The History of Language in America

America, the beautiful — “melting pot” (or mixed salad) of the world. Since the days of our inception, America has stood for inclusion, pride, and independence. The myriad nationalities of immigrants to our country has led to a uniquely American jargon. America has always been a beautiful melting pot of different cultures and ideas, and the history of how we speak reflects that.

Early Immigration 

From around 1890 to the 1950s, roughly 12 million immigrants came to America with high hopes and big dreams, and all of them entered through the same place  — Ellis Island. Once immigration became a federally-controlled policy, Ellis Island was converted into a full-blown center for immigrants to arrive in America.  Most of these individuals who traveled to the United States were Italians, Slavs, Jews, Greeks, and even Russians.  

Learning English 

While all these new immigrants were arriving to America, there was a buzz of many different languages on that island. Most of these individuals stayed in New York City, which is why we 

now have the different neighborhoods that are associated with other countries, such as Little Italy and Chinatown. All people — immigrants included — banded together to find others who they could relate to and even communicate with. One of the hardest parts of transitioning to a life here was learning the language to find work and communicate. However, recent studies have found that many early immigrants actually chose not to pursue this avenue. They would find their community of people speaking the same as them and thrive within that area. This idea is still somewhat true today.

In cities around America, we find communities speaking exclusively Spanish or German or French. In fact, English didn’t become our official language until 2006, because there was so much concern from lawmakers that it may seem racist or non-inclusive of our various cultures. And while most big businesses operate using mainly English, some employees who are bilingual can help communicate with these individuals. While a lot of immigrants today do work to learn English, there are many more resources for them to learn quickly. Schools will often employ teachers who specialize in English as a second language and there are even personalized tutoring sites like Put Words to Wings where a person can work on English grammar online.  We have come a long way and offer many more resources to learning our language today.  

Cultural Roots

The English language in America has been through many different versions.  We are constantly adapting and adding new words and phrases.  English originated from the German and Latin roots.  When settlers first came to America, they brought English from England.   Early American settlers began to add words to the vocabulary from Native Americans as well as Dutch, Italian, and Spanish settlers.  This trend continued through those immigrants of the early twenties even until today.  Think of how many words and foods and objects we have inherited from other cultures.  Words like pizza, horse, and dentist are all taken from other cultures and other roots.  We wouldn’t have the english language we know and love today without these influences.  

This diversity is celebrated throughout the different regions of America.  In actuality, we cannot boast one succinct language.  With the various dialects and regionalism throughout the country, it would be impossible to label any one way of speaking as English.  Someone speaking in a heavy Brooklyn accent will sound completely different from another American in the middle of Texas.  The history of English in America is a rich one, and our continued diversity only pays homage to the various influences.

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