There is no official language in the United States, a fact that is unknown to many of its citizens. American greatness has always relied on an organic cultural tapestry woven together through the mixing and harboring of many people groups. Integration without assimilation is a dominant ideal in US culture, which explains the many linguistic sounds a traveler through this 'New World' will end up hearing. A US census categorized the frequency and popularity of languages in the States, thereby painting a picture of a diversity-rich nation. . So next time you feel lost in translation while wandering America, do not worry; you are not alone. Here, the languages are ranked by the number of people aged five years or more, speaking them at home in the US, as per a US Census Bueau record of 2017-2021.
- English - 245 million
- Spanish - 41.3 million
- Chinese - 3.4 million
- Tagalog - 1.72 million
- Vietnamese - 1.52 million
- Arabic - 1.39 million
- French - 1.18 million
- Korean - 1.07 million
- Russian - 1.04 million
- Portuguese - 937,000
1. English - 245 million
English is one of the most spoken languages in the world, with 1.5 billion global speakers. Moreover, 245 million people speak only English at home in America. It's not hard to see why it is so popular: Many learners widely regard English as relatively easy to learn compared to other languages and have labeled it "the world's favorite second language." Additionally, much of American culture originates from its British colonial past, making English a familiar choice for many living in the United States. Learning English in America represents more than just having an easier time communicating - it is a vital part of learning about the history and culture of this great nation.
2. Spanish - 41.3 million
As one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, Spanish holds a special place in US cultural identity. Derived from Vulgar Latin, it is the first language of 360 million people across the globe. It is gaining even more presence in the United States - with just over 41 million individuals speaking only Spanish at home. Not only this, but its reach extends to many dialects and countries outside of Spain due to its diffusion during Spain's colonial period. Many may know that Spain had significant influence in South America during this time, but it is also worth noting that they colonized much of North America. In this way, Spanish has shaped not only the fabric of American languages but US heritage as well.
3. Chinese - 3.4 million
According to the US Census Bureau, Chinese is the third most spoken language in America, with an estimated 3.4 million people speaking it in their homes. A massive influx of immigration from mainland China in recent decades has contributed to this rise in popularity - today, there are 1.1 billion Chinese speakers worldwide. Interestingly, most Chinese-speaking households reside on either the East or West coasts of the United States, where immigration from Asia has been at its highest. As a result, Chinese has become an important language for many aspects of American life. This range extends from businesses doing trade and commerce overseas to those who wish to explore the deep cultural heritage within the United States' sizeable Chinese-American community.
4. Tagalog - 1.72 million
Tagalog, also known as Filipino, is the fourth most spoken language in the United States. It is a major language of the Philippines and has a history dating back centuries. Tagalog is spoken across the United States by people of Filipino descent and other immigrants from the Philippines. The largest concentrations of Tagalog speakers are mainly in California, Nevada, Texas, Washington, Illinois, and New York. Tagalog is especially popular among Filipino Americans residing in large cities and metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Las Vegas, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. These regions have become a hub for Filipino communities where their native language Tagalog is widely spoken. In addition, one can find the Tagalog-speaking community in Illinois, primarily in Chicago.
5. Vietnamese - 1.52 million
Vietnamese is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the United States, with more than 1.5 million people speaking it throughout the country. The Vietnamese language has a long and storied history in the United States, beginning with early Vietnamese immigrants in the 19th century and increasing in numbers with the arrival of refugees following America's involvement in the Vietnam War. Vietnamese is also across the United States, with more significant concentrations found primarily in California, Texas, Washington State, and Virginia. Vietnamese speakers in California are found primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. Additionally, smaller pockets of Vietnamese speakers are located around Austin, Texas. Moreover, the Washington State Seattle-Tacoma area is home to sizeable numbers of Vietnamese Americans. At the same time, Northern Virginia, particularly Arlington County, has become one of the most significant communities for immigrants from Southeast Asia, including those who speak the Vietnamese language.
6. Arabic - 1.39 million
Arabic is the sixth most spoken language in the United States and has been part of the American landscape for centuries, which is represented by the nation's 1.39 million speakers. The earliest Arabic speakers arrived in America with European colonists before and during the Revolutionary War. The number of Arabic-speaking people living in America increased significantly with large immigration waves from Middle East countries before and after World War II and again during more recent civil wars in Iraq and Syria. The largest concentrations of Arabic-speaking people are throughout New York, California, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, and Virginia. In New York City, Boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens are home to many communities from the Arab world, while upstate regions such as Albany also have sizeable populations. In California, cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco host large numbers of immigrants whose native tongue is Arabic. At the same time, the Detroit metropolitan area in Michigan is especially renowned for its sizable Arabic population, whose roots stretch as far as Lebanon and Palestine.
7. French - 1.18 million
French has been known for some time as the language of love, and it continues to be an essential language in America. With around 1.18 million Americans speaking French at home, it is the seventh most spoken language in the United States. Most of this is due to its global presence through its language, which owes its spread to France's colonization period, as well as its proximity to Canada, where many French-speaking individuals reside and regularly cross into the United States. In addition, this language has a long-standing history in America due to French immigration and their families who wished to make this country their permanent home, keeping their language alive while they did so.
8. Korean - 1.07 million
Korean is spoken by over a million residents in the United States and has a long history dating back to the late 19th century when the first Korean immigrants began to settle in Hawaii. After the Korean War, a large influx of refugees began arriving in America, and communities of Korean Americans quickly grew across many states. Today, California, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Georgia are home to some of the largest Korean-speaking populations in the United States. For example, California is home to more than 450 thousand people who speak Korean, with concentrations around the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the Northern parts of Silicon Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, new York City boroughs such as Queens have also become increasingly diverse and host sizable populations from Pacific Rim countries, including South Korea. In Texas, the Houston-Dallas region is home to many Koreans, while cities like Austin and San Antonio also have strong Asian communities.
9. Russian - 1.04 million
Russian has just over a million speakers in the United States and has been part of American linguistics since the late 1800s when Russian immigrants began settling in different parts of North America. The largest concentrations of Russian-speaking people settled throughout New York, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. In New York City, Boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens are home to many communities from former Soviet Union countries, while Long Island also has a sizeable population. In California, cities like San Francisco Bay Area host large numbers of immigrants whose native tongue is Russian. At the same time, the Miami Metropolitan area in Florida is especially renowned for its sizable Russian-speaking population, whose roots stretch as far as Ukraine and Belarus. Boston metropolitan region, including Cambridge in the Massachusetts area, is also home to a notable Russian American community.
10. Portuguese - 937,000
Portuguese rounds off this list at number ten with about 937,000 people speaking this European language. The language is spoken by both immigrants to the country from Portugal as well as from former Portuguese colonies like Brazil. The Portuguese people and their language have a very long history in the US dating back to 1634. The language has a significant number of speakers in Hawaii, Rhode Island and Massachusetts which have sizeable Portuguese-American communities.
Other Spoken Languages
The United States also hosts many additional African dialects and other languages that represent a large number of migrated communities from many distinct countries. People from all corners of the world brought their tongues with them when they migrated to America. In many cities across the US, it's possible to hear foreign lingoes mixed into daily conversation, reminding us that although many speak English, we live in a vibrant multicultural community. Understanding another language can also greatly enrich our lives; not only do we gain access to new cultures and customs, but studying linguistics can help unearth fascinating insights into how language works at a fundamental level.
The Absence Of Native American Languages
Without a doubt, the United States is a highly multicultural country. It has received immigrants from all over the world who have contributed to the nation's linguistic diversity. However, one must not forget the indigenous languages of the native Americans that are under significant 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, 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 significant issue in the country.
English may be the most spoken language in America, but that doesn't mean it's the only language spoken there. There are more than 350 languages spoken in America. The top 10 languages spoken in America are: English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Arabic, Korean, Russian, and German. In addition, more than half of Americans speak a language other than English at home. So don't limit yourself to just one language - learning multiple languages can open up all the opportunities this iconic nation offers.
The 25 Most Spoken Languages In America
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