Nashville voters rejected a proposal on Thursday that would have made it the largest US city to require all government business be done in English.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results showed the “English First” proposal was defeated on a vote of 41,752 to 32,144.
Proponents said using one language would have united the city and saved money, but business leaders, academics and the mayor worried it could give the city a bad reputation.
Similar measures have passed elsewhere.
It wasn’t clear exactly how much translation would have been silenced had the measure passed.
The referendum’s leader, city Councilman Eric Crafton, promoted it as a way to unite Nashville and prevent the kind of extensive translation services provided by cities like New York or Los Angeles.
Supporter Glenda Paul, 35, said having one language is an important part of keeping government small as she exited a voting precinct on Thursday.
“If I moved to France to start a business, I would be expected to speak French and that doesn’t mean that I am not welcome there,” she said. “It just means I need to respect the language.”
Nashville’s documented translation expenses have totaled US$522,287 since 2004. By comparison, the special election cost US$300,000.
About 10 percent of Nashville’s nearly 600,000 people speak a language other than English in their homes, according to census data.
The city is 5 percent Hispanic and home to the nation’s largest Kurdish community and refugees from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa.