October 1st, 2007
04:38 PM ET
11 years ago

Giuliani to make 'English only' cheesesteak stop

Giuliani plans a stop at the famous Geno's steaks later Monday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - It's almost a necessity for any presidential candidate who swings through Philadelphia - making a stop at one of the city's famous cheesesteak shops.

But the landmark Philly restaurant former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani plans to stop at later Monday is also famous for another reason: its controversial 'Please speak English' sign.

Joe Vento, the owner of Geno's Steaks, sparked controversy last year when he put up a sign at his store proclaiming, "This is America. When Ordering Please Speak English."

Rachel Lawton, the executive director of the city's Human Relations Commission (HRC), blasted the sign in June 2006, saying it amounts to discrimination against those who cannot speak English. A hearing on the sign was scheduled last Wednesday but was postponed because the city wanted more time to review Vento's motion to dismiss the case, according to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.

Giuliani, a Republican presidential frontrunner, has taken a hard stance on illegal immigration, formally pledging last August to solve the problem if elected president.

According to his Web site, Giuliani also proposes that all "immigrants who want to become citizens must truly read, write, and speak English and learn American civics."

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Rudy Giuliani
soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. SB, Lorton, VA

    Is this guy depriving a person who can't speak at all from buying food? His sign does say 'Please speak English'.

    There are lots of legal immigrants who have problem in speaking english and that should not be held against them when ordering food. Just because you can't speak english well doesn't make you an illegal alien in this country.

    If English is such an important language, and it should be if you want to live here, then why do schools make such an importance on having a FOREIGN LANGUAGE skills as a graduation requirements? Why do colleges have foriegn language curriculams and give importance to those that have a good foundation in language skills when applying for an admission?

    Is this owner telling everyone that a skilled bi-lingual graduate from the USA can't come there and order in Italian? The owner must be out of his mind and for Rudy to go there and patronize the place, he is just showing his arrogance towards all law abiding legal residence of this country, and that's just goes to show you the ignorace of the Republican party.

    October 1, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. Charles, Carmel California

    Joey Vento is correct. A multiplicity of languages causes only confusion. When in France, speak French. When in America, speak English. And so on...

    If this nation does not wise up about these things, we are going to wake up one day and citizens will not be able to understand and speak to each other.

    October 1, 2007 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  3. Melinda Boise Idaho

    It's 'speak' English, not 'talk American', 'talk English', or 'talk French'.

    And who exactly do you think is going to be out in the hot sun building that fence?

    October 1, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  4. Dave Shields....Lake Wales, Florida

    Pretty sad that a group of Italian tourists visiting Phily can't get a cheese steak sandwich because they don't speak english.

    October 1, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  5. Dave Scoven, Richmond, Virginia

    Before I'd support an English Only policy for those seeking citizenship, I'd support one for people who were born here. To Wit:
    "...Well guess what when others come from different counties to vacation or visit the United States, there suppose to speak English?"
    Posted By Don, Chattanooga, TN

    October 1, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. Yoni Ross, Modiin, Israel

    What's the big deal about the sign? If someone doesn't know enough English to order in English, he probably can't read the sign either!

    October 1, 2007 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. Michael, Gallatin, TN

    There's something controversial about telling people to speak English in the United States? How ridiculous. I tell people in the South to please speak English all the time.

    October 1, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. Jesse C, Houston, TX

    In Japan I went to restaurants that had staff that did not speak much English. The Japanese education system requires learning English, but not very many Japanese people are confident in speaking English.

    The Japanese were eager to take Americans as customers even if we didn't know how to speak Japanese. I could point to a picture on a menu to order an item. Credit cards transcend language barriers. Yen is placed with roman characters.

    It is not difficult to serve people who speak other languages so long as one knows cognates and/or has basic literacy in any language.

    October 1, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  9. Greg, Dallas TX and Toronto, ON

    1. Doesn't say he won't serve you if you are hispanic, jewish, or black.
    2. When you are in Toronto's Chinatown or Markham, you CANNOT read 33% of signs as they are in neither of the two official languages. Are they... evil?
    3. You don't like his sign... go somewhere else. Which is exactly what we are told in Toronto and Markham. Are the liberals up there... evil?
    4. He is correct it is America! Does he lose points because he doesn't say the Republic of The United States of America in the year 2007?
    5. Please speak english! Well imagine how angry would be if he didnt say please.
    6. Is this really what we have to worry about. Frankly I appreciate anytime a candidate distances himself from the pack. Helps me recognize what they do stand for.
    7. You are right, everything I believe in since kindergarten is how I feel too. Anyone who changes his mind is a flip-flopper!
    8. Human Rights Commision for signs? Hey we had those in Canada too – language police signs. Next comes the firebombs? LaSears was the wrong gender if I remember correctly.

    October 1, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  10. Matthew Kresock - Frederick, MD

    It's a messy situation, but eventually the United States will need to formally adopt an official language or languages – probably by Constitutional amendment.

    That said, it is an unreasonable expectation of the owners of Geno's to put up placards, menus etc., in every conceivable language, just as it would be unreasonable to expect their staff to learn how to converse with patrons wanting to order (or complain) in any language. It's their restaurant, privately-owned, and the last I checked, refusal to speak someone else's preferred language is NOT grounds for discrimination.

    October 1, 2007 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  11. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Its really not a stance that will get anyone to switch parties – but it is more proof that there is only one moderate running on either side – and thats Giuliani. Please keep reading – I think you will find that Republicans don't eat babies..anymore

    October 1, 2007 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  12. RDK, WSS, MT

    It is known that English is the unofficial business language of the world. You can go to any country and almost be guaranteed that English, whether it be fluent or broken, can be used to conduct any business if necessary.

    October 1, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  13. Joseph Johnson, Columbia MO

    i'm so tired of this ethnocentric diatribe about the english language. point 1, the native tongues of this great land are nowhere near english. Point 2. what about people who were born here who relie on ASL, does that still count, or are we too lazy to make the effort to understand each other

    October 1, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  14. Laura Corrigan-Hoyt, Rotterdam, NY

    Amen, finally someone who cares about America. We have to stand up or this country will not be ours any longer.
    I salute Giuliani.. he is now my hero!
    He is not saying people can not come into this country. But, they should learn our lanquage, become citizens, pay taxes and be an American or go back to their own country. Why should they have such free and easy life when no one else does. Why should us tax payers have to carry the burden? What is going to happen to our Social Security. I am impressed with his politic stand on this matter;it takes courage. I am proud to be an American and I hope I can still say that in 20 years after the mess our country is getting into.

    October 1, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  15. Tom, Chicago, Ill.

    Does anybody see anything wrong with a guy from Philadelphia deciding what proper English is?

    Just bring all da language questions to Chicago. We know a guy who knows a guy.

    (Just kidding. Please continue with your overwrought defenses of the English language / multiculturalism. I'll be off doing something useful.)

    October 1, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. Eli, Philadelphia

    Everyone that actually lives in Philly knows that Geno's has lame cheesesteaks. I ate at Pat's on Friday night and heard Geno's sucks being chanted loudly. Rudy, you're not welcome in my home town. Go home! Go Phillies.

    October 1, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. Lou Janicek, Ramsey, NJ

    I think Joe Vento has the right idea, although many people will feel it to be problematic. The fact is Language is the greatest common bond of a nation. We need to demand that people speak the common language, not give up their own heritage, but speak, at least, when in America, ENGLISH.

    October 1, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  18. Tamara Smith Canton, Illinois

    Halluluha!!! I wish every american in this country would impose this rule at their business!!

    October 1, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  19. Molly again, Elmhurst, IL

    Where can I get the t-shirt? I would like to wear it 24/7 because it seems I am surrounded by non-English speaking rudeness!

    Someone here made a good point, if they can't speak or read English, how can they read the sign? I think Geno needs to put one up for each language.

    Another thing, if you are an American citizen and you think it's OK for these people to be so rude and refuse to learn the should-be official language known as English, then YOU should be deported to anywhere but here, because you are not an American. There, I said it and I'm not ashamed!

    October 1, 2007 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  20. Anthony, Nashville, TN

    I think that most people are forgetting that every family had to immigrate to America at one point. There were not many first generation immigrants (outside of England and Ireland) during the boom in the early 1900s who learned fluent English. It is the subsequent generations who learn the language. Most Spanish speaking children who were born here are now translating for their parents. Saying that everyone should speak English simply seems like frustration that English is gradually losing its place as the world's dominant language.

    October 1, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. NoOtherWay, Ames, Iowa

    That's right. Speak English or Leave

    October 1, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. Tommy, Austin, Texas

    I agree that anyone who wants to enter this country legally has the right to do so, my grandparents did. HOWEVER, I firmly believe that if you are going to live here, you MUST learn to speak English. It is not fair to the rest of us who have to go out of our way to accommodate non-english speaking people. If you feel it is that important to leave your place of origin for a better life, than it is that important for you to learn the language of that new life. There is plenty of opportunity to do so, just look around.

    October 1, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. floyd fible, fort lauderdale, florida

    In southwest Miami you must speak spanish to order because they do not speak english . If you get lost you better have a map not many people speak english. we laugh and life goes on this is the American way.

    October 1, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. marcel knecht Montreal canada

    what about tourists from non English speaking nations?Ho!I forgot,they are not visiting anymore!Great publicity for Philadelphia...Not!

    October 1, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  25. Jon S.

    There seem to be a few strident individuals who believe English should be our "official" spoken language.

    Judging by the poor use of written English, it's a good thing they are talking about spoken, not written English – otherwise, they would require a course in remedial English before they would "qualify" as Americans.

    October 1, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
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