Have you ever asked yourself “why does America only speak English when there are over 6500 language options?” We’ll give you some answers in this post.
Out of the many widely spoken languages, English is undoubtedly one of the most common languages being used globally as a lingua franca. It is a language that connects the world regardless of cultural differences, race, purpose, and function. But arguably, when you think of native English speakers, Americans will likely pop into the image in your head.
But why does America only speak English? Read on and find out.
Why Does America Only Speak English Instead of Any Other Language?
Firstly, America DOESN’T only speak English! The United States is a multicultural and multilingual country, home of people of many different races and colors. Many immigrants traveled to the United States a long time ago. Also, many are still dreaming of traveling to this country to seek greener pastures or stay for good. As the country has for a long time been a melting pot for lots of different nationalities, you might wonder why English remains the dominant language throughout the nation.
As the world became more globalized, the English language further served as a bridge to globalization. America became a leading economy, and then the leading economy, in the world with the help of the English language. English was the main language used from the founding of the USA until the modern age. Hence, some people presume that because English is America’s founding language, the country solely speaks English. But though English is not the sole language, here are more of the reasons why it remains the primary language:
1. American English is Accepted Globally
As mentioned earlier, many English language variations exist today. The list includes American English varietiea from America, British English varieties from the United Kingdom, Australian English varieties from Australia, Canadian English varieties from Canada, Uglish or Ugandan English from Uganda, Philippine English from the Philippines, and many more.
American English remains one of the most taught and used for tests that measure English ability, but other varieties are also represented. For instance, the Cambridge English writing tests accept British and American English. However, tests for English language ability must be created with consistency, and American English is often used as a standard. This “American English” is usually Standard American English (SAE) (also called Mainstream American English, or MAE) is a variety of English that is used by those who historically hold power in the academy and in society as a whole. Some view it as the English of the traditionally white, educated classes.
One benefit for English learners is that, since American English is already accepted by tests, you won’t need to worry about studying another English variety regarding pronunciation and spelling for academic tests.
Moreover, American English has been the standard for English in other countries, including the Philippines. The Philippines adopted the English language when the Americans colonized the Philippines in the past, and over time the Philippine Government declared English as one of its official languages. Of course, new forms of International English are being born all the time. There shouldn’t be a problem if everyone understands one another with English regardless of its native origin.
2. English is a Part of America’s Identity
Language plays an essential role for a country. It is a part of a country’s identity. Due to colonization by English-speaking people (almost always the British), the English language arrived in America and many other countries. Since then, English has evolved into a form unique to America. We know this today as American English. However, despite its origin and motherland, America owns the language in its own way.
Compared to British English, American English uses words that don’t exist in the other one. This set of words includes apartment, starter, bangs, barrette, broil, broiler, candy, cell phone, chips, chutes, ladders, cookie, cracker, etc. The spelling also differs like center, humor, labor, neighbor, color, organization, etc. With the nativity established in American English, America has its own identity as a form of the language.
3. English is a Global Language
Compared to other languages, English comes with relative easiness in terms of understanding and speaking. Moreover, it uses the Latin alphabet — often considered short and simple with only 26 basic letters. In addition, it has a very simple verb conjugation, and there is almost no variation in person.
English colonization meant the whole of North America now speaks the English language. However, it is not an official language – America does not have an official language! Historically, though, English is “the” language of the United States.
This means that traveling to one of the states of America doesn’t require Americans to learn a new language. They can freely use English to communicate and use it as their national language. Also, when they travel outside the country, they can often still express themselves without learning and speaking another language. English’s universality is a major reason why America only speaks English.
4. English is the Medium of News and Information
The American public receives most of its news and information media in English. Spanish and other languages are also represented, but English is still the largest proportion of media in America. The English language plays a vital role in the community. It serves as the medium of communication across nations and provides convenience to the public as well.
5. English As A Foreign Language Subject
English, as the universal language, is an important subject in schools too. Almost every country includes the English language in the curriculum. Notably, learning English is a necessity for career improvement in the future.
Learning English improves your chances of landing a decent job in a global corporation in your native country or finding work overseas. It’s also the language of international communication, the media, and the internet, so learning English helps people socialize, enjoy life through entertainment-related mediums, and do business with expanded reach.
In line with that, according to a 2013 Harvard University research, English skills and higher income go hand in hand, and they contribute to a higher quality of life. Adults and children worldwide devote years and large sums of money to learning English as a second language. Therefore, the English language has practically become a need for people to communicate in English if they want to work in a global workforce.
6. Entertainment’s Convenience
This point must be one of the most significant reasons for Americans not to speak a language other than English. Most of the world’s most famous films, literature, and music are in English. Hence, English is an advantage for Americans as they have access to a plethora of entertainment and a deep and wide cultural knowledge of the entertainment industry.
Nowadays, entertainment businesses aim for global success by providing services or products that cater to everyone’s needs and wants. Thus, most of the movies we watch provide English subtitles to understand the story better. Meanwhile, comics and books also have translations to the English language to target the market around the globe and provide a better reading experience to the readers. With these in mind, many Americans don’t feel the need to learn other languages.
7. Internet Advantages
Who will undertake and pay for a course to learn foreign languages when apps excellent in translations do exist? The Internet offers convenience not just for travelers but for everyone as well. Translation websites circulate on the Internet, offering the best services possible relating to communication barriers such as language differences. These websites include iTranslate, Google Translate, TripLingo, SayHi, Papago, Microsoft Translator, Waygo, iTranslate Voice, Speak and translate, etc. But, the catch is, most of these sites are displayed in the English language. With these websites’ services, the undertaking of a course for a foreign language will be irrelevant.
So, who would want to sit in a classroom longer and study a language starting from the characters, pronunciation, words, sentence formulation, and such when it is already at hand? Therefore, English is vital for Americans since it allows everyone to access more than half of the stuff on the Internet. In addition, knowing how to read English will provide you access to billions of pages of information that you would not have had otherwise.
8. America Is a Center of Opportunity
America has a lot of the world’s dominant economy and military power. Thus, it makes the country a target of opportunities for developing nations. For that reason, America attracts people from all over the world. Therefore, immigrants, tourists, and people in business who go to America make sure that they know essential English words and phrases for better communication. This is why America only speaks English since most foreign visitors willingly adjust to them by learning the language.
Statistics show that the immigrants’ population in America for 2020 accounts for 13.7% of America’s population. The data also illustrates the dominance of America, especially in its economic activities as it kept on sheltering more immigrants. Being the place for opportunities, America homes other countries while it caters to its citizen’s needs. With all of the immigrants that America hosts too, the absence of an official language has been an advantage. Therefore, the English language served as the binding force to keep all the better opportunities.
9. Americans Don’t Necessarily Go to Other Countries
Why would someone look for opportunities in other countries when their country already has a lot to offer? This may be why Americans do not necessarily feel the need to go to other countries. America’s economic dominance is no joke. Hence, the citizens of America don’t have to go to other countries to take a chance. Most of the time, they stay in their state and search among available job options.
Compared to the developing nations that work overseas, Americans do travel for luxury or vacations. Therefore, it is one of the reasons why America only speaks English. What would be the purpose of learning a new language when one isn’t going to any place other than home?
10. Learning Another Language Is Expensive
Unlike other countries that were not native English speakers and had to study the language to comprehend the world, America enjoys being a native English speaker. They wouldn’t have to study the language as they were born and raised to speak the language. Thus, they wouldn’t have to take a course to master the language as they are already a master of it. But, perhaps one of the main reasons America only speaks English is that learning a new one is pretty expensive.
With America’s massive lands and a vast population, implementing a new language will inconvenience everyone. The implementation will go from court to court, which may take a long and expensive process. Afterward, the education and teaching of the new language will require more teachers for America’s government because of the enormous area it covers. Also, people have to adopt slang and other words without a counterpart. It must have a collection, too, for references, translation, and adaptation. Moreover, it will take more time, as words are limitless boundaries, and learning a new language doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a lot of effort from the ones who will implement, teach, and learn.
Implementing or creating a new language for America could waste money as English has provided a lot of convenience for its people. It also has a dominant economy, which is one of the goals of establishing a language. Therefore, with English only, America could sustain its economic activity and be home to many immigrants worldwide.
Tracing the History: Why Does America Only Speaks English?
The origins of the English language may be traced back to three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain in the fifth century AD. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes crossed the North Sea from Denmark and northern Germany. During the period, the people of Britain spoke a Celtic language. However, the invaders drove most Celtic speakers west and north, mostly into what is now Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. The Angles were from the “land of Ængle,” and the language of the Angles gave birth to the terms “England” and “English.”.
1. Old English (450-1100 AD)
Germanic invader tribes spoke similar languages, which evolved into what we now call Old English in Britain. However, old English did not sound or look like modern English. Therefore, native English speakers today would struggle to grasp this language. However, it is worth noting that Old English origins may be found in around half of the most widely-used terms in Modern English. To give you a better idea, Old English is the source of the words like be, water, and strong.
2. Middle English (1100-1500)
William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy (modern France), attacked and conquered England in 1066. The new invaders, also called the Normans, brought a kind of French with them, which became the language of the Royal Court and the governing and economic classes. There existed a linguistic class difference for a time, with the lower classes speaking English and the upper classes speaking French.
Meanwhile, the English regained dominance in Britain in the 14th century, although with numerous French terms added. Middle English is the name given to this language. It was the language of the great poet Chaucer, yet it is still difficult to comprehend for native English speakers today.
3. Early Modern English (1500-1800)
Toward the end of Middle English, there was an abrupt and noticeable change in pronunciation, with vowels becoming shorter and shorter. This event is also known as the Great Vowel Shift. Thus, since the 16th century, the British have interacted with people from all over the world. Because of this, as well as the Renaissance of Classical learning, many new words and phrases entered the language.
On the other hand, due to the invention of printing, there was now a common language in print. Books became more affordable, and more people learned to read. Thus, printing also contributed to the standardization of English. Spelling and grammar became conventional, and the accent of London, where the majority of publishing firms were located, became the norm. Hence, the first English dictionary was published in 1604.
4. Late Modern English (1800-Present)
The significant distinction between Early Modern and Late Modern English is in vocabulary. Late Modern English contains many more words due to two primary factors: first, the Industrial Revolution and technology created a need for new words; second, the British Empire covered one-quarter of the earth’s surface at its peak. Therefore, the English language adopted foreign words from many countries.
5. English Variations
Due to the English colonization of North America in 1600, there has been a development of a unique American variant of English. When they arrived in America, several English pronunciations and phrases “froze.” In several aspects, American English resembles Shakespearean English more than current British English.
Some terms referred to as “Americanisms” by the British are, in reality, authentic British expressions that were kept in the colonies while being lost in Britain for a while. Some of these are:
- trash for rubbish
- loan as a verb instead of lend
- fall for autumn
- frame-up was re-imported into Britain through Hollywood gangster movies
But, besides British, Spanish also had a fair amount of influence on the American English, you can notice that on the following words that you can now also hear in America:
These examples of Spanish words entered English due to the settling of the American West French vocabulary through Louisiana and West African words; via the slave trade, which also impacted American English.
Because of the United States’ dominance in movies, television, popular music, trade, and technology, American English is extremely significant today (including the Internet). However, there are many more types of English spoken around the world. The list includes Australian English, New Zealand English, Canadian English, South African English, Indian English, and Caribbean English. But, regardless of the type of English, the history mentioned above clearly had significant contributions to why Americans only speak English nowadays.
What Are The Top 5 Languages Being Used By Americans Aside From English?
Although the United States of America has no official language, English is the most well-known spoken language. It is the language used to communicate and comprehend each other. However, aside from English, there are also other top languages that Americans use.
According to an article on the World Atlas’ website, the Americans’ top five spoken languages are Spanish, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, and other Chinese variations), French and French Creole, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. These five languages are the five most spoken languages of Americans in the United States of America other than English.
The total number of speakers of Spanish in the United States of America as of 2019 from statistics by Statista is 41,757,391 people. The population of Spanish speakers in America is the second-largest next to English speakers. Latinos and Latinas in the U.S have also increased as of the latest census in 2019. The population has surpassed 60 million Spanish people in the country. About 20% of people in California and Texas understand and speak the Spanish language to some degree. Consequently, it is no doubt why the Spanish language is on the top of the line as another language spoken by Americans.
There are about 2,900,000 Chinese speakers in the United States of America. The population of Chinese in the U.S has grown tenfold ever since the year of 1980. Chinese immigration has a long history. Chinese people first started immigrating to the United States, particularly on the West Coast, to work as laborers and find employment in the industries of agriculture, mining, railroad constructions, and other low-skilled jobs. At first, the Chinese people find it hard to come and live in the United States as back then, it is not easy to obtain a U.S visa for Chinese nationals. But, today, a lot of Chinese are now living in the United States. The majority are students from China and pursuing their studies in the United States of America.
There are a total number of 1,600,000 Tagalog native speakers in the United States. As of 2019, Pew Research data shows the total Filipino population in the United States is over 4.2 million Filipinos. 98% of them are born in the United States, while 72% are foreign-born.
The United States has a very long history with the Philippines and Filipinos dragging back in 1898. The United States of America colonized the Philippines from the year 1898 to 1902. After some time, when the Philippines got complete independence from all colonizers, including the Japanese. Filipino immigration to the United States starts in the 19th century. The Filipino immigrants go to the U.S in selective West Coast and Hawaii areas to work in the agricultural industries, primarily in farming sugarcane and fruits and vegetables. At first, there has been a limit to how many Filipino immigrants can enter per year in the United States. Eventually, the United States opened its door for Filipinos for work-related and educational immigrations. And now, Filipino is placed as top four in the most population in the United States, following the Chinese and Indian nationals.
4. French and French Creole
French and French Creole finds their roots way back in the 17th century when France controlled Louisiana in 1699, and the French occupant influenced the Americans with their language, life, and culture. The everyday language of Americans has also been influenced like the word ‘decor,’ ‘omelette,’ and ‘ballet.’ Now, there are more than 2 million French and French Creole speakers in the United States, composing 5.3 % of the total population.
The number of Vietnamese speakers in the United States of America is gradually increasing. There are now about 1,399,936 Vietnamese speakers in the United States, with 829,237 people categorized as ‘less than very well’ at speaking the Vietnamese language. The most significant number of Vietnamese-speaking people in the U.S area is in California, with 521,534 speakers. The Vietnamese language ranks as the 6th most used language in the United States other than English.
A huge variety of people, cultures and ethnicities form America. The nation has long been a home for immigrants from all over the world. In a world made up of diverse peoples, in a unique and beautiful world, America is one of the most diverse, and English is a major part of this.
Even though the United States has no official language, English is the major language. There are many reasons for this, from the use of English globally to the country’s history and economic power. The English language is already the vernacular that a majority of the world uses, and American media and culture supports the power of the language both domestically and internationally.
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