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I Speak English, Therefore I’m American

What makes you feel truly American? A study was conducted last year by the Pew Research Center, which found that most people in the U.S. believe that in order to be considered American, it was very important that people spoke English. The study was conducted over different groups of people distributed by age, race, religious beliefs and the results were close among those interviewed, regardless of the group they belong to. When we think about what makes us feel part of a community, even if we consider ourselves a nation, no matter what nation this may be, people can choose from the more cultural and fundamental aspects of their national identity, but the most fundamental aspect of all (at least to Americans) is language. One thing Americans truly have in common is language. The U.S. can be divided into different nations; all with their own ways, mindset, laws and behavior, but ultimately, they all speak English.

It is almost impossible not to think about how intertwined cultural aspects, mindsets and language are. This topic has been reviewed before, whether we behave (as a community) in certain way due to the way we speak, or is it the other way around? Does culture reflect language or is it the opposite? Could it be said then that a person who has never lived in the U.S., but has mastered the English language to a point where (if they are really intertwined) the person can understand even the most intrinsic aspects of American culture and mindset? Some would say yes, that in order to truly learn and master a language, a person has to be aware and internalize the cultural aspects that make native speakers say things the way they do and understand what’s behind the pure meaning of a word.

So, is the foreigner who learned English as a second language outside the U.S. as, or even more, American (it is likely that this person has better grammar than most native English speakers) than someone who was born and raised in the U.S.? If language is what holds a nation together, as the study showed, then yes. This statement is obviously overreaching, there are other aspects in play when it comes to feeling and being part of a nation (political views, religion, education, etc.), but it is interesting to think about how powerful language is, even more than religious views, as the study concluded.

The Pew Study was also conducted collecting data from different countries in Europe and Asia, varying in results. To learn more about this topic, you can visit the Pew Research Center’s site and find the complete study.