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What the United States Does Not Have: An Official Language

What the United States Does Not Have: An Official Language
on July, 22 2013

Majority of Americans declare that English is their mother tongue and that they speak it well enough. However, despite being the de facto official language of the United States it is not its official language at the federal level. As a matter of fact, the US has no official language though numerous proposals have been presented, pushing for English in particular.

English is official at state level

English is used for official pronouncements and documents even if in certain states documents are prepared in many different languages in order to accommodate their population of non-English speakers. Hawaii is officially a bilingual state with Hawaiian and English. New Mexico, Maine, and Louisiana are de facto bilingual. American bilingual/multilingual) territories include America Samoa (English and Samoan), Northern Mariana Islands (English, Chamorro, and Carolinian), Puerto Rico (English and Spanish), and Guam (English and Chamorro).

Nevertheless, 28 of the 50 States have taken the initiative and made English their official language. These are Alabama, Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Montana.

Languages other than English

In the United States, more and more people are speaking a language other than English at home in the past 30 years. There has been an increase of 140% in people speaking another language from 1980 to 2007.

Of the many languages other than English that are spoken in the USA, Spanish or Spanish Creole is at the very top of the list and is spoken by around 34 million people. Since the ‘80s there has been a 210% increase in the number of people speaking Spanish. The other dominant languages spoken in the US are Chinese with more than two million people speakers. About one million each speak French or French Creole, Tagalog, Vietnamese, German, and Korean. Russian, Hindu/Urdu, and Arabic are also widely spoken.

One language and one vision

The English Language Unity Act wanted to establish English as the official language of the US. It was first proposed in 2005 and needed approval by the House Judiciary, and Education and the Workforce Committees before Congress considers it. The bill was reintroduced in 2007 and then again in 2011. However, the bill did not progress despite the insistence of its main supporter Republican Congressman Steve King (Iowa) that “a common language is the most powerful unifying force known throughout history." Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, another supporter of the bill said that the English Language Unity Act will provide a “much-needed commonality” so that the United States can share one vision. Senator Inhofe said that a country cannot pull together as a people when they are divided by language.

The whole world has embraced English as the modern lingua franca and yet, the United States is still to decide whether or not it wants to make English its official language. There are anti-American activists who believe that English is the language of oppression and not of democracy. This is probably one of the reasons why the campaign for the legislation that will make English the official language has failed repeatedly.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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