The one true immigrant destination, the “US”, is considered the melting pot of the world. People all over the world come here in search of the great American dream. But that doesn’t mean leaving their identity and culture behind. The US is known for its cultural diversity which includes music, cuisines, and languages, among other things. On the subject of languages spoken in the United States, it is interesting to note that there is actually no official language in the US, “even though” English is the de facto national language that is spoken by nearly 78 percent of the population.
Though English is one of the most spoken languages in the USA, other languages too have their fair share. The number of bilingual residents is steadily rising, and they make up about 23 percent of the population right now. If you are a business owner targeting the US market, it makes sense to learn about the demographics and the languages spoken in your targeted market “or community”. Reaching the right audience in the language they know and think in, will get your message across swiftly and help you reach your business goals. To make your task easier we have created an updated list of the most commonly spoken languages in the US. Have a look at it and start formulating your marketing strategy now.
English is the most prevalent spoken language in the US. With more than 78 percent of the population comprising around 239 million speakers, it is the de facto national language. With English mentioned and out of the way, let’s look at some other most commonly spoken languages in the US next.
Ranked from 1 to 10, Spanish comes second among the most spoken languages in the USA. With a thriving native Latino population and ongoing immigration from Spanish-speaking neighboring countries, the number of Spanish speakers is set to rise. Around 13.4 percent or 41 million US residents speak Spanish, and it is the 2nd most commonly spoken language in 43 of 50 US states. It is also a preferred choice for the foreign language credit in high schools across the US, with around 6 million students choosing it. From a business point of view, the states with the most Spanish speakers are Puerto Rico, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Colorado, and California with Washington and Idaho trailing close behind. Cities with the highest number of Spanish speakers include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami.
3. Chinese ( Mandarin, Cantonese, Gan, Hakka, and other variants)
Also, among the most commonly spoken languages in the US, Chinese including its different variants is ranked third. But unlike Spanish speakers, Chinese speakers at 3.5 million are only around 1.1 of the total US population. The speaker size may be small, but they have seen an exponential growth of 290% since the 1980s. Most of the Chinese speakers in the US speak Mandarin and Cantonese. Chinese speakers are mostly concentrated in New York, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Tagalog is the 4th among the top languages spoken in the US. Filipino, the national language of the Philippines evolved from Tagalog. There are nearly 1.7 million Tagalog speakers in the US comprising about 0.6 percent of the population. Tagalog speakers have tripled over the last three decades with the majority living in New York, Illinois, California, and Hawaii.
Vietnamese ranks 5th among the most commonly spoken languages in the US. After the Vietnam War, many pro-American Vietnamese refugees settled in the US. Since the 1980s, the number of Vietnamese speakers has jumped more than 500% and is about 1.5 million or 0.5 percent of the population. Vietnamese speakers are mostly settled in California, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington. The cities with the most Vietnamese speakers include Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles.
Surprised to find Arabic on the list? The lyrical middle eastern language ranks 6th among the most spoken languages in the USA. Arabic in its different varieties has around 1.2 million speakers in the US. Most of the Arabic speakers in the US are concentrated in California, Michigan, and New York.
The aristocratic language with the silken touch has the 7th position among the most commonly spoken languages in the US. Along with pilgrims, the French were among the earliest settlers on the North American continent. Among America’s neighbors, Canada has a sizeable French population of around 8.2 million. In the US, the French speakers are mainly concentrated in Maine, Vermont, Louisiana, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. It is the 2nd most commonly spoken language in Maine and Vermont, and the third most common in the rest of the states mentioned above. French also has around 1.3 million speakers in Washington DC, Miami, and New York.
Around 1.1 million US citizens speak Korean making it 8th among the top languages spoken in the US. Most of the Korean immigration to the US happened after the Korean war of 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. The popularity of Korean movies, TV dramas, and K-pop has also raised interest in the Korean language and culture worldwide. Korean speakers in the US are mainly concentrated in California, and in the metropolises like Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. It is also the 3rd most commonly spoken language in the southern states of Georgia and Virginia.
Russian ranks 9th among the most common languages spoken in the United States. Russian speakers quadrupled in the last 30 years bringing their current population to 0.94 million. They are spread around the country with most concentrated in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Alaska, Pennsylvania, and California.
Along with the British and French, Dutch and German immigrants were among the first to settle in the colonies. At 0.94 million, German ranks 10th among the most commonly spoken languages in the US. German including its different dialects are spoken throughout the country. It is the second most commonly spoken language in North Dakota. And it doesn’t stop here only. It is the 3rd most commonly spoken language in 16 other mid-western and southern states. These include Idaho Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Massachusetts, Ohio, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Indiana, and Kentucky.
With such diversity, the US is home to many other languages too. Here are a brief mention of the next 10 most spoken languages in the USA.
- Haitian Creole- 0.87 million
- Hindi- 0.86 million
- Portuguese- 0.79 million
- Italian- 0.58 million
- Polish- 0.52 million
- Yiddish- 0.51 million
- Japanese- 0.46 million
- Persian and its variants- 0.42 million
- Gujarati- 0.41 million
- Telegu- 0.37 million
- Bengali- 0.32 million
Becoming aware of the fact that you live in one of the most multicultural countries on the planet, and linguistically the most diverse, you will be taking the most important step towards ensuring security, social integration, justice, and prosperity in your community, whether you are a business, a government agency, a school, a hospital, or an individual.