As many of us know, the US has received people from many different parts of the world since the 1800s. Nowadays around 1 million people arrive in the U.S. per year seeking the American Dream and a better lifestyle. These people not only bring luggage with them but also their own identities, cultures, and languages, making the US a very diverse and multicultural country in which many different languages are spoken, but what are the top spoken languages in the U.S.? Let´s find out.
English – 254 million Native Speakers
The use of the English language in the U.S. is a result of the British colonization that happened in the 17th century. Even though this is the number one and the most spoken language in the country, it is not the official language of the US since the US has no official language. That being said, even though there are no laws stating that English is the official language at the federal level, 31 states have their own laws proclaiming it as the official language on the state level, which usually just means it has to be used for government communications.
Spanish- 43,200,000 Native Speakers
The amount of Spanish-speaking immigrants has increased tremendously in the past few years, making Spanish one of the fastest-growing languages in the country. Almost every state has its own local Hispanic community, but the largest Spanish-speaking communities are located in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.
There were nearly 60 million Latinos in the United States in 2017, accounting for approximately 18% of the U.S. population. In fact, there are more Spanish speakers in the U.S. than in Spain, making it second only to Mexico in terms of the Spanish-speaking population. After Native Americans, Hispanics are the oldest ethnic group to inhabit much of what is today the United States, with many Hispanics being of Indigenous descent. In terms of vocabulary, Spanish words and phrases have made their way into American English, perhaps most visibly in numerous American cities and states (San Francisco, Nevada, El Paso, etc.).
Chinese (including Cantonese, Mandarin, and other varieties) – 2,900,000 Native speakers
The third leading language in the list is Chinese in most of its variations. The migration of Chinese people to the United States started in the 19th century, and their culture is very present in many states in the so-called Chinatowns. New York City hosts the largest population of ethnic Chinese outside of Asia, and there are 12 Chinatowns in the New York metropolitan area only.
Chinese immigrants first flocked to the United States in the 1850s, eager to escape the economic chaos in China and to try their luck at the California gold rush. Thanks to this, San Francisco is home to the oldest American Chinatown. The vast majority of Chinese speakers in the United States reside in California, followed by New York, with Texas a distant third.
Tagalog – 1,610,000 native speakers
Filipinos in North America were first documented in the 16th century and other small settlements beginning in the 18th century. Mass migration did not begin until after the end of the Spanish–American War at the end of the 19th century when the Philippines was ceded from Spain to the United States in the Treaty of Paris.
As of 2018, there were 4.1 million Filipinos, or Americans with Filipino ancestry, in the United States with large communities in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, and the New York metropolitan area. Despite being widely spoken across the United States,
Tagalog has less name recognition than the other languages on this list of the most spoken languages in the United States. For those who’ve never heard of it, it’s widely spoken in the Philippines, and its standardized version — Filipino — is one of the country’s official languages.
The number of Vietnamese speakers in the United States is only slightly lower than the number of Tagalog speakers. More than 300,000 Vietnamese immigrants arrived in the United States between 2000 and 2014, primarily to reunite with family members — many of whom sought asylum following the Vietnam War. Vietnamese Americans are mainly concentrated in metropolitan areas in the West, including Orange County, California, San Jose, California, and Houston, Texas.
French and French Creole (including Cajun) – 1,281,300 native speakers
French is only the sixth most spoken language in the United States if you include Louisiana Creole French, which is a hybrid of French and African languages. Creole French is a particularly interesting subset of American culture, with roots dating back to the 17th century. France controlled the Louisiana territory starting in 1699, and French settlers brought over their language and culture. The region was a rich mix of cultures and classes, comprising French and Spanish settlers,
Native Americans, slaves, and freed slaves. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the importation of enslaved Africans skyrocketed, driving the influence of West African languages on the regional French. That’s when Louisiana Creole emerged, and it’s still spoken today in southern Louisiana (especially New Orleans).
Today, more Americans speak standard French than Louisiana Creole (just over 10,000 people speak French Creole in the United States as opposed to 1.25 million who speak standard French). And French influence can be seen in numerous American English words and phrases. When you eat an omelet, change the decor of your home, or go to the ballet, you’re seamlessly blending French into your everyday life.
This is only a shortlist of the most spoken languages in the US but this does not include the many other different languages that are also spoken in the country. There are at least 350 different languages that are spoken in the States and this makes it one of the most diverse and multicultural countries in the world.
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