What Are the Most Spoken Languages in the U.S?
By: Shahzad Bashir
People around the world use different languages to express their emotions and thoughts. Therefore, languages play an important part in communication in this globalized world. They depict the way we communicate with each other and how we convey information to others. Different languages are spoken in different parts of the world. Therefore, scientists have tried to find the answers to what is a reason for the emergence of languages and on which basis they are mapped across the world. Approximately, more than 7000 different languages are spoken around the world. Moreover, these languages are not homogeneously distributed. For example, people speak more languages in tropical regions than in temperate regions. Here the question comes, why people speak more languages in some areas and few in others. Scientists tried to find the answer to these questions by investigating the language diversity patterns in North America. Apart from European countries, North America is native to 400 languages. These languages are unevenly spread around the landscape. Some places like Vancouver to Southern California speak more languages than the areas of the Mississippi delta region and Northern Canada.
Many theories have been outlined to depict the language diversity in the world. The vital point of these theories is that languages distinguish the social boundaries and identify different human groups. A language is a common tool for people that speak the same language. After communication, you can determine who is in your group and who is not. Therefore, any features that strengthen or weaken the physical and social barriers between different groups of people result in the formation or extinction of languages. One school of thought is that regional barriers develop boundaries between different groups. When people move to the other side of the ocean or a mountain range, it becomes very difficult for them to remain in contact with previous people. If the groups are isolated then there is a probability that languages will deviate. If we consider physical isolation a critical point then the number of languages that people speak in the isolated regions like mountains will be in great numbers.
Human beings are social animals and they can’t survive alone. Therefore, the other point in language diversity is how many groups interact with each other to survive. Some researchers are of the view that extreme weather conditions make it a problem for people to get food. Therefore, they make large networks so that they can get resources whenever they are in need. As people interact more with each other, it results in dissolving the boundaries. Moreover, it mitigates the language diversity due to bad weather conditions.
People that live in the same location for a long time also influences language diversity. Some geographic and social conditions influence people to stay in the same region for a longer period. The population included in the same region also causes high language diversity. For instance, when human groups get bigger, they divide themselves. Thus, you can expect different groups to reside at specific locations accommodating more people.
Immigrants in the US
The US has more immigrants as compared to other countries in the world. At present, approximately 40 million people that are living in the US are born in other countries. This shows that the US consists of one-fifth of the world’s population. Therefore, the population of the US is very diverse and US immigrants represent people from each country. The US foreign base population increased enormously when the US immigration department finished the national quota system.
People from all around the world wish to migrate to the USA because of their high quality of life. Moreover, US immigration opens a variety of opportunities. Immigration has changed the demographic dynamics of the United States. The majority of US immigrants came from different Latin countries and Mexico. It has the largest Spanish community residing there making Spanish the second most spoken language in a country. In Texas and California, 20% of the population speaks and understands the Spanish language. New York and Florida are two other states where people speak the Spanish language widely.
Technology has also influenced the number of languages that people speak in the USA. Top-notch companies in the US are hiring people from tech-savvy countries to take advantage of their expertise. These expatriates are from Asian countries where governments are spending heavily on technological advancement for a decade. Apart from technological advancements, these immigrants play an important role in the linguistic diversity in the US.
Languages Spoken in the US
The US is also called a melting pot because people from different cultures and nationalities of the world are residing there. Former president Jimmy Carter interprets it differently. According to him, the US is not a melting pot but it is a beautiful mosaic. Moreover, he said the US depicts, Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams. Whether we call the US a melting pot or Mosaic, the US is known for its enriched diversity. It is further demonstrated by the fact that a large number of languages are spoken there. Collectively, the people of the USA speak 430 different languages. Out of these languages, 176 languages are native. Moreover, fifty-two languages that are formally spoken by the people are becoming extinct.
One of the most widely Asian languages that people speak in the US is Mandarin Chinese. Approximately, 2% of the American people speak this language. In addition to Chinese, the other Asian languages that people speak in the US are Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Korean. You must be inquisitive to know which are the important languages that most people speak in the US. Let’s dive into them.
Although English is the most spoken language in the USA, you will be surprised to know that English is not the US official language. On an official record, the US has no official language. The people that advocate English come from a political background. While people that oppose English are pro-immigrant. As English is not an official language on a government level, still 50 states of the US have passed a law regarding making English an official language. The strange part is that despite it not being an official language but still a large number of people still speak English. In each state of the US, people speak English with different dialects. According to a Long Island University reference, associate Robert Delaney developed the map into 24 different dialects. Therefore, it seems different English versions are spoken in different parts of the US. Approximately, 231 million people speak this amazing language. The state, Hawaii, which is on the West coast of the USA has given English, the status of the official language with another language called Hawaiian Pidgin.
The number of people that speak Spanish in the US is less than English but 46 states of the USA have Spanish speakers. Therefore, it is the fastest-growing language in the US. According to Pew Research Centre, there are more Spanish speakers present in the US than in Spain. Therefore, it is the second most- spoken language next to Mexico in respect to the Spanish-speaking population. It is widely spoken in every state of the US with different dialects. The largest Spanish-speaking community in the US is called Hispanic. The ten US states with large Hispanic communities are California, Colorado, Arizona, Georgia, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois. Texas and New York. The Spanish language has made its name in American English with its phrases and words. Approximately, 37 million Spanish speakers are found in South America and Central America, and this is because of their proximity with Spanish-speaking countries. Spanish is also widely spoken in Nevada, El Paso, and San Francisco.
The Chinese language is gaining popularity in the global world because of China’s lucrative growth. The competition between the second and third most spoken language in the US is very confusing. However, a large number of people speak Chinese in the US. Many people from China migrated to California in the 19th century because they wanted to make their place in the state’s gold rush. You can see the legacy of Chinese people as a form of different Chinese communities called Chinatown. New York is one of the largest cities with Chinese speakers. Moreover, there are 12 Chinatowns in New York City only. Thus because of the gold rush, San Francisco is the city with the oldest Chinatown. A large number of Chinese speakers live in California, New York, and Texas making Chinese the most spoken language in the US. Around 2 million Americans speak different dialects of the Chinese language. Mandarin is the common dialect that is commonly used by immigrants from main China and to a lesser extent Taiwan. Although Cantonese, Taishanese, and Mandarin are different dialects of the Chinese language they are not mutually intelligible. Thus, if Chinese people are asked to explain Chinese language dialects, they only say the Chinese language.
Although Tagalog is a widely spoken language in the US still it is not a recognized name in the list of top languages that people speak in the US. Many of us are not aware of this language. Let’s find out. Tagalog is the language of the Philippines. Moreover, Filipino is the official language of the Philippines. Around 43% of Filipinos that are in the US live in California. Moreover, a large number of populations live in New York and Hawaii. The Filipinos were ruled by the United States in 1899. Therefore, Filipinos are Americans and they called themselves American nationals so they don’t have to go through the immigration process. Many Filipinos migrated to the US in the 20th century and they started working as agricultural laborers in California and Hawaii. Moreover, another batch of Filipino immigrants came in the era of 1960 and 2013 to take advantage of economic and educational opportunities. Approximately, 1.6 million people speak the Tagalog language with Nevada and California state with the largest number of speakers.
The number of people that speak Vietnamese in the United States is less than the number of people who speak Tagalog. Approximately, 300,000 Vietnamese people migrated to the US between 2000 and 2014. They came to reunite with their families after the Vietnam war. A large number of Vietnamese speakers live on the Pacific Coast. Moreover, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas also accommodate a large number of Vietnamese speakers. The diverse ethnic group like Hmong also speaks the Vietnamese language. It is native to 1.4 million people. Therefore, Vietnamese is the sixth most spoken language in the world. In the United States, Vietnamese is the fifth most spoken language. It is the third most spoken language in Washington and Texas, the fourth spoken language in Georgia, Virginia, and Louisiana. Furthermore, fifth most spoken language in California and Arkansas.
French is the sixth most spoken language in the United States. One of its dialects is called Louisiana Creole French that developed from the combination of French and African languages. Creole French has a history back from the 17th century and is a subset of American culture. France ruled the Louisiana territory in 1699 and French immigrants brought with them their rich heritage. Their culture is an amalgamation of Spanish and French settlers and American freed slaves. When Louisiana was purchased, the importance of enslaved Africans came into the limelight. Moreover, they drive the impact of West African languages on the French. This resulted in the emergence of Louisiana Creole. At present, it is still spoken in Southern Louisiana. Furthermore, People speak more French than Louisiana Creole. Approximately, 10,000 people speak French Creole while 1.25 million people speak French. Many English words are influenced by the French language in America.
The majority of people living in America speak the Korean language. This is because many people from Korea migrated to the US with their children and grandchildren. Around 1.2 million US people speak the Korean language and this number has doubled in the last 20 years. Korean is the third most language spoken in the US in the states of Georgia and Virginia. Moreover, it is also spoken in Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles. Furthermore. Korean community comprises 1.8 million people. Out of these 1.2 million people speak the Korean language because of their culture.
German is the second most spoken language in the US. It came into Germany when people from Pennsylvania and German Palatinate and nearby areas started migrating to Germany till the 20th century. Millions of immigrants from Germany, Switzerland, Russian Empires speak the German language in the US widely. There are nine states where people speak the German language widely. They are South Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. The large number of German-speaking papulation lies in North Dakota.
Hebrew is widely spoken in the US because it has a large Jewish population living outside Israel. The United States and Israel have very good economic and political ties. Therefore, it resulted in an influx of immigration to the US. Moreover, many Jews also migrated because they want to save themselves from Holocaust. A large number of Hebrew speakers reside in New York and Los Angeles.
430 million people around the globe speak the Arabic language. Out of this number, one million people speak the Arabic language in the US. Arabic is the fastest-growing language in the USA. Therefore, it is widely taught in the universities of the USA especially at the University of Iowa. The people between the age of 5 and older have increased tremendously to 1.1 million during the period from 2010 till 2014. Therefore, it makes Arabic the seventh most spoken language in the USA. As a result of the popularity of the Arabic language, the questionnaire of the 2020 census was prepared in the Arabic language.
Russian is included in the top fifteen languages of the US. It is one of the Slavic and European languages spoken in the country. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many Russian people migrated to the United States and brought with them a rich Russian language. The people that speak this language in Russia are mostly Jews. According to one of the statistics, Russian is the 12th most spoken language in the US. The Russian language entered the US through their shores in the 18th century with Russian explorers that arrived in Alaska. During that time, many immigrants scattered around the United States.
There is a long list of languages that people speak in the US. People from around the world wish to live in this country. Therefore, when they migrate, they bring with them their language and culture. When people from different cultures live together, they start speaking different languages and innovate new dialects. Thus making the US a more linguistically diverse country.