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Do You Know What Language is Official in the USA?


If in your answer is ‘English’, please, try again. Do not be upset: nearly all respondents gave the same answer. English is named as a matter of course since it is the most widespread language in North America. Yet, it has a rival – the Spanish language – which just a little drops behind English and takes the second place in prevalence, as the USA has a 40 million Spanish-speaking population.

One may ask a question: Why do the United States, an English-speaking country (as you think), have to put up with such situation (which, by the way, includes not only Spanish but many more other languages, which most likely we even have not heard anything about)? The answer is very simple: The US government has never adopted English as an official language. In spite of the numerous attempts previously made by various institutions. For example, in 1870, some John Adams proposed to the Continental Congress of the United States of America to adopt English as an official language. The proposition was perceived as ‘antidemocratic and potentially restricting individual freedom’. The disputes about whether English should be adopted as the only official language in the USA have been going on for many years now but no answer has been found yet. Though, in 27 states (of 50) English is an official language.

Such situation is mainly connected with the country’s history. It should not be forgotten that the United States of America have been a multinational country since 1776. Nobody was surprised at the fact that about twenty languages were spoken in the country in those times. Such languages as English, German, Spanish and French were ‘struggling’ for the right to dominate in the country. Today, the US population speaks 322 languages, 24 from which are commonly used in all states including District of Columbia. The highest language variety level is found in California – 207 languages, and the lowest is fixed in Wyoming — 56 languages.

So why don’t they in the Congress declare one official language? The answer is obvious — the United States is the country of immigrants which is confirmed by the above examples. For this reason, adoption of one official language may infringe upon rights of other citizens who do not speak English fluently.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was born to support such nationals. Though in 27 states English is recognized as an official language, still they have to adhere to the provisions of the Act which provides that any important documents must be made up in all languages spoken by the citizens entitled to any privileges from the government.

Besides, the Act requires that all government-funded social economic organizations must keep their records in all languages spoken by their customers. You may ask: ‘Why?’ The answer is the same: America has never adopted a single official language which is expressly declared by the Act.

Of course, the Act applies to other areas, not only documents. For example, today, lots of businesses use both English and Spanish in their activity, hot lines are served by the operators who speak the same languages, and almost all instructions (say, the inscriptions on public transportation vehicles) are made in the two languages.

This situation also influences the character of work in the US translation companies. Statistically, the most popular language pair in the USA is translation from English into Spanish.