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At Least 350 Languages Spoken in US Homes

  • VOA News

FILE - While many U.S. youngsters study foreign languages, such as Arabic at the Muslim Youth Academy in Dearborn, Michigan, at home plenty of them speak languages other than English.

FILE - While many U.S. youngsters study foreign languages, such as Arabic at the Muslim Youth Academy in Dearborn, Michigan, at home plenty of them speak languages other than English.

At least 350 languages are spoken in homes in the United States, the federal Census Bureau found in survey data collected from 2009 to 2013. Earlier research showed only 39 languages.

Census data released this week found that while most of the U.S. population speaks only English — or Spanish, Mandarin, French and Vietnamese — at home, many other languages abound.

Information was drawn from the country's 15 largest metropolitan areas. In two of them, Los Angeles and Miami, just over half of all residents age 5 or older speak a language other than English at home. The percentages are 54 and 51, respectively.

Less common languages include Pennsylvania Dutch, Ukrainian, Turkish, Romanian and Amharic, according to the survey. Also spoken are 150 different Native American languages, used collectively by more than 350,000 people, including Yupik, Dakota, Apache, Keres and Cherokee.

The data reveal the "wide-ranging language diversity in the United States," Erik Vickstrom, a Census Bureau statistician, said in a statement. "… Knowing the number of languages and how many speak these languages in a particular area provides valuable information to policymakers, planners and researchers."

The most diversity was found in the New York metro region, where at least 192 languages are spoken. Among residents age 5 and older, nearly two out of five (38 percent) speak a language other than English.

Next are Los Angeles (with at least 185 languages), Washington, D.C. (168), Seattle (166) and Phoenix (163).

The findings, based on American Community Survey data, show smaller languages in specific areas. For instance, the New York metro area recorded 105,765 Bengali speakers. Los Angeles had 12,750 Indonesian speakers, and Chicago had 17,490 Serbian speakers. The Texas community of Houston had 4,690 Tamil speakers.

Other lesser-used languages cited in the study include Albanian, Telugo, Malayalam, Tamil, Swahili, Panjabi, Syriac, Pima and Ukrainian.

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