Around the World in Statistics

By Camille Ryan and Tiffany Julian

Did you know that more than 300 different languages are spoken in the United States? A new report and mapping tool released today by the U.S. Census Bureau takes a detailed look at many of the most popular languages spoken at home in America.

Of the 292 million people age 5 and older in the U.S. in 2011, 60.6 million individuals, or 21 percent, reported speaking a language other than English at home. This number grew by 158 percent from 1980 to 2010, while the nation’s overall population age 5 years and older grew by 38 percent. Check out this viz-of-the-week to see which languages grew the most.

The statistics show us not only that people spoke a language other than English at home, but also how well they spoke English.

What’s interesting is that while the number of people who speak languages other than English at home continues to grow, the majority speak English “very well,” so the population in need of language assistance has not grown at the same rate. In fact, the overall percentage of the population who spoke English less than “very well” did not change from 2007 to 2011, staying at 8.7 percent.

Young people, native-born citizens, and people who completed college are especially likely to speak English “very well.”

If you are wondering what languages are spoken in your community, you can look it up with a new tool released today. The 2011 Language Mapper illustrates the geographic concentration of the population speaking 15 individual languages. The mapper, which uses data collected in the American Community Survey from 2007 to 2011, also shows, for each of these languages, the concentration of those who spoke English less than “very well.”

The languages available in the mapping tool include Spanish, French, French Creole, Italian, Portuguese, German, Russian, Polish, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Arabic. Dots on the map represent the number of speakers of that language in a given census tract.

The dots become more refined as you zoom into a community and you can turn on street maps to provide context. You can also search for a specific location — type in your address in the top right corner to see how what languages are spoken around you.

For more information, please check out the report, Language Use in the United States: 2011 and use the tool here.

Ryan and Julian are demographers with the U.S. Census Bureau.