Although there is no official language in the United States, the vast majority of Americans speak English, and it is the language used by the government and in commerce.
However, in a land comprised of immigrants, it’s not surprising that a language other than English is often spoken in American homes.
The American Community Survey, which has been around since 1850, collects information about a wide variety of diverse topics, including how much money Americans have, marital status, educational level, disability, fertility,who has insurance, how much people are paying on their mortgages, who has access to health care, computer use, and what language is spoken at home.
The survey found that the vast majority of Americans speak only English at home. The second most common language is Spanish. However, when you take out English and Spanish, an interesting map emerges of where certain ethnic groups have congregated in the United States.
German dominates the American Midwest, which is not terribly surprising when you consider that people of German ancestry, about 16 million of them, are the largest ancestry group in the United States, according to Ancestry & Ethnicity in the United States.
French is the language spoken most often (after English and Spanish) in one-fifth of the U.S. states. More than 11 million Americans identify themselves as having either French or French Canadian roots.
Why collect this information? The U.S. government has a variety of uses for language data. The Department of Education uses the information to fund programs for young children learning English and to provide learning opportunities for adults.
Many agencies use the data to determine how to deliver critical information to people who don’t speak English well. For example, under the Voting Rights Act, voting materials must be available in the languages spoken in a community.
State and local governments also use the language statistics to determine which services to offer to people in the community who don’t speak English well, including job training.
Private business might employ bilingual workers and advertise in a language other than English in order to reach potential customers in areas with populations who aren’t fluent in English.