Sunday, August 7, 2022

Language & Phrasebook in United States

North AmericaUnited StatesLanguage & Phrasebook in United States

Read next

Almost all Americans speak English. Most Americans speak with accents that are recognisable among themselves and with the accent traditionally associated with the Midwest, popularised in the 20th century by American radio, television and cinema. Although many Americans can recognise differences between various accents, the accents most likely to be perceived as distinctive by foreign visitors are those spoken in the South and Texas, the Boston area, the New York area, the upper Midwest and Hawaii.

Many African Americans and some other Americans also speak African American Vernacular English (AAVE), whose grammar and vocabulary are somewhat different from the styles of American English that are usually considered standard. AAVE has had a major influence on general American slang and colloquialisms in particular. Never assume that a person who is black speaks AAVE, especially since many African or Caribbean immigrants or their descendants do not speak this language, and also be aware that many African Americans can switch effortlessly from AAVE to Standard American English. Spanglish – a mixture of Spanish and English – is also common in many areas with large Hispanic populations, and switching between Spanglish and Standard American English is equally common.

Visitors are generally expected to speak and understand English. Although many Americans learn a foreign language in school (usually Spanish and then French), it is safe to assume that the average citizen has not progressed beyond the basics. Popular tourist spots often have signs and information in other languages. Americans have a long history of immigration and are very accommodating of foreign accents and will sometimes go out of their way to help you by speaking with a standard accent.

American English is somewhat different from the English spoken in other parts of the English-speaking world. These differences are mostly minor and relate mainly to small differences in spelling as well as pronunciation. See the article on English language varieties for a detailed discussion.

Spanish is the first language of Puerto Rico and a large minority of mainlanders (with the fifth largest Spanish-speaking population in the world). Spanish speakers in the United States are often first- or second-generation Puerto Ricans or Latin American immigrants. As a result, spoken Spanish is almost invariably a Latin American dialect. Spanish is the second main language in many parts of the United States, such as California, the Southwest, Texas, Florida and the metropolitan areas of Chicago and New York. Many of these areas have Spanish-language radio and television stations with local, national and Mexican programming. Most federal government publications and some state and local publications are available in Spanish. Many facilities and government agencies in major business and tourist areas have Spanish-speaking staff on duty, and it is possible with some difficulty to speak only Spanish in major cities and tourist attractions.

French is the primary second language in rural areas near the Quebec border, in some parts of Louisiana and among some African immigrants, but it is not widely spoken elsewhere. In South Florida, Haitian immigrants primarily speak Haitian Creole, a distinct language derived from French, although a significant number also speak French.

As a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, some products now have trilingual packaging (English, Spanish and French) and are sold throughout the trading bloc, including household products and small electrical appliances. However, the vast majority of consumer goods are labelled in English only, meaning that a rudimentary knowledge of English is required to shop.

Hawaiian is the native language of Hawaii and Hawaiian Pidgin, a mixture of English, Hawaiian, Portuguese, Cantonese and several other languages, is also spoken by many native Hawaiians. However, English is the most widely spoken language in Hawaii, and Japanese is also widely spoken.

Cantonese and Mandarin are common in the various Chinatowns in the larger cities. Smaller immigrant groups sometimes form their own pockets of common language, including Russian, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Tagalog, Korean and Vietnamese. Chicago, for example, has the second largest ethnic Polish population in the world after Warsaw (although most Poles in the Chicago area were born in the United States and speak only English). The Amish, who have lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio for generations, speak a German dialect.

Some Native Americans speak their respective mother tongues, especially on reservations in the West. But despite efforts to revive them, many Native American languages are threatened with extinction and first-language speakers are rare. Navajo speakers in Arizona and New Mexico are an exception to this rule, but a clear majority also speak and understand English.

In summary, unless you are sure you are in an area that has only recently been inhabited by immigrants, it is a big challenge to travel to the US without knowing English.

American Sign Language, or ASL, is the dominant sign language in the United States. When events are interpreted, they are interpreted in ASL. Users of French Sign Language and other related languages may find ASL understandable because they use much of the same vocabulary, but users of Japanese Sign Language, British Sign Language or Auslan will not. Closed captioning on television is widespread, but far from universal. Many theatres offer FM loops or other aids to listening, but subtitles and interpreters are less common.

For blind people, many signs and advertisements include Braille transcriptions of printed English. Large chain restaurants, museums and parks may have menus and guides in Braille, but you will probably have to ask for them.

How To Travel To United States

By air The United States is home to some of the world's most popular airlines. After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the resulting decline in air travel, there was a large-scale consolidation across the industry and the United States is now home to some of the largest...

How To Travel Around United States

Due to the size of the United States and the distance between major cities, air travel is the dominant mode of travel for short-term travellers. If you have time, travelling by car, bus or train can be interesting. In some provinces, you can get information about traffic and public transport...

Visa & Passport Requirements for United States

The United States has exceptionally burdensome and complicated visa requirements. Read carefully before visiting, especially if you need to apply for a visa, and contact the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Travellers have been denied entry for many, often trivial, reasons. Planning and documentation before arrival Entry without visa Citizens of the 38...

Destinations in United States

Regions The United States consists of 50 states plus the city of Washington, D.C., a federal district and the nation's capital. The country also has a few territories, including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Below is a rough grouping of these states into regions, from the Atlantic to the Pacific: New...

Weather & Climate in United States

The general climate is temperate, with notable exceptions. Alaska has an arctic tundra, while Hawaii, South Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are tropical. The Great Plains are dry, flat and grassy, merging into arid desert in the far west and the Mediterranean on the California coast. In...

Accommodation & Hotels in United States

The motel is by far the most common form of accommodation in rural areas of the United States and along many highways. Most motels offering cheap rooms to motorists are clean and inexpensive and have limited amenities: telephone, television, bed, bathroom. Motel 6 (1-800-466-8356) is a national chain with...

Things To See in United States

The United States is extraordinarily diverse when it comes to attractions. There is always something to see; even when you think you have seen everything a place has to offer, the next destination is only a drive away. The Great American Road Trip is the most traditional way to see...

Things To Do in United States

Art and music Medium to large cities often attract concerts with large ticket prices, especially in large outdoor amphitheatres. Smaller cities sometimes host concerts in parks with local or older bands. Other options include music festivals like Street Scene in San Diego or South by Southwest in Austin. Classical music...

Food & Drinks in United States

Food in United States The diversity of restaurants in the United States is remarkable. In a big city like New York, it is possible to find a restaurant from almost any country in the world. In addition to the usual selection of independent restaurants, the United States has a uniquely...

Money & Shopping in United States

Official currency The official currency of the United States is the US dollar ($), divided into 100 cents (¢, but often written in decimal dollars). Foreign currencies are almost never accepted, although some large hotel chains may accept travellers' cheques in other currencies. Most establishments near the Canadian border accept...

Festivals & Holidays in United States

There are no compulsory national holidays. Federal holidays are the most central holidays, but they are officially recognised only by the federal government; federal offices, banks and post offices are closed on these days. Nearly all states and municipalities also observe these holidays, as well as a handful of...

Internet & Communications in United States

By phone National calls The country code for the United States is +1. The area code for long-distance calls (local area code) is also "1", so US telephone numbers are often written as an eleven-digit number: "1-nnn-nnn-nnn". The rest of the phone number consists of ten digits: a three-digit area code...

Traditions & Customs in United States

Given its size, the US is a very diverse country, which means that cultural norms can vary greatly from region to region and it is difficult to generalise about what might and might not be offensive. For example, while homophobic remarks would be highly offensive in a liberal region...

Culture Of United States

The United States is home to many cultures and a wide variety of ethnic groups, traditions and values. With the exception of Native Americans, Hawaiians and the people of Alaska, almost all Americans or their ancestors have settled or immigrated within the last five centuries. The predominant American culture...

History Of United States

Indigenous and European contact The first inhabitants of North America migrated from Siberia across the Bering land bridge, arriving at least 15,000 years ago, although growing evidence suggests an even earlier arrival. Some, like the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture and state societies. After first contact by...

Stay Safe & Healthy in United States

Stay Safe in United States Crime Big headline-grabbing crimes and slightly unfavourable statistics give the United States a reputation for crime. However, there are few visitors who have problems; common sense precautions and vigilance are enough to avoid problems. Crime in the inner cities is mostly related to gangs and drugs,...



South America


North America

Most Popular