Page last updated at 05:03 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

US city rejects English-only law

A sign encourages people in Nashville to vote against the "English First" amendment
The United States does not have an official language at federal level

Voters in the US city of Nashville have defeated a proposal to ban the use of all languages apart from English in local government business.

Supporters said it would have saved thousands in translation fees, and provided an incentive to learn English.

However, critics argued that it would discriminate against the nearly 60,000 immigrants in the city who did not speak English as their first language.

The "English First" measure was defeated by 41,752 votes to 32,144.

Had it passed, Nashville would have become the largest US city to take such a step.

But business leaders, academics and the city's mayor said it would give the city a bad reputation.

They said the move could stop people who cannot read or write English from seeking vital help from social welfare agencies run by the city authorities.

Nashville has a big Hispanic population, and the largest community of Kurdish Americans in the US - about 11,000 - as well as immigrants from South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The charter amendment was put forward by city councillor Eric Crafton, who collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue.

The United States does not have an official language at the federal level.

Thirty states, including Tennessee, and at least a dozen cities have declared English their official language, according to the ProEnglish advocacy group.

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