"If English was good enough for Jesus…” Monolinguismo y mala fe


  • Mary Louise Pratt New York University


imperialism, language policy, monolingualism, citizenship, Peru, structuralism, linguistics


The well-known "If English was good enough for Jesus..." joke offers a rare, self-conscious glimpse into US society's craziness around language, and also into the religious and geopolitical entanglements involved. This essay tries to sort out some of that craziness, going back to Teddy Roosevelt's declarations in 1919 and the debates around immigration during and after World War I. The liberal foundations of Saussurian linguistics are examined as yet another source of monolingualist misrecognition, and examples from language politics in the Andean region help illuminate the enduring mutations of empire and coloniality in the Américas, including the Mexico-Arizona border region where Multilingual, 2.0? was engendered. Finally, the recognition of the reality of multilingualism in some areas of government and the judicial system in the US offers a countervalence to the bad faith monolingualism that prevails elsewhere.

El conocido chiste, "Si el inglés fue suficiente para Jesucristo..." ofrece un raro momento de autoreconocimiento sobre la mala fe que existe en la sociedad estadounidense alrededor de la cuestión de la lengua, con sus dimensiones religiosas y geopolíticas. Este ensayo indaga esta mala fe, recordando las declaraciones de Teddy Roosevelt, y los debates sobre la migración durante y después de la primera guerra mundial. Las fundaciones liberales de la lingüística saussuriana aparecen como otra fuente de mistificación monolinguista, mientras que algunos ejemplos de las políticas lingüísticas de la zona andina iluminan el impacto continuo del imperio y de la colonialidad en las Américas, incluyendo la zona fronteriza México-Arizona donde nace el proyecto de Multilingual, 2.0? Finalmente se nota el reconocimiento de la realidad del multilinguismo en ciertas áreas del gobierno y del sistema judicial estadounidenses, como punto de contraste con la mala fe monolinguista que prevalece en otras esferas.

Author Biography

Mary Louise Pratt, New York University

Pratt is a Silver Professor and Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures at New York University. Pratt has received numerous honors and awards including Guggenheim Fellowships, Pew Foundation Fellowships, and NEH grants. She served as the President of the Modern Language Association in 2003. Pratt’s wide arc of expertise extends through Latin American Literature and Latin American Studies, into comparative literature, linguistics, postcolonial studies, feminist and gender studies, anthropology and cultural studies. Her seminal publications within these disciplines include Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992), an explanation on the discursive formation of Latin America and Africa as formulated by metropolitan writers, and her 1977 monograph, Toward a Speech Act Theory of Literary Discourse, which established her as leader in the field of culture criticism. Her article, “Arts of the Contact Zone” has had nine reprints and is considered by many a classic publication in the humanities.