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Washington DC - Speaking the Language

The working language is the US and DC is American English. American English is similar to British English. The major variations are in pronunciation (stress and tonal differences) and vocabulary / use of certain terms. There are also differences in spelling and some minor grammar rules. In general, as long as you can understand and speak some basic English, you will find it easy to move around and get things done in this city. There are a number of expatriates living in DC who do not consider English their native language, and they are not alone. Some 15% of D.C. residents (84,000) speak another language other than English at home.

As Washington is home to many nationalities, it is possible for expatriates to find a decent range of foreign newspapers and books. The Washington Yellow Pages provides a good summary of the location of newsagents that sell foreign language newspapers and journals. The Washington Yellow Pages also has a great directly listing for resources and services in the DC.

There is an informal listing of bookstores covering both English and other languages that is regularly maintained by Evelyn C. Leeper. The listing contains addresses, contact numbers and reviews on the type of books and services available.

DC's major newspaper is the Pulitzer Prizewinning Washington Post, which is published daily in the morning and is one of US's most influential newspapers. The Washington Post Company also publishes The Washington Post is located at 1150 Fifteenth Street NW, Washington DC 20071, Tel: (202) 334-6000. The Washington Post magazine, a weekly publication covering Washington personalities and is a must-read for expatriates who wish to know more about the influential people in Washington. provides summaries of DC's news sources.

Some local terms expatriates may find useful as they commonly used in the DC include the word "The Hill". The Hill refers to the geographical concentration of federal buildings in DC. The Hill is also used to refer to the US Congress. A phase such as "I have to testify on the Hill today" means to provide expert advice before Congress on a particular topic. The use of acronyms is akin to alphabet soup in DC – DC residents commonly refer to government agencies by its acronyms, such as EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Each Senator, Representative and Congressional Committee will have offices that are manned by "staffers". "Staffers" are the ambitious, young, and willing to work very long hours professionals who work in the Congress offices doing research, campaigning, and managing public relations.

The District of Columbia Public Library is located at 901 G Street, NW (Room 400), and boosts of a collection of some 2.47 million books, almost 300,000 audio materials, 17,000 video materials and nearly 4,500 serial subscriptions.

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