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No Official Language

English has never been legally made the official language of the United States. It is nevertheless the common language used by the federal government, communications networks, business and commerce. Of the 50 individual state governments, 28 have proclaimed English to be their official language. Despite the growth of Spanish, English remains the predominant language of American life. From time to time campaigns arise to make English the official national language, but none has succeeded. Most of these efforts reflect anti-immigrant sentiments.

Despite assimilation, hundreds of distinct immigrant communities strive to keep their linguistic traditions alive, promoting newspapers, television and radio broadcasting, ethnic schools and cultural efforts for that purpose. Large cosmopolitan cities such as New York and Los Angeles can boast hundreds of nationalities, some with distinct neighborhoods, others existing together in a rich cultural mix. American English ties these disparate groups together.

Among the Native American tribes, hundreds of languages exist, some in peril of being forgotten, others, such as that of the populous Navajo of the Southwest, in more vital condition. Given all these languages, of course, English becomes the common means of communication. Listening in on a Navajo radio station gives a perfect cross-cultural example: the announcer speaks Navajo, and all the Country and Western songs he plays are in English.

Product packaging, municipal signs, and advertising messages in the United States may often appear in bilingual form, using both English and Spanish. Because of the French-speaking population of neighboring Canada, bi-lingual English and French product packaging also appears for products that serve both markets. On occasion, all three languages are used.

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