Am I the only one who gets really pissed off every time I call some company or government office and have to listen to a recorded message telling me to “Press One For English?” It’s not bad enough that I have to hear this in English, then the damned message tells me the same thing in Spanish!

Does it make me a racist to expect people who come to my country to learn my language? Is it wrong for me to want to preserve the language I grew up with and not have to adapt to a group of newcomers who are apparently either too lazy or too dumb to learn it?

I understand that America is still the great melting pot. That’s fine. The diversity of our people is what has shaped us as a nation. But doesn’t that term “melting pot” mean that immigrants from all over the world come to this country to become part of the overall mixture? How can that happen if they refuse to learn our language?

I’m all for each of us preserving our own individual heritage. However, not to the exclusion of accepting the language of a country where one chooses to live. And I damned sure object to being forced to choose a number to speak in my own native language!

America is made up of people from every corner of the earth. They all come here in search of a better life. Isn’t part of achieving that better life assimilating oneself into the culture of America? How can one do that if they refuse to learn the language? 

English, Germans, French, Poles, Chinese, Japanese, Cubans, Mexicans, Greeks and everybody from everywhere have come here to become Americans. So why is it just one language in particular that we seem to be asked to choose as an alternative to English? I don’t have the option to “Press Three For Swahili” or “Press Four For Lithuanian.” Why not?   

A couple of years ago, the owner of a sandwich shop in Philadelphia came under fire because he posted a sign asking customers to speak English when ordering. The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations told the shop’s owner that his sign was discriminatory, and threatened legal action. The case made national news, and eventually the city backed down, but why did it have to happen in the first place?

Since when does freedom of speech, in the form of the restaurant’s sign, have to be set aside to make somebody happy who won’t take the time to learn English? What’s next? Will those restaurant signs that say “No shoes, No shirt, No Service” be deemed to be discriminatory to homeless people who can’t afford clothes? If so, I want them to be judged discriminatory to topless dancers too!

Hey, here’s an idea – how about if we have recordings saying “Press One For English and Press Two If You’re Too Stupid To Speak It?”

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31 Comments on I Don’t Want To Press #1 For English!

  1. Jerry Ray says:

    Once again you have voiced my feelings exactly Nick. Of course most of them will be too stupid to find the 2 button on the phone!!
    HUUMMMM, Topless resturants… gets my attention!

  2. Levi Patton says:

    press one for English, press two till you learn English. Tampa used to have a topless doughnut shop. What an eyeopener.

  3. Billi in Illinois says:

    You might be right if you were actully someone in the U.S. It has probably been outsourced. You have to press one so you can be directed to the proper ( broken English ) operator.

  4. Rex says:

    What do those that speak Spanish have in common with cue balls? The harder you hit them the more English you get out of them. If they can’t speak English, regardless of their native language, GET OUT, go someplace until you can speak English. In addition, our Congress should proclaim English as our National Language. And remember, If you love your freedom, thank a Veteran.

  5. SAL Bellomo says:

    Hi Nick you hit the nail on the head with this one ,my feelings are the same or more at times . Some times when I make a call I get some on the other side that talks Swahili English , and can’t
    under stand me or me them . There many America’s that need a job that speak good English that can “””GET-ER DONE””” .

  6. Connie Braidh says:

    English should be the OFFICIAL language of the USA. All laws, voting, records, school lessons, etc should be in ENGLISH. If you can’t speak it, learn. One of the problems of letting a region of the county have a different language is misunderstandings, problems and ultimate requests for their own country (Quebec in Canada). We need to be a united country. Right now in south Florida if you don’t know Spanish in some cases you can’t get a job as the jobs all require you to be bi-lingual. If that’s not discrimination, what is? Having separate languages leads to problems in understanding each other and getting along. I thought we were all supposed to be Americans not Spanish Americans or African Americans or Swedish Americans, etc.

  7. I tried to write an opposing view. However, I got a message that said “This website is too busy to show this page.” Too busy? Me too! I crafted my response for 10 minutes to say exactly and clearly what was on my mind, and the website is “TOO BUSY” to accept it.

    For now, ADIOS!

  8. Alicia Shook says:

    Nick, you hit it on the head. It reminded me of the song I head at an RV rally a few years ago. I don’t know if you have ever came across Ron and Key Rivoli, they write and sing RV songs. She wrote one “Press 1 for English” Here is the YouTube video for it: Hope you enjoy it. They may be some good entertainment for your rally.

  9. Ed Hackenbruch says:

    Well Nick, i sorta agree. However i have been on the other side of the coin. I lived 13 & 1/2 months in another country and never learned to speak the language. Oh sure i picked up a few words here and there but was never conversant in it. Was i resented because of it? Probably. If i go to any other country for a visit should i have to learn their language first? So what is the time frame for being in a country and learning the language? A week? a year? a decade? Young kids can learn a language quickly but it is harder the older you get…..Could you learn Chinese or French very well at your age if you moved to one of those countries? How long would it take? By the way….. i still remember a few Vietnamese words even though it has been almost 40 years since i “lived” there. :>)

  10. Joe Vagott says:

    Nick,This hits close to home,because my grandfather and grandmother came from Hungary and had to go through Ellis Island. He worked hard in the coal mines. When the children started to talk to him in Hungarian he said you are in America,speak ENGLISH.

  11. Dale says:

    Ed: No one is asking that folks be fully conversant in English, only that they be able to know enough English to be able to conduct business, either in a job, with a bank or with a local government.

    I am second generation American married to a guy who was born overseas. Our families learned English as adults when they came to this country. In fact, my in-laws were fluent in 3 languages.

    If folks want to come to this country because it is so great, then they should truly become a part of it as well and speak its’ legal language – English.

  12. Dale Pace says:

    The “Rivoli Review,” those RVers who sing about RVing have a song entitled “Press One For English.” It is a real funny song done in their humorous fashion. They have a website and I think you can see the song on YouTube.


  13. Paula says:

    I hear you all the way. Trying to make a phone call to a business is a royal pain. Try it here in Wisconsin. We have press 1 for English, 2 for hmong, 3 for Spanish! Local business’s have all 3!
    I thought English was our official language!

  14. Llana says:

    If you are interested, I found the Rivoli video, “Press One For English”, on YouTube at

  15. Joan says:

    Press 1 for English? Take action! Press 0 for Operator and voice your complaint. If that doesnt’ get you a human being to complain to, then tell the person who answers 1 what your feelings are. If you get someone in a far distant land that you can’t understand, ask to speak to their supervisor until you get someone who does speak English clearly.

  16. Mary Fox says:

    Nick: the sandwich shop in Philadelphia is called Geno’s and since my husband is from there we were out there when all this was going on at Geno’s Philly Cheese steak,(not a sandwich shop as they say) ha=everyone around there was all in favor of the results that were given to Geno’s and the sign as far as I know remains today! I guess that’s what it takes to straighten out this world we live in now==Geno’s is open 24 hours, 365 days a year and is all outside seating==now some of the chairs were metal and how does that feel in the winter? however they still continue to be busy all the time==enyoy each day and each other. Mary

  17. Linda Mason says:

    My mother and grandmother came to this country from Germany by the way of a camp in Siberia. They were shipped there from Russia after leaving Poland to go and farm. My grandmother learned a little English, my mother spoke correct Midwestern English.

    I have to agree with you. It is the most aggravating thing to have to listen to that type of message. Makes you want to scream “learn ENglish or go home”.

  18. Ed Hackenbruch says:

    I also don’t like to have to press 1 for english……but the reality is that the world is changing. I am pretty sure that very few if any of my ancestors that came to this country spoke English when they got off of the boat. And even after they learned English, they no doubt had a strong, hard to understand at times, accent……but that didn’t mean that they were stupid or lazy. What ever happened to tolerance, compassion, and understanding of others in this country? Just because people aren’t exactly like us, we ridicule and degrade them or treat them with contempt? Would be nice if there was only one language in the world….would make things a lot easier for us all, but hell, we can’t even agree on which side of the road to drive on, and that only has two possible choices! Maybe after high school it should be mandatory that everyone spend 2 years in a country where you don’t know the language. Maybe all countries should do that……be interesting to see how it would affect world relations and attitudes.

  19. Cal Hall says:

    RIGHT ON Brother!!! I recently was asked to complete a survey on line for one of the chain food stores where we shop. I don’t normaly do that but this time I thought I would. When I got to the website the first thing it asked for was English or spanish? I immediatly closed it out as I refuse to answer that question whenever possible. If you come to this country to live learn to speak the language.

  20. Cal Hall says:

    I noticed one of your responders stating he lived for 13 months in another country and didn’t lean the language. My guess is he had a tough time getting around. I spent 27 years in the Army and Navy and made many 9-12 month deployments to other countrys. I always made it a point to learn at least some of the local language so I could at least be courteous to the local folks and ask for directions.

    Nough said.

  21. Nick Russell says:

    But I bet your ancestors did eventrually learn English, right? Maybe accented English, but stil English. Coming from Arizona, I know many Hispanics who have lived in this country 20 years or more, and even second generations, who still do not speak it.

  22. MichaelG says:

    There have always been Hispanics and Chinese and other non-English speakers in this country. That hasn’t changed.

    What we didn’t have (and still don’t) is operators at companies who speak those languages. But what we do have is phone trees with prerecorded messages.

    Once you are going to buy one of those systems, you might as well put other languages in. It doesn’t cost much extra, and might get you some business from people more comfortable in another language.

    Sorry to burden you all with the mere existence of Spanish, but it’s not the end of the world.

  23. Steve says:

    Hola, Nick!
    I do not like hearing “press 1 for English” on the phone, either.
    Not so aggravating is a voice that says in Spanish- “press 8 for Spanish” – after a greeting in English.

    In America, official government business should be conducted in English. You should not need to speak a foreign language to work or travel here, either.

    I can understand businesses hiring employees who speak German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, etc. to attract tourist dollars. That is the American Way.

    The Rivoli song and video, while quite amusing, does pander to a segment of the population who, I fear, take it much too seriously. It smacks of intolerance.

  24. Steve says:

    I meant to add that foreigners who come to this country to stay, should learn English. Not learning the language is really bad manners.

  25. Ed Hackenbruch says:

    Cal, I wasn’t what was known as a “remf”, i was in the jungle or the rice paddies the whole time. Not a lot of civilians to interact with that were not trying to shoot me. However i did try to learn something about the people and their lives and customs and language whenever i could.

    Nick, as MichaelG has said that is nothing new, many large cities have had or still do have neighborhoods that have people who have never learned English. Think of New York City on the east coast as just one example. Italians, Polish, Russian, the list goes on. And as the generations go on they speak less and less of the old language. I know a few words of German, Norwegian and French but not enough to amount to anything……some people would say i have lost my heritage but what is my heritage now that i am 6th or 7th generation American? If somebody wants to play the “go back to where you came from card”, because somebody doesn’t speak the language, i would like to know where they themselves are going to go since i doubt that they speak any of the Indian dialects. We, or our ancestors, all came from somewhere else and it took time to blend in……we just need to give others time to do the same.

  26. Cal Hall says:

    I too spent my year in the rice paddies and jungles 68&69 (Americal Div)and I will be honest that I didn’t try to learn their language. Also did Desert Storm and 2 deployments to Iraq and didn’t learn much of their language either. I consider that different from deployments to peaceful parts of the world where I spent a considerable amount of time learning some of the local dialects as a respect for the people we were trying to help. My point is that if you come to this country to live with all the benifits we have you should learn to speak our language. It’s a good thing to be able to speak more than one language. What I see is that the folks coming here do not want to learn our language and expect us to change our way way of speaking. I also honor your service and Nicks and even though we may not agree on everything at the end of the day we can sit down and share some beers and it saddens me that ability seems to be missing in this great country of ours. I still have to agree with Nick on this one but I certainly respect your views.

  27. Ed wrote….”we just need to give others time “
    How much time Ed? 6 months, 6 years? Some have been here for 20+years and have not learned English. I also resent having to “press 1 for English”. I lived in Germany a total of 5 years. When I went there I did not know a single word of German, but I learned. Within 6 months, I was able to converse with others to a certain extent. By the end of the first year, I was able to carry on conversations with anyone. I did not take any language courses, so my reading and/or writing of German were minimal, but enough to get by. I also learned their customs and honored them. I think it is very important you should learn a country’s customs immediately and follow them when you are in their country, so you do not offend with your actions. I have also traveled extensively in Mexico. My Spanish is not great, but my husband speaks enough Spanish to be understood. If I were going to live in Mexico, or any country, I would learn their language. We made it a high priority to learn many Mexican customs, and strived to follow them so we did not offend. I never thought it was an option to get them to accommodate my American customs. I know of no country, other that the USA, that accommodates another person’s language and customs as we do. We “press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish,” we have signs in both languages, including road signs in some areas, our teachers must prepare their lessons in languages other than English, to accomodate everyone. No other country that I know of does this. AND, why is it just Spanish that is generally the alternative? What about the other languages spoken here?

  28. Ed Hackenbruch says:

    Cal, i never did a deployment to a another country. I was in and out in a year and a half. Was in the 25th for a few months in late 70 and then spent 71 in the Americal. :>)

  29. Jim Burnett says:

    Press 1 for English … I hear you Nick! And I remember the time when an immigrant came to our shores they made the effort to learn the language. We now live in a different world …. The decisions are being made by a younger generation with different perceptions and perspectives. We also live in a much bigger world than you and I grew up in. In this age of cells phones and the ease of making international calls, those language prompts are not just for non-English speakers residing in the good ol’ USA. I know, the local utility company probably won’t get a call from Argentina or Mexico, but hey, who knows … It’s not just for the convenience of the “illegals” in our country, we do have a tourist or two who have little or no English. You know, like being a Yank tourist in France or Chile and not being able to find an English speaker.
    Personally, I am more irritated with the seeming endless loops of computer voices telling me to push I, 2 3, 4 or more for before I can connect (if I can connect) with a real live person (who just may be in India or Poland). And then, If the person I get can’t help, them dump me back into the endless computer generated choices ….

  30. John in Minneapolis says:

    I agree 100%. Recently I purchased a baseball cap from which has the following saying:

    “We live in America why must we push 1 to proceed in English?”

  31. Scott says:

    Bravo! I completely agree. When the waves of Germans and Italians came here in the late 1800s, they could have lived in enclaves and not learned English and survived, but they wanted to be Americas, and that meant learning English. If I packed up my family and moved to Mexico, I would expect to have to learn Spanish.

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