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America’s official language

September 26, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 38

I agree with the opinions expressed by Sir Fraser Stoddart in his editorial about the Brexit (C&EN, Sept. 12, page 3), but as a matter of fact, English is not, nor has it ever been, the official language of the U.S., and the related idea that immigrants in the past had to learn English—or at least no accommodations would be made for them if they didn’t—is entirely erroneous. In the past, even local governmental functions were conducted in the locally prevailing language.

In many parts of the country, that was German. According to an online story from BBC dated May 15, 2013, “German was the main language used in schools [my emphasis], churches and businesses around the hill country between Austin and San Antonio.” What’s more, I knew someone who had his mother’s German-language birth certificate, which was issued in Sturgis, Mich.

Howard J. Wilk


Aug. 15/22, page 19: A Policy Concentrate incorrectly identified David Allen’s position at the University of Texas, Austin. He is a chemical engineering professor, not a chemistry professor.

Aug. 15/22, page 24: A feature story on tattoo ink incorrectly attributed statistics to the Joint Research Council. The statistics should have been attributed to the Joint Research Centre.

Aug. 29, page 6: A Science Concentrate about an improved synthetic route to ryanodol incorrectly stated that Pierre Deslongchamps’s group at the University of Sherbrooke first reported a synthesis of ryanodol in 1990. The synthesis was actually first reported in 1979 (Can. J. Chem., DOI: 10.1139/v79-547). The full paper on the synthesis was published in 1990.



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