Although the United States has no official language, English is the most commonly spoken language within the country, 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 entire population has basic knowledge of English. 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 in the country. 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. In the latter case, the state's proximity to Cuba and the high rates of immigration from the Caribbean countries have increased the popularity of Spanish in the state.
Technology also has a direct influence on the frequency and variety of languages spoken in the United States. Technology companies, in a bid to keep up with a high level of global competition, have been forced to employ workers from other technology dominant nations. Most of these expatriates are from Asian countries where technology has been at the forefront of economic development for decades. These immigrant workers have added to the linguistic diversity of the US. Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken Asian language in the country. Nearly 2% of the American population can communicate in this language. Besides Chinese, other Asian languages commonly spoken in the US include Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
German and Jewish Influences
German and Hebrew are also spoken in the US by a significant proportion of the population. German immigrants have been arriving in the area since the colonization of the New World. German-Americans is one of the largest ethnic groups in the country. The German influence in the United States can be heavily felt in places such as Chicago, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Hebrew is also commonly spoken in the country since the US has the highest Jewish population 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 to escape the Holocaust. Los Angeles and New York City are great examples of American cities with large Jewish populations today.
The Absence of Native American Languages
Without a doubt, the United States is a highly multicultural country. It has received immigrants from all across the world who have contributed to the linguistic diversity of the nation. However, one must not forget the indigenous languages of the native Americans that are at great threat today. It is important to note that no native American language makes it to the list of the top 25 languages spoken in the US. The Navajo language, which is the most widely spoken Native American language, has roughly 170,000 speakers only. Thus, the state of preservation and growth of Native American languages is a major issue in the country.