Census: Non-English Language Use has Tripled

Census bureau data released yesterday shows that the number of people speaking a language other than English has nearly tripled over the past three decades, out pacing the population growth. 

While Spanish remains the most widely spoken language after English, other languages, particularly those from South Asia and Africa, have also soared in use, the U.S. Census Bureau said in a report.

One in five people aged 5 or older spoke a language other than English at home in 2011, compared to 1980 where the number was 1 in 11, an increase of 23 million.  The bureau calculates that over three decades there was a 158% rise, while there was only a 38% increase in overall US population. 

Among those who speak a language other than English at home, two-thirds speak Spanish. About 37.6 million people in the United States spoke Spanish at home in 2011, up from about 11 million in 1980, the Census report found.

Vietnamese, Russian, Persian, Armenian, and Tagalog have more than doubled in the last 30 years. Asian and African languages have also seen significant growth.  

“While increased immigration led to gains for some language groups, other groups experienced aging populations and dwindling migrant flows into the United States,” the report said.

“We continue to be a country of immigrants, but that misconception of immigrants not learning English is not really true,” said linguistic expert Peter Sayer. 


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