The Linguistic Nations of America

In an interesting article published in Tufts Magazine, author Colin Woodward caught people’s attention when he described what he sees as new nations within the United States of America. He expressed that “There’s never been an America, but rather several Americas—each a distinct nation.”1

According to the Oxford dictionary, a nation is defined as “A large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.” So, given the vast differences between some states within the U.S., Mr. Woodward does make a point.

We have talked about the “difficulties” of finding a neutral form of Spanish, where it is evident that each Spanish-speaking nation, both in Latin America and Europe, has many different ways of seeing the world and also of expressing themselves in a small and larger scale. If we can and have to establish a difference whenever we need to translate into Spanish, offering different flavors depending on where our target audience is located; then, should we also offer different flavors when we translate into “American” English?

Given the definition of nation, and as it has also been mentioned in several other posts, languages and their flavors express the culture and history of the people who speak it, and vice versa, cultural characteristics can be a reflection of the language within a community, state or nation. So, we can say that depending on where you are within the U.S., you will have a different view and way of expressing yourself linguistically speaking. Obvious differences can be observed when you look at the East and West Coasts of the U.S., for example, or the South and Northeastern parts of the country. The U.S. is made of different cultures, from the native aboriginal ones to others like the ones brought in by the early settlers when mainly the English, the Dutch, the Germans and the French along with the Asian and African population came to the Americas and started coexisting in a new-found land. It is only logical that from this mixture of cultures, cultural differences are seen within the same country, and as a result, linguistic differences become evident if, as we say, our language is a reflection of our culture.

So, next time a translation into English is needed, we might have to look a bit more into where (or what nation) in the U.S. our project is going to.