Census: Change In Foreign Languages Spoken In The Home Provides Immigration Insight
August 8, 2013 by Sam Rolley
No hoblo Inglés. 我不會說英語. Ako ay hindi marunong mag-Ingles.
According to recently released Census data, the number of people living in the United States who speak a language other than English has nearly tripled in the past three decades, outpacing overall population growth.
One in five people in the United States, or about 60.6 million, over the age of 5 reported using a language other than English to communicate in the home. That’s up from 23 million in 1980.
In the three-decade period, the overall U.S. population grew by 38 percent compared to a 158 percent rise in the number of people in the Nation who don’t use English in the home. Linguistics experts say that the growing trend of immigrants not using English in the home doesn’t necessarily mean the United States has a burgeoning population of people who don’t know English, but that the trend represents a growing trend of multilingualism.
According to the 2011 Census numbers, 78 percent of those who speak a foreign language at home said they speak English “well” or “very well,” while just 22 percent said they speak English “not well” or “not at all.”
Two-thirds of people living in the United States who avoid English at home are Spanish speakers, a population of about 37.6 million people in 2011. In 1980, the Census reported only 11 million people who used Spanish as their primary language at home.
The next most widely spoken foreign language in American homes was Chinese, with 2.9 million speakers in 2011.
Illustrating changes in the makeup of the United States’ immigrant population over the past three decades, many European languages are fading in the Nation, while the in-home use of Vietnamese, Russian, Persian, Armenian, Korean and Tagalog has doubled since 1980.
The number of people speaking Italian in the home has decreased by half during the same time period. The Census also reported a significant drop in the number of German, Hungarian, French, Greek, Yiddish and Polish speakers.
Census officials contend that studying shifts foreign language use in American homes provides valuable insight to the Nation’s immigration flow.
“While increased immigration led to gains for some language groups, other groups experienced aging populations and dwindling migrant flows into the United States,” the Census report said.
The report continued, “As people get older and spend time in the United States, they are increasingly likely to make English their main language.”