The Language Situation in the United States

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When we think about such a matter as the language situation in the United States, it may seem at first sight that everything is crystal clear here: English is a dominant language in this country and it has always been so. Yet, this statement cannot be any farer from the truth. You should not forget that the United States is a country that represents a conglomerate of immigrants from all parts of the world, so it is also natural that the language situation cannot be as simple as that. In this article, you can get to know more about this matter.

The Language Situation in the United States: History of Languages in the Country of Immigrants

The United States is often referred to as the land of immigrants, and this, of course, appears to be true. At that time of the land’s colonization by the British, this unexplored land offered numerous opportunities not only to the English people, but also to Irish, Welsh, and many others who were persecuted or intimidated in their home countries for their religious beliefs, political sympathies, or other reasons. Also, the new land opened many opportunities who were eager to get out of their misery and start making a good living. All in all, the United States was an attractive place for adventurers, refugees, and merchants.

Given that background, you can understand that English was not the only language to be widely spoken in the states of America. Other widely spoken languages included Welsh, Irish, and German. In particular, there had been many complaints about a large number of people refusing to speak English and opting German instead. That was especially true in Pennsylvania, a state that had the largest share of German population then.

languages in the united states

Pennsylvania had been a home to the largest number of  native German speakers

There is nothing that can tell you about the popularity of the German language at that time than the so-called German Vote. A group of Germans who lived in Augusta, Virginia, sent a petition to the Congress to publish the laws in the German language as well. Even though this vote is often taken for the “vote for the second state language,” it was going about only the publication of laws in German as well. On January 13, 1795, the Congress voted on this matter and defeated the proponents with just one vote more – only one vote lacked in order to pass this bill. The French language was also popular in certain states of America in the 19th century. This resulted in the fact that the Congress had to decline publishing the annual President’s address in such languages like French, German, and Low German.

Considering that the population living in those territories was very diverse, it was normal that there was such a diversity of languages. Moreover, the language situation in the United States started to change even more dramatically, when this country acquired and annexed new territories. For instance, Louisina was purchased from France, while West Florida and East Florida was acquired by the United States from Spain. One of the major acquisitions was the annexation of Texas in 1845, despite the warning from Mexico to declare a war. As you can suppose, there were many Spanish speakers on those territories.

The Language Situation in the United States: Minority Languages

During the last decades, the United States has been a country that benefited from globalization by draining talented and skilled workers from other countries. This, however, could not leave the language situation in the United States unchanged. What especially concerns many citizens of the United States nowadays is the large number of Spanish speakers, and the growing waves of immigrants from Mexico seem to make this issue even more urgent. At the present time, there are as many as 40 million Spanish speakers in the United States.

Other minority languages represented by European descendants include French (more than 2 million speakers), German (more than a million speakers), Russian (more than 900 thousand speakers), Portuguese (more than 700 thousand speakers), Italian (more than 600 thousand speakers), and Polish (more than 540 thousand speakers). A large number of American immigrants have Asian roots, so it is not surprising that the most widely spoken minority languages include Chinese (3.3 million speakers), Vietnamese (1.5 million speakers), Hindustani (1.29 million speakers), and Korean (1.1 million speakers).

The Language Situation in the United States: New Languages of America

Apart from English and all minority languages that are also spoken in other countries, the United States are the place where have been evolved and developed a number of other languages. Even at the present time, those languages tend to play an important role in the American society. One of such languages is, indeed, the already mentioned Pennsylvanian German, which is predominately spoken in the Midwest (Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, etc.) nowadays.

Another particular language spoken in the United States is Chicano English, which actually represents a mix of English and Spanish. That language is spoken in the communities of Hispanic people in the country’s south. Louisiana can boast to have a large number of inhabitants that speak a certain language too. Almost a million of people in the United States speak Louisiana Creole French, which is very close to Cajun French, Colonial French, and Haitian Creole.

The other creole tongue spoken in America is Hawai’i Creole English, which is often used by the Hawaiian locals. This language is considered to be even the unofficial language of the state! There are also several variations of English that have been introduced by African minorities, including African American Vernacular English (known as AAVE and considered to be a dialect) and Gullah, whereas the latter is spoken in Georgia and South Karolina.

At the present time, English appears to be the dominant and primary language for official pronouncements, federal court rulings, treaties, executive orders, regulations, and legislation. If you need to improve your skills of English, by the way, you can make use of this page on our website.

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