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Claude S. Fischer, Mike Hout, Aliya Saperstein


Immigrants to the US are learning English more quickly than previous generations
Concerns about whether immigrants are assimiliating in the US often focus on criticisms that they're not learning English quickly enough (think of outrage over phone systems that ask you to select English or Spanish). But in fact immigrants to the US today are learning and using English much more quickly than immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. More than 75 percent of all immigrants, and just less than 75 percent of Spanish-speaking immigrants, speak English within the first five years, compared to less than 50 percent of immigrants between 1900 and 1920.
 
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Robert Delaney


American dialects
Here's a detailed map of how Americans talk. The bright green dialects are all subsets of "general Northern" — a generic American accent used by about two-thirds of the US, according to linguist Robert Delaney, who built this map. But it includes many subsets. The Eastern New England accent is the "pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd" accent. In the South, you can see how English has and hasn't changed over generations. The South Midland accent retains some words from Elizabethan English. And the Coastal Southern accent retains some colonial vocabulary, like "catty-corner."
 
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Where English learners speak the language proficiently
English is the second most-spoken language in the world. But there are even more people learning English (secondary speakers) than people who claim English as their first language. Here's where people tend to score well and poorly on tests of English from Education First. Green and blue countries have higher proficiency levels than red, yellow and orange ones. Scandinavian countries, Finland, Poland, and Austria fare best. The Middle East generally lacks proficient English speakers.
 
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The colonization of America
The British settlers coming to different parts of America in the 17th and 18th centuries were from different regional, class, and religious backgrounds, and brought with them distinctive ways of speaking. Puritans from East Anglia contributed to the classic Boston accent; Royalists migrating to the South brought a drawl; and Scots-Irish moved to the Appalaichans. Today's American English is actually closer to 18th-century British English in pronunciation than current-day British English is. Sometime in the 19th century, British pronunciation changed significantly, particularly whether "r"s are pronounced after vowels.
 

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What's 2nd most spoken? Arabic? Most every Muslim speaks at least a bit of Arabic regardless of where they are. Picked up a bit during my time studying it myself in fact.
 
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Olaf Simons


The Great Vowel Shift
If you think English spelling is confusing — why "head" sounds nothing like "heat," or why "steak" doesn't rhyme with "streak," and "some" doesn't rhyme with "home" — you can blame the Great Vowel Shift. Between roughly 1400 and 1700, the pronunciation of long vowels changed. "Mice" stopped being pronounced "meese." "House" stopped being prounounced like "hoose." Some words, particularly words with "ea," kept their old pronounciation. (And Northern English dialects were less affected, one reason they still have a distinctive accent.) This shift is how Middle English became modern English. No one is sure why this dramatic shift occurred. But it's a lot less dramatic when you consider it took 300 years. Shakespeare was as distant from Chaucer as we are from Thomas Jefferson.
 
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Claude S. Fischer, Mike Hout, Aliya Saperstein


Immigrants to the US are learning English more quickly than previous generations
Concerns about whether immigrants are assimiliating in the US often focus on criticisms that they're not learning English quickly enough (think of outrage over phone systems that ask you to select English or Spanish). But in fact immigrants to the US today are learning and using English much more quickly than immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. More than 75 percent of all immigrants, and just less than 75 percent of Spanish-speaking immigrants, speak English within the first five years, compared to less than 50 percent of immigrants between 1900 and 1920.
.
 

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Claude S. Fischer, Mike Hout, Aliya Saperstein


Immigrants to the US are learning English more quickly than previous generations
Concerns about whether immigrants are assimiliating in the US often focus on criticisms that they're not learning English quickly enough (think of outrage over phone systems that ask you to select English or Spanish). But in fact immigrants to the US today are learning and using English much more quickly than immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. More than 75 percent of all immigrants, and just less than 75 percent of Spanish-speaking immigrants, speak English within the first five years, compared to less than 50 percent of immigrants between 1900 and 1920.
Que?
 
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Olaf Simons


The Great Vowel Shift
If you think English spelling is confusing — why "head" sounds nothing like "heat," or why "steak" doesn't rhyme with "streak," and "some" doesn't rhyme with "home" — you can blame the Great Vowel Shift. Between roughly 1400 and 1700, the pronunciation of long vowels changed. "Mice" stopped being pronounced "meese." "House" stopped being prounounced like "hoose." Some words, particularly words with "ea," kept their old pronounciation. (And Northern English dialects were less affected, one reason they still have a distinctive accent.) This shift is how Middle English became modern English. No one is sure why this dramatic shift occurred. But it's a lot less dramatic when you consider it took 300 years. Shakespeare was as distant from Chaucer as we are from Thomas Jefferson.
.
 

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