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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
Foreign languages gain ground in US
Hispanic family
Hispanics are now the largest US minority group
The latest US census shows a big rise in the number of people who speak languages other than English at home.

According to the 2000 census, 47 million people over the age of five - nearly a sixth of the US population - do not speak English with their families.

This is an increase of 15 million people since 1990.

The changes reflect the surge in immigration into the US since 1990, an influx which has made Hispanics the largest minority group.

California led the states where people spoke a language other than English at home, followed by New Mexico and Texas.

The west and south of the US had about three times the number of Spanish speakers (21 million) as the north-east and Midwest (7 million).

Linguistic isolation

There has also been a sharp rise in the number of Americans regarded as "linguistically isolated" because of their limited English.

US LANGUAGES (excluding English)
Spanish: 28,101,052
Chinese: 2,022,143
French: 1,643,838
German: 1,382,613
Tagalog (Philippines): 1,224,241
Vietnamese: 1,009,627
Italian: 1,008,370
Korean: 894,063
Russian: 706,242
Polish: 667,414
Arabic: 614,582
Portuguese: 564,630
Japanese: 477,997
French Creole: 453,368
Greek: 365,436
Hindi: 317,057
Persian: 312,085
Urdu: 262,900
Gujarathi: 235,988
Armenian: 202,708

Nearly 12 million people live in households where no adult speaks English well enough to communicate easily in shops, or with doctors or police.

But the report, entitled Language Use and English-Speaking Ability: 2000, said 55% of the people who spoke a language other than English at home said they spoke English "very well".

The largest proportional increase in the 1990s was Russian, the report says, with speakers nearly trebling, from 242,000 to 706,000.

The second largest increase was among French Creole speakers (including Haitian Creoles), whose numbers more than doubled, from 188,000 to 453,000.

Hispanics overtake blacks in US
19 Jun 03  |  Americas

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