Overheard on CNN.com: Please speak English
August 24th, 2011
05:39 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Please speak English

Comment of the day:

"The best thing about people who immigrated here (many years ago) was the eagerness to work hard and learn English. They deserve so much respect." –123whateveru

Respect for cheesesteak guru

Joey Vento, owner of Geno’s, a south Philadelphia cheesesteak shop, died of a heart attack on Tuesday. Besides being the owner of one of the city’s most well-known steak sandwich shops, Vento caught national attention in 2006 for a sign he placed in his restaurant urging customers to speak English.

And it seems Americans are still debating the English-only concept, but in Vento’s case, CNN.com commenters were more united.

567123 said, “So all Americans calling this man racist would go into a small town restaurant in Spain or Germany and expect the owners to understand your order in English? Or would you maybe make an effort and learn a few basics of a foreign language?”

Beezer1 said, “I live in Philly. This guy was a good man. He donated tons of cash to kids groups, most of them minorities . He loved America and Philly and hated to see what is becoming of it. His family were immigrants and assimilated to the country and had success and they came from pure poverty. He wanted to instill to all kids that the only way to get ahead is to do hard work, weather it be a job, art or school. Think about it. Which immigrant will have a better advantage: one who refuses to learn English or one who learns it?”

Daws1 said, “Philadelphia has 1.5 million people in it, and is visited by people the world over. Why didn't he make an effort to learn a foreign language?”

Coyolxauhqui responded, “Maybe he did, Daws. I never knew the guy. Maybe he just wanted people to give it a try and not expect employees at a Philly restaurant to be versed in foreign languages.”

jackhawco said, “Unlike most Americans, Joey had a set of balls and wasn't afraid to speak what he believed.”

disgustedNY said, “You need to learn to speak English to become a citizen of the USA. If you don't like that you can GTFO.”

Wlk47 responded, “Why don't you speak any Native American languages?”

medstudent72 responded, “Wlk47 – If  Native Americans had created a sovereign country complete with a constitution and governing body, then maybe we would be.”

HMA said, “I am Hispanic and I have to say that people that come to this country should learn to speak the language. I came here when I was 15 and I tried very hard to learn the English language quickly. I made sure I made friends with American kids and not just Hispanic kids. Forward 30 years and I speak actually 3 languages fluently: French, English and Spanish. I see many folks that come to this country and they just mingle with their kind and that slows down the learning process. I've known people that are here for years and still cannot speak English which is sad but it is because they do not associate themselves with English speaking folks.”

Beancrock said, “How was this guy racist? Is it really unreasonable to expect people to communicate in the local language?”

sonofgadfly responded, “What made it ‘unreasonable’ was not the expectation itself, but rather the general treatment in this country (and around the world) of people who are different. Perhaps if all people were treated more fairly - as individuals, not as stereotypes - no one would have seen that expectation as anything more than a practical matter.”

PhooBar said, “Rest in peace, Mr. Vento. You were a great American. I make it a point to eat at Gino's, and at Pat's, every time I go to Philly. I never could decide who's was the best.”

Is the U.S. adopting a new foreign policy?

With behind-the-scenes involvement in Libya, the United States may have turned a foreign-policy corner—or at least that’s what CNN’s Fareed Zakaria says. In his column Wednesday, he compared the vastly different military approaches in Iraq and Afghanistan to the current administration’s tactics.

So what did CNN.com readers think about the possibility of a new foreign policy?

James said, “The Obama Doctrine.”

Borrowfromchinapaidbyusa said, “Fareed, who should be the force for peace and liberty in the world if not the US? CNN maybe? And you actually think EU countries are now ‘more likely to be involved in the difficult process of reconstruction.’ With whose money?”

HappyModerate said, “We'll still be a global force for peace and liberty, but I don't think we should have to go it alone. Why shouldn't the other free nations share the burden? We are leaders. It is in our American nature. But being a leader doesn't mean that we have to be a lone wolf. We might be able to achieve a lot more if we work as part of team. And if we can be more effective by sharing the burdens of leadership then it would be stupid not to do it.”

drogo said, “Our foreign policy is changing because we no longer have the influence, money or power to go it alone.”

Andy said, “Obama's strategy is funding wars that others countries will fight. It's more obvious than you might think."

GoodCall said, “The US played a pivotal role in bringing democracy to Libya and help people overthrow a dictator who killed many Americans. Obama did that without losing a single American life. This is what I call a kick ass political and military success.”

Huxley said, “I hope you are right Zakaria. We've handled so many other interventions in an extremely short sighted way, such as Hungary, Cuba, Panama, Iran, and many others (did I mention Iraq and Afghanistan?).

It would be refreshing if the US started planning ahead based on a consideration of the probable outcome of their foreign policy decisions, as opposed to just doing whatever the current President felt like doing on that day."

Brian said, "’The United States is not going to have the kind of defense budget nor the national will to engage in a series of major military operations in countries that are, frankly, not vital to our national interests.’ Translation: We will only invade countries that have oil. Even Zakaria admits this – in his own devious way.”

BBob said, “Great, a new variation on how the US can meddle. How about this: just stay out of other countries' affairs. As a taxpayer, I'd prefer not one cent be spent on war in other countries unless our security is DIRECTLY affected.”

Jttaylort responded, “The money could be spent elsewhere...like Americans getting jobs, infrastructure, Social Security, Medicare, disability for our veterans, etc.”

Chip said, “A new policy would be ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Obama promised to do three years ago and has yet to deliver. So much for Hope and Change!”

Who’s following who?

On Tuesday, Facebook made changes to its privacy settings that are more in line with what Google Plus offers, changes that let users more easily choose who can see posts and photos.

So does the move signal that Facebook is under threat of serious competition?

thommcg said, “Proper, simplified privacy controls, integrated video chat from the start, (still) ad free... looks like Google+ got it right and Facebook is playing catchup now."

msacks responded, “Absolutely true, but Google+ is playing catchup by hundreds of millions of users. The more Facebook adapts to why people want Google+ to stick around, the more people don't shift to Google+ and stay with Facebook. And in the end, years from now, if I have a choice of a social network with 90% of my friends and contacts, or a social network with 25% of my friends and contacts, I'm choosing the one with the most people. In other words, the only way Google+ replaces or coexists with Facebook long term is if it continuously stays ahead of the curve, not just starts there.”

Ackadamius responded, “If you don't think Google is going to put ads on Google+ you obviously don't know how Google makes their money....ads! Advertising revenue makes up 96 percent of Google’s revenues so far in 2011. Google makes products/services to put advertising on them. That's their business model.”

pb1968 said, “If Marc Zuckerburg doesn't think his 750,000,000 subscribers will leave him in a heartbeat in mass exodus for a better user experience on G+, he ought to have a heart to heart talk with "Tom" from MySpace.”

Ackadamius responded, “For one, the comparison isn't even close to accurate. MySpace never even had 15 percent of the users Facebook has and it was never really adopted by the population as a whole. Now Facebook has entire families, friends, organizations, etc involved. If you think it is easy to convince 100 or more people in your social friend-group to leave and go to a new platform, learn it, and have the same experience as Facebook you are delusional.”

telveer said, “I am still moving to G+ – 90 percent done.”

txhermit said, “This is nothing new. I've been using this feature from Facebook for many years and have loved it. If anything, it's Google+ that copied Facebook. The only thing that Facebook is doing is making this feature more prominent for lazy people who never bothered to try it before.”

swannee responded, “Sorry, but as a software developer, if something is difficult to use, it doesn't make the users lazy when they don't use it, it means it's not a well-designed product. Same reason Apple is kicking the snot out of everybody. Make it easy, make it user-friendly. Google+ gets a big vote for me for doing a great job here. FB is great, but G+ has added in a lot of common sense improvements that are great ideas. Tech snobs are soon relegated to the scrap heap when they don't innovate around people.”

Do you feel your views align with these commenters' thoughts? Post a comment below or sound off on video

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. A merica is needy

    Most of the world hates US, so anything that even half-way looks like it might represent a foreigner helping US gets blown way out of proportion. Like the Chinese sending US some labor of love to build rairoad tracks. We need that lovin'.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      We certainly DO NOT!!

      -Signed: Most of The World

      August 27, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Stuart Lynn

    Time to stop calling Libyan 'rebels', rebels. They're the government. Gaddhafi and his crowd are the rebels!

    August 25, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Sorry. It takes a while getting used to. We still say "The White House" for example. :^D

      August 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fernace

    My family immigrated to the States 40 years ago this year! We still speak fluent Swedish & my mom, being a double immigrant, speaks Norwegian with her family in Norway! In our neck of the world it's mandatory to learn the "world" languages, so that we can make ourselves understood when we travel! I think it's crucial to speak English in this country, even if it has never been classified as the Official language! Sure there are still areas that speak predominantly Spanish, French, even Arabic, Asian & native languages, but English is the un-official universal language in this country! It is the Official Universal language of the world, along with Spanish, German & French! Being bi or tri lingual is only a plus, even speaking a decidedly un-universal language like Swedish!! 🙂

    August 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angelou

      You and your mother have the right to speak what ever language you feel like speaking. Just don't try to impose your views on others. I hope someone tries to tell me what I can and cannot speak, they will NOT like my response at all. By the way, so, you know what is the official language in the Universe? Im impressed! lol

      August 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Angelou

    People have the right to speak what ever language they feel like speaking. If you want to make your business succeed then you should at least try to accomodate others who don't feel like speaking English, given the fact that English is NOT the official language here. Simply put Vento was a racist. Just as Rick Perry said "Adios MOFO."

    Can you say Heart Attack from Coronary Artery Disease or Atherosclerosis? Stop eating all that Cheesy Steak.

    August 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Maya

    Angelou, you are as big a racist as you are accusing others of being. I do assure you, you are transparent. Now shut up, MOFO.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angelou

      I don't see how me, defending my right to speak my language of choice makes me a racist. When you try to impose YOUR views, and deprive someone off of something because you have tunnel vision, that is when you are being selfish, borderline racist. You Maya, can probably identify yourself with that MOFO that's why you get offended by my opinion.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darwin

      Angelou – You're the only person here attacking anyone and everyone who disagrees with what you believe. (Which is about 90% of the people here) If anyone is being "imposing" here it's you. The immigration debate has been going on for quite some time now. It’s just gotten to the point where we, the Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, etc., tax paying, legal, citizens of America, are saying enough is enough already. Even Hispanics that are here legally are tired of it. Are you saying they're racist too? On this particular topic I'm afraid you're the "minority" MOFO. Wake up or shut up already!

      August 26, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Angelou

      Darwin, here we are talking about language and how one person should not tell another what they can and cannot speak and you come in here with your two cents about people paying taxes? about immigration? I think you got confused and posted on the wrong thread my friend. Im sorry you got offended by my opinion, I should have just agreed with everyone else on that it is okay to suppress others who choose to speak other languages.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Darwin

      WOW! Thank you Dr. Angelou! You've made me realize that I'm just an angry, ignorant, uneducated, racist, who apparently beats his wife and son. (I hope you get cancer and die for even implying that by the way) I knew that the discussion wasn't about immigration, but I decided to take it there, even though it's completely irrelevant, because I hate b3aners. It's not that they're taking our jobs, ruining our economy, or refuse to speak English, I simply don't like them just because their b3aners. Well, it’s time to go home, drink some beer, clean my guns, and beat my wife and son. Good luck with you b3aners rights movement.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bern

    Hey give the guy credit. He held his ground and did not change the way he felt about something. What a concept, freedom of speech and freedom to write a sign and display it in his window of his business. Nice to know some guys still have the balls to say how they feel without worrying about political correctness in the work place. This was a better place WIT him then WITOUT. Happy trails Joey

    August 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Riz

    I think insisting that people speak English is ignorant. I immigrated here when I was eight and learned English quickly, most children do. My father took every English course available, classes, video/tape lessons, phonics etc.. He gained a college level vocabulary but could not do much about his accent. I witnessed people be so cruel to him because, "he did not learn the language". He did, they just could not understand him. Most of the time they did not even try they would just dismiss him. My grandmother has been practicing for her citizen exam for at least ten years, but has an even harder time with the language because she started at an even later age. Both my father and my grandmother were college educated, they are not dumb people. Learning a new language is not an easy task, especially for older people. Most immigrants are working long hours doing mostly physical labor and then coming home to take care of their families. Having the time and physical stamina after that to go to school and/or sit and learn a new language is a luxury that they wish they had.

    August 26, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Angelou

      I know exactly where you're coming from, your parents try to learn as much as possible with the limited time and resources, go and do the type of work no one else wants to do, pay their dues etc. and after all that they try to take their kids out to eat a philly cheese stake just to be told that they cannot eat there because they don't understand your accent. How sad is that?

      I

      August 26, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • DavidPope

      You nailed it! You are so right! Thanks for this post!

      August 27, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tom

    English is the language of the United States. If you go to Germany or Kenya they speak their native language and if you can't order or be understood then what are they supposed to do? Losing 20 minutes playing hand gestures to get your order? Joey Vento ran a Cheesesteak shop which had lines 20 hours of a 24 hour day everyday for the last 20 years since it got really very popular. He was not losing any business to the very few people who could not speak English. I am a business owner as well, and I would gladly lose any business from those who can't or choose not to speak English. When you live 20 to an apartment and only speak Spanish and watch Telemundo then maybe thats why you aren't picking up the English fast enough, if they even try. A business owners HAS THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE, Joey was just a bit of a very proud Italian and stood his ground which is very respectable. If you want to speak spanish and not conform in communicating then that is your choice but OUR country does not need to CONFORM to your way of life.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angelou

      You can do what ever you like within your property. But, if you are a public business then you CANNOT discriminate, that is why this is not called NAZI Germany, it is called United States of America. If you want to discriminate then you need to get out of this country, or go to hell, looks like he chose the latter.

      August 29, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Horizons

    The guy looked like a Bigot, pretty sure he had some white robes somewhere

    August 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Me

    This POS should be chopped up and served with cheese in a bun. Racist POS. I had one of those cheesesteaks and they were disgusting!! Glad you died you b@$tard

    August 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      No need to be so mean. Let's just hope that the controversial sign was buried with good ole' Joe.

      August 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Darwin

    English is the de facto national language of the United States, with 82% of the population claiming it as a mother tongue, and some 96% claiming to speak it "well" or "very well". However, no official language exists at the federal level. There have been several proposals to make English the national language in amendments to immigration reform bills, but none of these bills has become law with the amendment intact. The situation is quite varied at the state and territorial levels, with some states mirroring the federal policy of adopting no official language in a de jure capacity, others adopting English alone, others officially adopting English as well as local languages, and still others adopting a policy of de facto bilingualism. The variety of English spoken in the United States is known as American English; together with Canadian English it makes up the group of dialects known as North American English. Spanish is the second most common language in the country, and is spoken by over 12% of the population. The United States holds the world's fifth largest Spanish-speaking population, outnumbered only by Mexico, Spain, Argentina, and Colombia. Throughout the Southwestern United States, long-established Spanish-speaking communities coexist with large numbers of more recent Hispanophone immigrants. Although many new Latin American immigrants are less than fluent in English, nearly all second-generation Hispanic Americans speak English fluently, while only about half (6%) still speak Spanish. According to the 2000 US census, people of German ancestry (that's me, and I speak English, German, and French fluently) make up the LARGEST single ethnic group in the United States, and the German language ranks fifth.

    August 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angelou

      People, people, stay off drugs!

      August 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ramon F. Herrera

    The only ones who are linguistically challenged are the native born.

    August 27, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ramon F. Herrera

    The sign posted by Mr. Vento is not much different from one saying: "Catholicism is the only church recognized by God", since our wise founders chose not to include official religion or LANGUAGE.

    August 27, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Having said that, English is the dominant language, not only in the USA, but in the world. English is the school bully (aka de facto), accepted by everybody. As such, it does not need an Official Certificate of bully.

      August 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DavidPope

    Geno may have been a simple but sincere person to have graced this country! Although I have no qualms about learning English, or any language for that matter, I think learning more and practicing your native tongue also makes sense. We are all proud of our native roots! Be that England or France or Spain or Timbuktu! That should not be a concern for anybody! If the native Americans felt that way early in US history we would all be speaking American Indian languages. You would be named Pocahontas, Tonto, (your horse' name would be Silver) and if you are a girl your name would be Minehaha!

    August 27, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. FT

    ofcourse you have to order in english, but saying no other languages are permitted in the restaurant premises is racism.

    August 27, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
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