Although the country has no official language, English is the most commonly spoken language within the United States, and the explanation for this is very simple. America, before gaining its independence, was a British colony. The country therefore inherited much of its culture as well as language from the British. A majority of the country’s population has British ancestry which, along with other factors, has contributed to English standing strong within American language and culture. English is used in official platforms across most states, and almost the entirety of the population has basic knowledge regarding English language usage. Still, other languages are gaining traction as being frequently used within America’s borders, and we look at some of the most prominent influences on this trend.
Following English, the most spoken languages in the United States are Spanish, Chinese, French, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
A Country of Immigrants
Immigration has largely influenced the demographic patterns of the United States. The predominant majority of US immigrants hail from neighboring Mexico and other Latin American countries. A large influx of Hispanic people has made Spanish the second most widely spoken language within the country, and the number is ever growing as Spanish-speaking influences are unlikely to lose ground anytime soon. In California and Texas, the Spanish language is spoken and understood to some degree by over 20% of the population. Other states where Spanish’s influence can be greatly felt are New York and Florida. With the latter, this can be attributed to being close to Cuba and receiving many immigrants from there and from elsewhere in the Caribbean.
The Role of Media
Technology has had a direct influence on the frequency and variety of languages being spoken in the United States. This has increased with the high level of tech dominance that the country has come to enjoy in recent years. Tech companies, in a bid to keep up with a high level of global competition, have been forced to call in expatriates from other tech dominant nations. Most of these expatriates are from Asian countries where technology has been at the forefront of economic development for decades. Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken Asian language, with the figure being put close to 2% of the United States general population being able to communicate in it. Many Asians have also moved into the US for other business purposes as well. Besides Chinese, other Asian languages commonly heard spoken within the United States include Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
German and Jewish Influences
Though English and Spanish lead the pack of common languages spoken in the United States, two other interesting common languages are German and Hebrew. There have been large numbers of German immigrants coming into America for centuries since the colonization of the New World. In fact, German-Americans are among the largest groups of ethnic identities present within the country, and the German influence in the United States can be heavily felt in places such as Chicago and the Dakotas. Hebrew is also commonly spoken around the country, and this can be explained by the fact that the United States is also one of the countries with the highest Jewish populations outside Israel. The United States and Israel share very close political and economic ties, and this has contributed to a large influx of Israelis into the country. Many Jews also immigrated to the US from Europe, especially in relation to the rise of Fascism and the events of World War II, along with other tragedies on the European continent during the 20th century. Los Angeles and New York City are great examples of American cities with large Jewish populations today, with a preferred language of communication often being Hebrew.
The Absence of Native American Languages
Without question, the United States is highly multicultural as a country, due to having drawn so many people from all parts of the world to live and work within its shores. But once cannot forget about the many Native American languages spoken by the original inhabitants of this area. Many Native American tribes are emphasizing that their children learn their original languages, lest they should be lost after centuries of persecution and imposed assimilation. This being said, it is worth noting that no Native American language actually makes it to the list of the top 25 spoken within the United States. The Navajo language, which is the most widely spoken Native American language in the US today, has only roughly 170 thousand speakers, with Hebrew just making it to the 25th spot on the list with close to 213 thousand speakers. The state of the preservation and growth of Native American languages is still a major issue within the US.
Most US Native Speakers By Language
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|Rank||Primary Language Spoken at Home in the US||Number of speakers|
|3||Chinese (incl. Cantonese, Mandarin, other Chinese languages)||2,896,766|
|4||French and French Creole||2,047,467|