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Resource Corner


Do You Speak American? Project

Made for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and for DVD release, Do You Speak American? (DYSA) takes viewers on a journey through the United States, exploring how the language we use can define us, unite us, or separate us. Produced by MacNeil-Lehrer Productions, Inc., and hosted by Robert MacNeil, DYSA investigates the question, "What does it mean to speak American?" Although the obvious answer to many Americans may be "English," the actual answer as revealed in the documentary is much more complex. DYSA explores regional and social variation in English, including ethnic, gender, and age related differences. It also considers how Spanish is becoming another way of speaking American. The documentary follows MacNeil from Maine to Seattle, with stops in New York City, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas, California, and other places.

DYSA is available as a set of three Web-enabled, interactive DVDs that link to maps, activities, essays, and other Internet resources such as radio stations. It is also available in VHS format. To order, go to

CAL staff wrote the viewers guide for DYSA and curriculum units that include background information and instructional activities for high school and college classes and for teacher development. Curriculum units include Perspectives on Written and Spoken English, African American English, Chicano English and Spanish, Language and Personal Style, and Major Regional Dialects. They also contain links to other information and activities on the Internet.

The curriculum materials are offered free of charge on the PBS Web site.

To learn about the Do You Speak American? program, visit

For more information on this project, contact
Carolyn Adger
Center for Applied Linguistics
4646 40th St. NW
Washington, DC 20016