immigrants’ economic success, they impede it.


In 2008, even the Republican Party surrendered to the illusion of bilingualism by endorsing a presidential primary debate broadcast in Spanish from the University of Miami in Florida. Since all new citizens must pass an English-language exam, why do we think there are Hispanic voters who do not know enough English to follow a presidential debate? Why would we want to encourage new voters not to learn English? In Europe today, more than 20 languages are spoken in the countries of the European Union. Can you guess which is the default language used in business when there are no translators available? It is not French or German, not Italian or Spanish. It is English.

Barack Obama remarked recently that “Americans should not worry about whether immigrants are learning English, they should be sure their children are learning Spanish.” Wrong, and bad advice for both.

When an American goes to Germany or Turkey as a tourist, no one in those countries expects them to speak the native language, and Americans are not offended by foreign tourists who speak little or no English. But if an American moves to Germany and takes up residence there, he will need to learn German. Why does Mr. Obama not expect the same of immigrants who choose to live or work in the United States?

Professional golf players will not have trouble learning enough English to participate in LPGA tournaments. They will understand why this makes sense. We can only wish that “immigrant rights” groups would show as much wisdom and stop obstructing immigrants’ economic progress by opposing English-only policies in our schools, businesses and government agencies.

Rep. Tom Tancredo is a Republican from Colorado.