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July 4th, commonly referred to as Independence Day, is an annual holiday celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in the United States. Though this document is known for large signatures and mystical movie maps, it is a culturally significant document. The day the Declaration was signed was the day that the American people decreed themselves free, establishing freedom itself as the basis for its existence as a country. That’s why we see it as a fitting day to reflect on the freedom of speech extended to its citizens.

The first amendment of the United States Constitution states “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech”. This has become a hotly debated topic as there isn’t any official wording to define what freedom of speech means. To what extent is a citizen able to speak their mind? What if their words are hurtful or deceitful? What if those words aren’t spoken, is it still speech? These are important questions but which language you speak is also protected by the constitution.

An Official Language

Though the United States freed itself from England, an English-speaking nation, it has never declared English as its official language. There were early efforts to declare German the official language of the nation shortly after the Revolutionary War was won. These efforts, as well as any efforts to declare an official language, have fallen short because of the first amendment. Federal lawmakers have read the quoted passage and decided that this applies to which languages can be spoken.

Declaring an official language has a different impact in different countries. Sometimes it mandates what language is spoken among citizens. In other instances, it requires the government to provide services and materials in that language. Some countries even have multiple official languages, with Bolivia recognizing the most, 37. Among the 178 countries that have declared an official language, 67 of them have chosen English, so why would it be a big deal if the United States chose to do the same?

The Melting Pot

The United States of America has often been referred to as the great melting pot due to high levels of immigration since its inception. People from many cultures that speak many languages have chosen to make the United States their home, chasing the American dream. Because of this, the number of languages spoken in the USA has risen to 430. Among those 430, 177 of them originated in the states or were indigenous to the land before western settlement. English remains the most popular language, spoken at home by 78% of the population, but that leaves one-fifth of homes speaking something else.

Declarations by members of the government have stated that the right to free speech is extended to which language is spoken. To choose English, or any other language would limit people not just in language but in culture. If the United States wants to live up to its goal of freedom for all, it has to allow freedom in all languages. That’s why hundreds of attempts to declare an official language have never been successful at the federal level. To do so would be to deny freedom of speech.


The right to free speech is the very first thing the founders of the United States sought to protect. They ensured that everyone would be free to speak their mind in the manner they would like to. This freedom has been tested in many ways many times and it likely will be again. Luckily today, the United States has chosen not to declare an official language, because it values freedom above all else. This freedom allows so many cultures to grow and thrive among its borders and welcomes so many people to them. Some may say “This is America, learn English” but that is not the official stance of America. Instead, it chooses to invite all to chase the American dream, and lets them do it in their language.

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