Do You Speak American? Teacher Development Materials

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.

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 website.

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

About the Project

Funder: Carnegie Corporation of New York, via subcontract from MacNeil Lehrer Productions
July 2004 – March 2006