Census: U.S. Is 5th Largest Spanish-Speaking Country

Claudio Iván Remeseira

From NBC Latino and our content partner, New America Media:


The U.S. Census Bureau released an interactive, online map pinpointing the vast array of non-English languages spoken in homes across the nation.


In addition to Spanish, the map shows the national distribution of speakers of Arabic, Chinese, French, French Creole, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.


After selecting one of those languages from the menu, users will see a national population density map, with each dot representing from 10 to 100 speakers, depending on the geographic concentration.


Of the 60.6 million people who spoke a language other than English at home in 2011, almost two-thirds (37.6 million) spoke Spanish. This places the U.S. as the fifth-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world –not the second one, as it is usually said— after Mexico (117 million), Spain (47.2 million), Colombia (47 million) and Argentina (41 million).


The information, taken from the American Community Survey, includes nation, states and metropolitan areas.


The Census Bureau also released “Language Use in the United States: 2011,” a report that shows the increase of non-English speakers over the past three decades. In this century, the percentage of people speaking a language other than English at home went from 17.9 percent in 2000 to 20.8 percent in 2011.


More than half (58 percent) of U.S. residents five and older who speak a language other than English at home say that they also speak English “very well.”  Spanish speakers fare in this regard just below the middle of the chart, less well than speakers of German, French, Tagalog, and Arabic, and better than Russian, Korean, and Chinese speakers.


The percentage of people speaking English “less than very well” also grew from 8.1 percent in 2000 to 8.7 percent in 2007, but stayed at that level through 2011.

The percentage speaking Spanish at home grew from 12.0 percent in 2005 to 12.9 percent in 2011. In contrast to the overall trend, however, the percent that spoke Spanish at home but spoke English “less than very well” declined from 5.7 percent to 5.6 percent over the period.


Author Bio:

Claudio Iván Remeseira is a New York-based award-winning journalist, writer, and critic. He is the translator of the Spanish-language on-line section of The Nation and editor of Hispanic New York, an online portal and blog on current events and culture.  He is the Editor of Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook (Columbia University Press, 2010), an anthology of essays on the city’s Latino, Latin American & Iberian cultural heritage, and winner of the Latino International Book Award in the category of Best Reference Book in English (2011).


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