In the beginning, our country was comprised mainly of people of English, Dutch, French and German descent as well as many Native American tribes; they all brought their native languages with them(ACLU 1997). In the 19th and 20th centuries there was a large influx of European, Asian and Mexican immigrants which caused many more languages to be spoken in this country besides English(US Census, 2000).
There has never been an official language for the United States, but the debate over this question goes back to the beginning of this country. In 1780 John Adams tried to start an Official Language Academy in order to set standards for English. His proposal was rejected by the Continental Congress as being undemocratic.
Then, in the 1800's Native American children were taken from their homes and families and forced to attend English boarding schools. English was the official language of these schools and the children were not allowed to speak their native language. Any students caught speaking a language other than English were severely punished.(Musser 2007).
In 1906, English proficiency became a requirement for citizenship, then, due to anti-German sentiments during World War I, many states passed language laws. For instance, the state of Nebraska passed a law that prohibited any language other than English in schools through the eighth grade. The Supreme Court later declared this law to be unconstitutional.(LectricLaw)
Ironically, Native American languages were used to encode military messages during WWI. Then there were the famous Navajo Code Talkers during WWII. These were Navajo Indians that served in the Marine Corp during WWII to transmit information on tactics and troop movements and other communications in their native Navajo tongue.(Department of the Navy-Naval Historical Center, 1997)