Quick—guess how many languages are spoken in the US. Did you say two? (English and Spanish probably come to mind for most people.) Did you say 10? (Hey, you’re cultured—you lived in New York for a couple of years and you can name the immigrant communities there.) A few dozen? (You’re getting warmer, but you’re still a long way off.)
The correct answer to the question How many languages are spoken in the US? is 381. No, that’s not a typo. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Check out the infographic below for more information or jump to trivia or the rankings.
Also, check out why it’s important to learn a foreign language.
How Many Languages Are Spoken in the US? | Trivia
- English is not the official language of the United States. It’s just the de facto national language.
- 1 out of 5 people living in the US speaks a language other than English in the home.
- Six languages (Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, Korean, and German) each have over 1 million speakers in the US.
- There are more speakers of Chinese in the US than there are people in Chicago, Illinois.
How Many Languages Are Spoken in the US? | Rankings
Below is information about the nine most widely spoken languages (besides English) in the US. Languages are ranked by number of individuals older than 5 who use a language other than English in the home.
- Spanish (37.6 million). Spanish was once confined to southern California, Texas, New York, Miami, and small towns along the US-Mexican border. The most widely spoken language in the US besides English, it can now be heard in cities and towns across America.
- Chinese (2.9m) Major concentrations of Chinese speakers are in San Francisco and New York, though Chinatowns can be found in dozens of smaller cities throughout the US.
- Tagalog (1.6m) The main language of the Philippines, Tagalog is the third most widely spoken foreign language in US homes. Chicago, Houston, and Washington, D.C. all have significant Tagalog communities.
- Vietnamese (1.4m). Vietnamese immigrants came to the US in large numbers in the mid-70s, after the Vietnam War had ended. Today, over half of Vietnamese speakers reside in two US states—Texas and California.
- French (1.3.m). The two biggest French strongholds in the US are in Louisiana and New England. In fact, there’s a small town in Maine where 80% of the residents are French speakers. It’s not surprising that it borders Canada—or that it’s named Frenchville.
- Korean (1.1m). There is a Koreatown in both L.A. and New York. In fact, the ethnic Korean population of the entire New York City metropolitan area is second only to that of Korea.
- German (1.1m). German’s influence can be traced to waves of immigration, notably that between 1820 and 1870, when some 2 million Germans (about a third of the 1810 U.S. population) landed on US shores. Today, there are pockets of German speakers throughout the US, with two of the most well-known concentrations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and north-central Ohio.
- Arabic (952,000). According to the Arab-American Institute, California and Michigan have the highest numbers of Arabic-Americans in the country. Over 40% of the population of Dearborn, Michigan (near Detroit) is of Arabic ancestry.
- Russian (906,000). Russian enjoys minority status in some two dozen countries—including the US. Major Russian enclaves are in San Francisco and the Brighton Beach neighborhood of New York City.
“Language Use in the United States: 2011.” American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau. 2011.
Wikipedia. (multiple pages)
“25f. Irish and German Immigration.” ushistory.org.
Arab American Institute