“Se Habla Español.” The sign meaning “Spanish is spoken here” is commonly seen in business storefronts and advertising and is a commentary on the changing times and America’s fast-growing Spanish-speaking population.
But try this sign on for size: “America -- We Speak 350 Languages Here.”
A new U.S. Census Bureau report out Tuesday highlights the breathtaking diversity of language in the United States. According to the report, the most comprehensive data ever released on languages spoken less widely in the U.S., at least 350 languages are spoken in American homes.
Those languages include Pennsylvania Dutch, Ukrainian, Turkish, Romanian and many others, as well as 150 Native North American languages like Dakota, Apache and Cherokee. More than 350,000 people speak Native North American languages, according to the report, which is based on American Community Survey data collected from 2019 to 2013.
“While most of the U.S. population speaks only English at home or a handful of other languages like Spanish or Vietnamese, the (data) reveals the wide-ranging language diversity of the United States,” a Census Bureau spokesman said in a statement.
In the New York metro area alone, more than 1 in 3 people age 5 and over speak a language other than English at home, and at least 192 languages are spoken. If you speak Bengali at home, you have company. About 106,000 people in the New York metro area speak the language native to the region of Bengal.
Even smaller language groups were found in other major metro areas. In Chicago, where at least 153 languages are spoken at home, about 17,500 people speak Serbian. And in Los Angeles, at least 185 languages are spoken, and about 13,000 people speak Indonesian.
In the Riverside, Calif. Metro area, 2,425 people speak Dutch at home. And in the Atlanta metro area, it might not be unthinkable to spot a sign that says, “Swahili spoken here.” According to the census data, 4,195 Atlanta residents speak Swahili.
Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Amharic are just a few of the other less-widely spoken languages in the nation’s most populous metro areas.
Knowing the number of languages and how many people speak them in a particular area provides valuable information to policymakers, planners and researchers, the Census Bureau said.