What is Official English?

Declaring English the official language means that official government business at all levels must be conducted solely in English. This includes all public documents, records, legislation and regulations, as well as hearings, official ceremonies and public meetings.

Official English legislation contains common-sense exceptions permitting the use of languages other than English for such things as public health and safety services, judicial proceedings, foreign language instruction and the promotion of tourism.

In 1996, U.S.ENGLISH was instrumental in passing H.R. 123, “The Bill Emerson English Language Empowerment Act of 1996.” That bill, making English the official language of the U.S. government, passed in the House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 259-169. Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on the bill before the end of the session. Currently, U.S.ENGLISH is working with Rep. Steve King of Iowa and Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma to help pass Official English in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. H.R. 997 and S. 678, respectively, are pending in committee.

Thirty-two states now have some form of official English law. Most recently, West Virginia passed official English legislation in 2016. U.S.ENGLISH will continue to work to pass measures other states that will enact new Official English law, or strengthen existing legislation.