On Wednesday The Washington Post featured poll results on the comfort level of people in the United States with non-English speakers. Pew Research Center conducted the survey asking if people would be bothered "not at all," "not much," "some" or "a lot" to "hear people speak a language other than English in a public place."
The Washington Post headline read:
"Nearly half of white Republicans say it bothers them to hear people speaking foreign languages"
The results found 47 percent of White Republicans fell in the "some" and "a lot" bothered category. Their Democratic counterparts answered 82 percent would be bothered "not much" or "not at all."
But many people quickly picked up on a fact that The Washington Post missed in their headline.
And that headline mistake contributes to the very statistic they reported. English is neither the official language nor an Indigenous language in the United States.
Ignoring this fact leads to speakers of Indigenous languages having their heritage and importance devalued or forgotten in the national conversation.
Many people pointed out that English came to the United States from Europe less than 500 years ago and only gained prominence over French and Spanish due to a variety of factors including wealth and willingness, or unwillingness, to be multi-lingual.
Indigenous North American languages, dating back thousands of years, were outlawed by the United States government in an effort to "kill the Indian, save the man." Natives were either killed with paid bounties in states like California or forced to assimilate through laws making all aspects of their culture illegal.
Their children were required to attend boarding schools to learn English. Children faced corporal punishment for speaking their own language in addition to other abuses at the hands of their caretakers.
And some made the point that when people from the United States travel to non-English speaking countries, they expect the people there to also speak English.
The United States is a diverse nation without an official language. The primary language may change over time as population demographics change.
People in the United States accommodated people who spoke only English for centuries. In the future, those English speakers or their descendants may find themselves accommodating others.
And perhaps this is the root of their discomfort.