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English is the United States Official Language?

Updated on September 5, 2015

Here tell they spoke Piute here. Oops that is s'posed to be "hear tell".

The desert has it's own language.
The desert has it's own language. | Source

United States, U.S. and "America" don't make no sense

There was a boy born in a small town in North America, about 12,000 souls. Now here is the fun part of the English language which is often spoken in the United States of America. It is crazy! We can say whatever we want, in whichever way we choose to say it and chances are it will be somewhat understood by our target audience. As exampled above we can even intentionally say it in a manner that is all screwed up and it gets understood - maybe even more better. We assume you understood that the boy was not 12,000 souls and that we did not mean North America had 12,000 souls but the way it was written you easily could have thought that is what was meant. (I think I could correct the grammar in every sentence of this paragraph)

Let us be serious. There really is no location that can be identified as "America". We believe that there are over 30 "united states" in the world. And clearly "U.S." could stand for just about anything like United Steel. But somehow we all know what we mean when we say "I am an American". I call that nuance of the English language "usurpation by force of will", you get the point. That should be sufficient to form the basis of understanding when someone says "English is the official language of America". It is a completely incorrect statement but we all know what it means and we all accept the truth behind it. Nit pick at the technicalities all you want to, but it is basically true.

Now let us get our global bearings. In the later part of the last century and the earliest part of this one I was pleased to have the opportunity to work in the periphery of ASEAN. Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is a big deal in that part of the world. You can learn about them here: http://www.asean.org/asean/asean-member-states . That would be ten countries all speaking different languages forming a cohesive trading and political group When they got together to start it took all of about 13 seconds to decide on an official language. You got it, it was English.

The EU is very comical. They do not have an official language.They are so wrapped up in diversity and multilingualism that they refuse to agree on a common language to use. With just a little research we came to understand that every delegate from every one of the 28 member states speaks English. English is used about 90% of the time. French being the not close at all second, although nearly 20% of the countries have German as an official language for their country.So for the EU English is not the official language for political reasons but on a practical level it is the only language.

It is not clear why English is so prevalent. It is probably a combination of a whole bunch of reasons historical and otherwise. But here is the cool thing about English. Because it is a dirty rotten ill gotten mutt of a language it can be modified at will. Oh for sure dude! It's mucho bendable. So while my grandpa spoke German English my wife can speak Vietnamese English and all around us is Spanglish and Ebonics. Of course in any professional area you look into they have their own not so easily understood English language. Do not try talking to a gung ho navy guy about how to get to a location in a Naval Hospital, They are decks not floors and they are port or starboard rather than left and right and I get lost at stern, bow and aft. Go ahead and speak the same in New Orleans as you do in New York or Phoenix and see if you do not stick out like a sore thumb. But what is amazing is that you can be perfectly well understood by all with just a little effort.

I was listening to this bloke, I understand he is English with a Sir and everything. But he sings in American.

This little guy speaks some Spanish and some Vietnamese and English more better than his mommy. But don't tell her that.

His dad was learning Navajo from his buddies in school. The teachers got wind of it and punished the offenders. It was literally illegal to speak Native American languages in school in the 1950's. Damn!
His dad was learning Navajo from his buddies in school. The teachers got wind of it and punished the offenders. It was literally illegal to speak Native American languages in school in the 1950's. Damn! | Source

So we have this language

So somehow a language developed that was a mishmash of many other languages. Some of the languages that help make up the language are dead and gone and all but forgotten. I believe that over half of our States have names derived from a different language.

There is an ability within the language to be as specific and detailed as one can humanly get and yet it begs for transformation into the most chaotic languages of all. How does it do that? What the heck is going on with the English language?

There is this great story about Jesus. At his time they had these rigid rules that just had to be followed in Israel. One of them was a mandatory observance of the Sabbath. You just had to rest on that day -- no work at all was to be done. Well Jesus healed this dude on the Sabbath. He did an oops on purpose. It really pissed off the enforcers of the law. I liken it to the English grammar police. You must write it and say it this way or else!! Well Jesus broke their little stanglehold over folks by making clear that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. And so it is with our marvelous English language. It is made so that we can communicate freely and openly. It is not made to be a restriction on speech but rather a facilitator of thought. Really cool.

Hey brother you get me and I get you, and that is just down home alright.

Go figure that universal language of Love! Sometimes I need an interpreter.

Just what language is this little guy speaking?

How come we can understand what children need before they can speak a language? Because we do not care what they say, but rather we care about what they need.
How come we can understand what children need before they can speak a language? Because we do not care what they say, but rather we care about what they need. | Source

Aussie, British and American

Let it be known that ain't nobody got a corner on the English language. Way back in the '70's I visited London. In the train station, Victoria Station, I watched a most peculiar exchange. A baggage handler type was in a row* with a upper crust gent. You could not discern what the cause of the ruckus was because they were hurling insults back and forth about how the other could not speak English. Shucks I had no idea that they had different Englishes in England. But here is what I walked away with: They were fully aware of what the other was saying and intending yet they were in a snit about how the other said it.

Fast forward to 1999 in Melbourne and I got into a drunken contest that lasted for hours. The game in the bar was to see who could concoct a real statement in Aussie that this poor American could absolutely no way understand. It was a blast and we agreed in the end it was a draw. I must admit I repeated the game some time later in New Orleans, they skunked me hands down.

So if we choose we can look for uncertainty and misunderstanding in English but with the smallest of efforts we can all understand each other. One of my all time faves was a Russian with a heavy accent who learned English at Oxford trying to relate to a full blown Texarkana cowboy about bull riding. Just like trying to get milk outa that bull.

What about you?

Can you speak English good?

See results

Politics as usual

So my buddy told me about a big political flap about using English in America. I understand that there is a divide over making it THE official language of the U.S.A. It seems as though some object to using other languages in the US and others are offended by folks who insist that English be used as an exclusionary tool.

Wow! I reckon you could rearrange things so that an American is made for the English language rather than the language made for the American, but why would you? I kind of look at it this way: It would be like making a law that prohibits you from sticking you hand in flame, it would be kind of useless as the pain of sticking your hand in flame is reason enough not to. What I mean by that is; you do not have to learn English if you do not want to. Too bad for you.

Life is to be lived.

I wrote this article and instead of publishing it right away I went and volunteered at our local library. They teach free ESL classes, maybe even I can help. If you ain't part of the solution you are a part of the problem.

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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 21 months ago from Northern California, USA

      I'm "ejamacated!" I speak English real good, Eric. :) This was a fun read. By the way, I think you'll be an excellent ESL instructor.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 21 months ago from Nibiru

      i am a ....i have no idea. But my official language is.....mmmmm...ok. Good hub eric

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks Marlene. I am glad you enjoyed this it was meant that way. The ESL program will be another story as it seems it is federally funded and volunteers are not as welcome as one would think -- it may cut into someones cash cow -- we will see.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Clive, they still call me a Zonie and I immigrated here over 25 years ago.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 21 months ago from Nibiru

      Oh well eric, what can i say. A black man born in china with black features could not be considered a chinese. so as long as your genetics is not tied in....they will consider you a zonie for life!!!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Eric

      You had me laughing with this one! My favorite story involves a Scot and a Liverpudian (man from Liverpool in North West England) trying to talk to each other in English but having to use a Swede (yes FROM SWEDEN!!) to translate!

      I always used to tell my American friends that the Brits and American are two nations divided by a common language!

      Loved this hub

      Lawrence

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Clive,

      Let me explain about a "zonie". There is a land within the US called Arizona. It is a desert State. Most of it's inhabitants live in Phoenix. Southern California offers a beautiful coastline and cool ocean breezes. San Diego is a tourist wonderland there. All summer, and especially this Labor day weekend San Diego is inundated by folks from Arizona escaping the heat. They are derogatorily called "Zonies". To have lived here for decades and still be considered a Zonie is supposed to be an insult. Just another example of locality of English language.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Lawrence thanks for sharing that. Nowadays I am sure that any young person who is way into social media, no matter what country they come from, is more up on modern terms than I am. I was going to say "hip" or "cool" terms but I have no idea if those words are still cool.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Honestly, my friend, I don't give a damn what is the official language. I don't have enough RAM in my brain to take on all causes, and this ain't one that is worth my time. I've seen people communicate without even speaking. Can you imagine? Communication without speaking??? What a weird concept. :)

      Have a great Sunday, buddy!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 21 months ago from sunny Florida

      Absolutely agree...have used that same line (the one you ended with more than once.)

      Yes, living overseas and working on military base as well as being immersed in the culture taught me a thing or two...and then after that returning to the US of A and working in a multilingual continued to teach me a few more things or two or seven...

      And then the world has taught me even more....Great hub, Eric came looking for your sermon and did not see so....had one sermon today so I am ok with it....

      Angels are on the way ps

    • Paul K Francis profile image

      Paul K Francis 21 months ago from east coast,USA

      ur correct LOL!!!

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks Bill for your input. But in all honesty it seems you spend a heck of a lot of time leading us in the artful use of our English language, thank you.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Patricia, we sure are lucky to have had great linguistic experiences. Thank you for coming by, I just got that Sermon up and running.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thx Paul b good ;-)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 21 months ago from The Caribbean

      "It is not clear why English is so prevalent." I thought it was because (1) there are so many different versions of it and (2) "with the smallest of efforts we can all understand each other." Eric, you keep us smiling and interested.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Good Morning Dora,

      We aim to entertain. It seems like there was historical basis for it's popularity that was not all good. But nowadays I think your two reasons are the real cause for it's growth. It is like a lingual migration.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 21 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      Interesting and fun. As a living language, English is always growing and changing - and discarding, too, as it takes on so many different forms in various countries around the world. Even the Grammar seems to change.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 21 months ago from SW England

      I've taught English as a foreign language. I always used to include some accents in that - English regional accents with words all of their own. We have 'geordie' and 'scouse', 'zomerzet', Sussex vocab, west-country words and east-Anglian words. My students were fascinated. We all thought it was great fun and that's what language is about - any language.

      I find English fascinating but then it's my language and my career! You're right, of course. If we can understand each other then it's not a problem which words we use.

      The EU will never have a common language because no-one wants to let go of their own and I don't blame them. Besides, it would put interpreters out of a job! Much more fun to learn each other's language if we can be bothered, and many are. English remains the most common language but German is much used for 'technical' speak and Spanish is up and coming. I think it all makes for a colourful world (as well as colourful language!).

      If we all learn to get along together and love each other, then we'll make our own language won't we?

      Great hub, getting us thinking - and talking everyone's language. Full marks again, Eric!

      Ann

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 21 months ago

      truly a funny language getting morphed according to tongues

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks for the visit Sujaya,

      It sure does make for some fun with words.

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