Census: Non-English Speakers in U.S. Nearly Triple in 30 Years

Wednesday, 07 Aug 2013 03:05 PM

By Lisa Barron

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The number of people in the U.S. who speak a language other than English at home has nearly tripled over the past three decades, vastly outpacing the 38 percent population growth, according to U.S. data released on Tuesday. 

Some 60.6 million people, or nearly one-in-five people in the U.S. aged 5 or older, spoke a language other than English at home in 2011, up from 23 million in 1980, or almost one-in-11, the U.S. Census Bureau said in a report, "Language Use in the United States: 2011."

Among the non-English speakers, two-thirds speak Spanish, with about 37.6 million in the U.S. speaking Spanish at home in 2011, up from about 11 million in 1980.
Chinese was the next most widely spoken language, with nearly 2.9 million speakers in 2011.

Those two languages, along with Vietnamese, Russian, Persian, Armenian, Korean and Tagalog have seen their use more than double in the U.S. over the last three decades.
Other Asian and African languages such as Hindi and Swahili have also seen significant growth, according to the report.

"This study provides evidence of the growing role of languages other than English in the national fabric," said Camille Ryan, a statistician in the Census Bureau's Education and Social Stratification Branch and the report's author.

"Yet, at the same time that more people are speaking languages other than English at home, the percentage of people speaking English proficiently has remained steady."

Among those who speak another language, 78 percent said they speak English "well" or "very well," while 22 percent said they speak English "not well" or "not at all," the 2011 data showed.

The U.S. has been tracking language use since 1890.

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