This Slow American English podcast is an overview of the USA. Of course, USA stands for United States of America. Often, the country is called simply America. The citizens are called Americans. The official language of the USA is English, although many other languages are spoken there.
The USA is located on the continent of North America, between Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The Atlantic Ocean creates the eastern border, and the Pacific Ocean creates the western border. There are 50 states in total and 48 of them are called contiguous because they are grouped all together. Two of the states are not contiguous. Alaska is very far northwest of the 48 contiguous states and Hawaii is a group of islands very far west in the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to the 50 states, America has three territories: American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Also, Puerto Rico used to be a US territory. Now it is a commonwealth. Territories and commonwealths are still parts of the USA, but they govern themselves and do not have full statehood.
The capital of the United States is Washington, D.C., which stands for District of Columbia. The district functions much like a state. The capital was established in a separate district so that no state would gain more power by having the seat of the national government there.
The area of the United States is 3.794 million square miles, or 9.827 million square kilometers, which is almost as big as the entire geographic continent of Europe. The largest state is Alaska at 3,537,379 square miles, or 9,181,859.76 square kilometers. The smallest state is Rhode Island at 1,045 square miles, or 2,706.54 square kilometers.
European settlers began coming to North America in 1492. By the late 1700s, Great Britain had 13 colonies there. In addition, France and Spain each had a few settlements as well. In 1776, a group of men called the Founding Fathers declared the 13 colonies’ independence from Great Britain. Thus the USA was born. The idea for the new country was no taxation without representation and religious freedom.
The 13 British colonies later became states, as did some of the other settlements and areas that would be settled later. Now, Independence Day is celebrated each year on July 4 with barbecues and fireworks. Most people call Independence Day the Fourth of July.
Today the United States is a world power in both military and commerce. The currency is the US dollar. The population is more than 317 million people, which is less than half of the population of the European continent. America is sometimes referred to as the Melting Pot because so many people of different backgrounds and cultures live there.
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