Languages Other Than English Used in More U.S. Homes, Data Show

Emily Alpert, Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2013

In California and across the country, more people are speaking Spanish, Korean or a slew of other languages besides English at home—a phenomenon that has historically set off heated debate about how immigrants will assimilate into American life.

Yet in recent years, as other tongues became more common in American homes, people nationwide were no less likely to speak English with ease, a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows. Scholars say slowing immigration has given rise to a more settled population of people born abroad.

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The numbers reveal that in recent years, the continued rise in other languages has not come at the expense of English proficiency. Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of U.S. residents who spoke another language at home rose slightly from 19.7% to 20.8%. During those same years, the share of people who spoke another language and did not speak English “very well” stayed flat at 8.7%, the report found.

Spanish speakers, in particular, became a bigger chunk of the population, yet the share of people nationwide who speak Spanish at home and struggle with English actually shrank very slightly, the report found. The reason: Spanish speakers became more likely to speak English smoothly.

That pattern was echoed in California, where nearly 44% of people speak something other than English at home. More Californians now speak Spanish at home—and increasing numbers of them also speak English very well, a Los Angeles Times analysis of Census Bureau estimates showed.

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The Census Bureau report also revealed surging numbers of people speaking Chinese, Vietnamese and African languages, while speakers of Italian and German have dwindled nationwide. Though English proficiency nationwide held steady from 2007 to 2011, it remained lower than in 2000.

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  • Revived Patriot

    “…Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language…” John Jay would sure be disappointed today. All of those great men would. The nation they built has been given to a very diverse and rebellious posterity. ‘Diversity is our strength’…bite me.

  • sbuffalonative

    It drives me mad when I hear pro-illegal alien supporters lie that these people want to learn English. They don’t want to learn English. They want us to accommodate them.

    I know in the past, pockets of immigrants had their own newspapers and some had a local radio station but this new trend is completely different.

    How soon before Spanish is made the official language? I’ll bet in a few years, America will be declared a bi-lingual country.

    • kjh64

      “I’ll bet in a few years, America will be declared a bi-lingual country.”

      Here in the Southwest, it already de facto is. It’s getting more and more common to have to speak Spanish in order to get hired. Why is this necessary if all of these migrants are “assimilating” and know English? I go to my local Walmart or out in public in places and find that I’m the only Anglo, English-speaker around. Can anyone say colonization?

      • mobilebay

        kjh64, my husband applied for part-time work at Home Depot. He was told they weren’t hiring anyone who wasn’t bi-lingual. I imagine this is HD’s policy in all their stores. Wonder if all Spanish-speaking countries require employees to speak English?

      • MikeofAges

        Why is it necessary to have to speak Spanish in order to get hired?

        Legally, there is the concept of “business necessity”, but does business necessity require that 100 percent “bilingual” office workers be hired in a market with a large Hispanic population? Maybe not, but most often that is what is done anyway even by Anglo-owned businesses.

        Not only that, but “bilingual” does not mean “able to speak two languages”. It means an “assimilated, gentrified Hispanics who speak Spanish and fluent English”. I have seen this issue close up in Monterey County in California. An Anglo woman who speaks fluent Spanish will not be hired. The issue is not knowledge of language, but who Hispanics will do business with. Many of the customers are fluent in English, but simply will take their business somewhere else if the office is not full of Hispanic office workers. Only if we lay down the law, and I mean law literally, could this change. We have to make it clear that some practices are illegal. Business necessity does not require that an office be 100 percent Hispanic, other than the “boss” simply because there are some clients who are more fluent in Spanish than English. That the day goes by better if everyone is the “same” is not a justification. It’s not legal in Boston and Chicago, and it shouldn’t be legal in Salinas, Miami, Albuquerque or El Paso either.

        If you think this is an issue on with regard to Hispanics, in Kent, WA I have seen ads for a Russian-English bilingual receptionist. Guarantee you, an American girl or woman who had learned Russian (there are a few, and I even know of one from a university class I once took) would not be good enough. Bilingual again means an “assimilated, gentrified Russian who speaks Russian and fluent English”.

        Boycotting these businesses means very little. And it is hard to try to take our business to our own “kind”, even defined loosely as any assimilated American descended from any European ethnic group or nationality. Anglo-owned business are under large and largely secretive pressure to embrace diversity”. From this point of view, it would be better to take your business to a black-owned store or company than an immigrant-oriented one. But there just about aren’t any, outside of services like insurance, real estate and few practitioners.

    • mobilebay

      All that’s left is to declare it. We have in fact become a bi-lingual nation, filled with people who laugh at our laws and a nation which has given up any pretense of enforcing our immigration laws. I probably won’t live to seen this become a predominantly Hispanic country, but my children and grandchildren will.

  • din_do_nuffins

    We are Third World, but deserve worse.

  • These are troubling numbers. 44% of California does not speak English at home?

    During those same years, the share of people who spoke another language and did not speak English “very well” stayed flat at 8.7%, the report found.

    The not very well at 8.7% stayed flat? Government numbers is all I can say ….
    How can we spin these positive???
    They had to add the royalties on syndication of TV shows and similar into the GDP for the last quarter to show the economy was growing.

  • Spartacus

    Are you sure they speak “English” ? Because I’ve seen some blacks and mexicans on youtube, and they were speaking “Engrish” .

  • Luca

    Just another nail in the American coffin. And that nail was probably made in China.

    • China_Rising

      This time it was made in Jerusalem or DC, not China.

  • logwarrior

    My son, 21, has taken my advice and seen the writing on the wall. He’s learning Russian and German so he can get while the getting is good. I’ll miss seeing my grandkids often but at least I know they will have a chance.

  • kjh64

    Our move towards the “tower of babel” continues.

  • bigone4u

    “Assimilate” my ***. I don’t care about assimilation. I want them out of here or else give me my own White country to move to.

  • Romulus

    First off, the article is complete bullcrap as its coming from la la land. Secondly , assimilation was another lie. There is no way possible that america will remain intact if millions more foreigners pour in from around the globe. ONLY BIRDS OF A FEATHER TRULY ASSIMILATE. English proficiency???!!!, What the hell are talking about? Where?! Most suburban soccer kids cant open there mouth without using the word “like” every other word. The blacks speak like a troop of lower primates! What glue is going to hold us together? Most californians?! Doesnt he mean border jumping illegals! Foreign nationals!

  • Freedoooom

    I speak Russian in and outside the house.

    Its very convenient to be able to have private conversations out in public.

  • ViktorNN

    This article’s definition of “speaking English” must be pretty loose. The average low IQ mestizo Mexican immigrant here in S. California is illiterate in both Spanish and English, and even if they could speak a language – any language – well, they don’t have anything particularly interesting or important to say.

    And I sincerely doubt their descendants in 20, 50, or 100 years will be much more interesting. I predict they will be listening to the same oompah music, living in the same squalor, and worshipping the same death god. Such a brilliant idea letting these folks in.

  • Ariadne speaks Japanese with her mother and English with me.

  • Spartacus

    “In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college.” – Joseph Sobran

    • MikeofAges

      In the 1970s, I took a laboratory science class at a state college in California. The instructor was a black man born in the 1920s, with a Ph.D. from a major Northern university. He got his undergraduate degree at a black private (not public, private) college in the South. Obviously, this type of institution had a limited base of applicants to choose from. But he told me that in order to be admitted to that school, you had to know Greek and Latin. Today, “dat’s de white man’s tricknology.” Even the white kids, except a small, tiny number, aren’t up to it.

      I wonder, if to major in Black Studies, you had to be able at least read Spanish, French, Dutch or Portuguese, either that or an African language, to get your degree, how fast the students would run from the program.

  • FourFooted_Messiah

    More of a prob here in Canada. I mean, yes, we used to have lots of old Eastern European type refugees, where the house was pretty much polyglot. My Yugoslavian friend as a child, and her brother, were fluent in English. Their dad, kind of, as he worked at Kelsey-Hayes, but he always shouted everything he said out of habit (you get used to that in a factory town, everyone’s bloody deaf.) The Mom made pastries for a downtown restaurant, and understood English better than she could speak it – I could talk to her, and she would nod, and then speak to my friend in whatever language – Slovak? for the girl to translate back to me. In fact, most of the Eastern Euro widows in my neigbourhood understood English better than they felt comfortable speaking it. I think they were just self-conscious, as I am when trying to speak a language unfamiliar to me. Hell, I feel like an idiot ordering a coffee at a Tim’s in St Eustache because I know my accent sucks.

    Now, I dunno, no one seems the need to assimilate, or to let their kids assimilate.