Skip to main content

Why does the USA not have an official language?

58 countries have English as an official language - but not the USA. 
This was a conscious decision of the Founding Fathers. They believed that an official language would be divisive and undemocratic in a multi-lingual country. 

Around 30% of the 18th century population of the USA was German or Dutch speaking. There were also many other linguistic minorities:  
18 languages were spoken on Manhattan Island [now part of New York City] as early as 1646. The Dutch, Flemish, Walloons, French, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, English, Scots, Irish, Germans, Poles, Bohemians, Portuguese, and Italians were among the settlement’s early inhabitants. 
British InfluVincent N. Parrillo, Diversity in America, 2008, p. 45; see: Page on sagepub.comence

Not having an 'official' language is typical of majority English-speaking countries - including the UK. British legal, and political institutions tend towards adaptation and evolution rather than centralised control. This contrasts with other national/linguistic models, like the French, for example.

Does the increase in Spanish speakers challenge English dominance of English?

Multi-lingual societies tend to function more effectively when there is an accepted lingua franca. Majority Spanish-speaking populations in some US cities has now made language a more politically polarising issue. 

Moves towards bilingualism in some states (e.g. California) has lead to laws formalising English as the official language in others. 

Nonetheless, English is the primary language in the USA and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Which languages do Americans speak at home?

English Language 100 FAQ Teaching Pack  only £2.99 


Popular posts from this blog

Which countries do not have an official language?

According to Henry Hitchings Language Wars (2011) these nations do not currently have an official primary language:

Why is English not the official language of England?

58 countries list English as an official language - but not the UK. 

What is 'concept creep'?

Concept creep a term coined to describe 'psychology's expanding concepts of harm and pathology'. 
by applying concepts of abuse, bullying, and trauma to less severe and clearly defined actions and events, and by increasingly including subjective elements into them, concept creep may release a flood of unjustified accusations and litigation, as well as excessive and disproportionate enforcement regimes.   The concepts of abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, addiction, and prejudice ... {have been subjected to historical changes}. In each case, the concept's boundary has stretched and its meaning has dilated. SourceThis trend towards a very broad definition of what constitutes 'harm' has been particularly pronounced on university campuses in the USA and - to a lesser extent - in the UK.

See Conor Friedersdorf's Atlantic essay, 'How Americans Became So Sensitive to Harm'

Download English FAQ Teaching Pack for only £1.99