Did you know that the United States has no official language? It’s easy to think that English is the official language. But there is no official language in the Constitution; however, states can declare official languages. Alaska has more than twenty indigenous languages, and Hawai’i has two official languages, Olelo Hawai’i and English.
This conversation about official languages came up in my most recent podcast episode. I had mentioned to my guest that it’s interesting how when Latinos get together, we tend to navigate to speaking in English over Spanish, even if the whole group speaks both languages. She proceeded to say that we’ve moved to a country whose primary language is English, so we need to adapt and speak in English. Which I definitely agree we do need to adapt and speak English, but we also have the right to speak our native language.
I proceeded to inform her that the United States didn’t have an official language. Although the majority of people speak English, about 300 million. So then I started to wonder why is it that the United States doesn’t have an official language.
History of the United States and Language
According to Acutrans.com, since the beginning of our history, there have always been multiple languages spoken here. When the original 13 colonies became the United States, it was colonized by the British; however, they were not the only people in the colonies. There were indigenous people here, and colonists came from France, Spain, and Germany.
John Adams, in 1780, presented a bill to make English the official language, but the bill didn’t pass because it was deemed a threat to individual liberty. Also, as stated, a lot of the colonists spoke multiple languages, so making English the official language wasn’t popular and didn’t seem necessary.
As years passed, people have tried to declare English as the official language of the United States, but the US has gotten more diverse, and today, more than 350 languages are spoken by Americans, with Spanish coming in as the second most-spoken language (spoken in 62% of non-English speaking households, according to visualcapitalist.com.)
The Most Spoken Language in Every U.S. State (Besides English and Spanish)
Visualcapitalist.com released an interesting report about the most spoken language in every state besides English and Spanish. And in 13 states, German is the most spoken language.
|State||Most Spoken Language (Besides English and Spanish)|
|District of Columbia||French|
I Asked My Followers if They Default to English
As always intrigued by this conversation, I asked my bilingual followers on social media if when they get together with friends who are also bilingual, they default to speaking in English or Spanish. And the majority of them said they default to English or Spanglish. Honestly, this revelation surprised me, but I also understand why this happens.
For me, and I’ve written about this before, it’s my comfort in expressing myself better in English because I attended school here. So, growing up, it was reading, writing, and speaking English whenever I wasn’t home, but at home, I only spoke Spanish. I didn’t know how to read or write it until I was a teenager, and even now, I probably don’t write Spanish grammatically correctly.
However, I would like to change the habit of automatically defaulting to speaking in English, but I would like my kids to speak and understand Spanish. It seems like as the generations grow, the further away we get from our culture.
You may like: The Struggle as a Bilingual Parent
We live in a beautiful, diverse country where you can find many of the world’s languages spoken, so if you come across someone who has an accident, please extend grace. English may be their second, third, or even fourth language. Be kind.
With Love, Heidy
P.S. Did you know that it was once illegal to speak a foreign language in public in parts of the U.S.? This article explores 8 instances when foreign languages were considered dangerous in the United States. Check it out!
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