Why Do Americans Speak English? Curious Language Facts For Kids

Abhijeet Modi
Oct 12, 2023 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Oct 27, 2021
A large number of people in America are native English speakers. But, why do Americans speak English?

English has grown into the global language of government, business, and communication, with its spread accredited to the growth of the British Empire.

It has more than 379 million speakers and is the third most spoken language on Earth. The language now serves as a link that connects people around the world.

Did you know that English in America was initially limited to upper and upper-middle-class individuals? English was a West Germanic language brought to Britain in the early 5th-7th century by the Anglo-Saxon immigrant community.

It is now the primary language of other countries like New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and the United States.

In the United States, there are about 231 million people who speak English, yet it is not the country's official language. The English spoken in America contains a lot of words and linguistic influences from various other languages such as German, French, Spanish and Dutch.

Prominent cities like New York, as well as universities, have language standards similar to the British.

It is estimated that overall, there are over 160 dialects of English around the world thanks to different pronunciations and delivery in local cultures. America itself accounts for 24 different types of English dialect.

If you enjoy reading this article, you may also like to read why do Americans drive on the right and where does sugar comes from.

Why do Americans speak different English?

Like in other colonies, the English language was brought to America by colonial settlers from England, who settled along the Atlantic in the seventh century. American English began as a way to communicate with natives as, before English, native languages such as Aymara and Nahuatl were spoken by the indigenous people.

Americans soon began creating their own pronunciations after settlers started arriving in America. Due to being thousands of miles away from British English speakers and being in contact with foreign cultures and languages, such as those from Sweden, Spain, France, and the Netherlands, words were borrowed.

This led to changes in their vocabulary and grammar where even words from the native American language were taken. This linguistic influence led to a new dialect.

In comparison, French heavily influenced British English, whereas American English did not take part in this trend. After the Revolution, America wanted to separate itself from Britain, which included the process of changing words as well.

The first reference to the American dialect was made in 1765 by Samuel Johnson who published the 'Dictionary of English Language'. A year afterwards, Noah Webster published the first American Dictionary where words like 'colour' were changed to 'color'.

This was an attempt to demarcate American English from Johnson's British English. It was also clear that Webster did not want to dumb down English.

Instead, he wanted to get rid of many inconsistencies in the language which still exist today. Webster also suggested countless other suggestions, which were ultimately rejected by the American public.

If things had gone his way, ‘public’ would have been spelled as ‘publik’ and ‘women’ as ‘wimmen’. At the time, there were countless debates on whether English should even be adopted by a country that was trying to separate itself from Britain.

The German language was even suggested at one point because of the German influence on the New World. Before the early Europeans came into the region, the whole American area was populated with tribes who had their own cultures and languages.

Most of these languages are now considered critically endangered, as they are on the verge of falling out of use. Overall, American English is just a dialect of English, and it is not considered a separate American language.

What separates a dialect from a language is when the former becomes the latter. What we speak are dialects of English from our region.

Why do so few Americans speak another language other than English?

There is a problem with learning a second language in America. This is because, even as the world is becoming more globalized and learning a second language is seen as more desirable, the majority of Americans are English speaking, not bilingual.

Universities around America have reported a sharp decline in the study of foreign languages. Even after employers outline the benefits of being bilingual, some Americans continue to ignore its importance.

Despite diversity and contact with immigrants, America's population follows a trend towards monolingualism.

In Europe, where countries are surrounded by other countries speaking a different language, there are parts and regions where the neighboring country has influenced and impacted the language that people speak in those parts. Whereas, in America, the only country with a different language that shares a border with America is Mexico.

The best way you can learn a language and stay fluent in it is by hearing it being spoken and speaking it yourself on a daily basis. Europeans can do this easily by grabbing a Eurail Pass and traveling to other countries cheaply.

This is not possible in America, as it's a massive country with some of its states being as big as some European countries.

It also doesn't have something similar to a Eurail Pass that can take people to other countries. Airfares are expensive, and that means going to other countries is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many Americans.

Most European countries require their students speak at least one other language, with students learning their first foreign language between the ages of 6-9.

Learning a second language is not mandated in America. There's an illusion in America that they don't need to learn a second language as 'they are never going to use it'.

There's no denying that the American education system is not perfect, language learning departments receive heavy criticism, and they get less funding when compared to other departments, sometimes even outright ignored.

Americans recall the frustrations of their foreign language classes, and the anxiety from learning languages in school harms later efforts to learn. As a result, some Americans over-think the whole process of learning a foreign language and see it as something they are forced to do.

What country speaks the purest English?

Do you know that a dictionary can help you understand how a word is pronounced correctly? There's no such thing as 'pure English' as no country speaks the original English language. At a guess, you might think that it's Britain which speaks the purest English, but that's not the case!

English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European family that is closely related to German, Dutch and Frisian. It initially originated in England and is the dominant language in the United States.

The sixth annual EF English Proficiency Index, which ranks countries according to the English skills of its residents, has ranked the Netherlands on top as the best non-native English speakers.

Furthermore, the Dutch have taken over countries like Sweden and Denmark as the most proficient English speakers. Research indicates that better English correlates with a higher income, status, and quality of life.

It’s not surprising then that Europe has so many nations near the top. This is due to its historical trade links with the UK and that it’s one of the working languages of these places.

The regions that performed the best in the Netherlands were North Holland, South Holland, and Gelderland-Overijssel.

In the Asian Region, Singapore has the highest proficiency in English, followed by countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea, and Hong Kong. When talking about the number of English speakers, the United States is at the top, followed by India, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom.

Is the American accent easier than British?

Based on history, British English, especially the London version, is considered to be the real English by many countries. Though, what many people actually speak is influenced by the US due to education, Hollywood, business, and the internet.

There are a lot of differences between American English and British English, one of them being the accent followed by how the words are spelt and pronounced. Overall, it has been seen that learners have a preference for American English as they believe it has fewer regional accents and dialects in comparison to British English.

This makes it easier to pronounce. This is because the American accent is simple and easy to speak with.

The grammar of American English can be also be understood and followed easily, for example the idioms and terminology are easy to remember, and the tone of pronunciation is very casual.

Even the pitch of the American accent is higher in comparison to the British Accent. Due to these reasons, experts believe American English is easier to understand and use.

What people are able to understand depends on what they have learned and been exposed to, and, due to a large amount of media coming from America, it seems to be understood better by English speakers and learners from other countries.

The United Kingdom has a vast number of dialects and accents; there's a difference between the accent of people from London and Scotland.

Northern accents such as Scottish are much harder to understand in the United Kingdom.

This is not the case with American English, as it has more subtle accents which can easily be understood by foreigners.

There are more Americans when compared to the British, so it's therefore more practical to speak and understand American English. Even Britain hasn't been immune to the spread of American English.

The reason why American English sounds different is rhotacism (the change of sound in a language). Up until 1776, when the American Revolution started, the difference in accents of Americans and the British did not exist.

They were treated like one and there were practically no differences.

It was only in the 18th century when the British started to remove their rhotic accents that things changed. The upper class of southern England eliminated the rhotic accent as a way to achieve class distinction and gradually this new accent spread to the middle class.

Even when it comes to the pronunciation of vowels, there's a difference between British and American.

British English has 12 vowels but American English drops the odd ones. The most noticeable difference between American and British English is the lack of use of ‘u’ and its pronunciation in American English, as seen with words like ‘honor’ and color’.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do Americans speak English, curious language facts for Kids, then why not take a look at where do kiwis grow?

And other fun facts about this fuzzy fruit! Or do you know: what are huckleberries? And where do huckleberries grow?

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

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Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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