Have you ever asked yourself why we speak English in the USA? After all, the United States is a country founded on immigration and English immigrants were just another immigrant group, right? So why does everybody learn English today? How did English become so important in the USA and why aren’t we speaking German, French, or Spanish?
To begin, it’s worth noting that for 10,000 years before the arrival of the first colonists, over 200 languages were already being spoken on the land we now call the United States. From coast to coast, hundreds of different indigenous tribes existed long before the first settlers and their civilizations and languages were as developed as those arriving from Europe. So, why did everyone start speaking English? As you most likely know, the English were not the only Europeans colonizing the Western Hemisphere. In a short period of time, the United States had become the number one destination for immigrants all over the world.
The first reason we speak English is that the British crown won territory and dominated among the early settlers. The English eventually conquered “New Amsterdam” (now New York City), establishing it as a primary force in the Americas. The English also managed to drive out the Spanish and eventually beat the French during the French & Indian Wars. That meant that the 13 colonies we ended up with were mostly English speaking (with the exception of some small enclaves of Pennsylvania Dutch/German). Later, with the Louisiana purchase, New Orleans became part of the US and French, Cajun, and Creole speakers were added. And as the US moved Westward, it acquired more Spanish-speaking residents. But of course the original leaders were mostly from England or had parents from England and they spoke English as their first language. The British culture was imprinted upon early US settlers from the very beginning.
In the USA, English had and continues to have a huge advantage over other immigrant languages because it has been the language of the government since the 17th century. By the late 18th century, there were a few areas where other languages were spoken, mostly German or Dutch, but the number of English speakers always substantially outweighed the others. And because we’ve never had another large-scale wave of immigration from any specific non-English speaking country, non-English speakers have always been outnumbered, even if within their neighborhood they felt like a local when speaking Spanish or Polish.
Linguistic assimilation is needed even more in places like New York City where there are lots of people who need to deal with each other every day. The pockets of German-, French-, and Spanish-speaking populations actually persisted longer in rural areas than in the cities, though if non-English-speaking immigrants clustered in a neighborhood such as Little Italy, later immigrants would also tend to be attracted to such a place.
Probably most importantly, children of immigrants tend to adopt English for the same reasons that the immigrant community as a whole tends to assimilate — convenience. Coming to the United States in general was (and continues to be) a point of pride for immigrants; their children are usually encouraged to learn English as it is seen as necessary for both personal and professional reasons.
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English instruction that’s tailored to you. Our flexible schedules and innovative teaching method will help you achieve your English goals in no time. So whether this is your first time taking an English class or you’re
a life long English student, we are happy to help you achieve your English language goals. Get in touch today and let us show you how studying English in New York can change both your present and future.
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