Record One in Five U.S. Residents Speak a Foreign Language At Home

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A record one in five people living in the United States in 2015 spoke a foreign language at home, including nearly one in four public school students, a new study shows.

Analyzing the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, the Center for Immigration studies found that a record 65 million U.S. residents speak some language other than English at home, more than double the 31.8 million people who spoke a foreign language in 1990.

CIS also noted that the 21.5 percent of current U.S. residents who speak a foreign language at home is nearly triple the number in 1980, when about 23 million residents spoke a language other than English at home.

The group found that the largest percentage increase of foreign language speakers between 2010 and 2015 was among speakers of Arabic, up 34 percent from 2010. Other foreign languages that saw a dramatic increase during that time frame include several tongues spoken across the Middle East, CIS explains:

The largest percentage increases from 2010 to 2015 were among speakers of Arabic (up 34 percent), Hindi (up 33 percent), Urdu (up 24 percent), Chinese (up 19 percent), French Creole (up 16 percent), Gujarati (up 14 percent), and Persian (up 13 percent). Hindi and Gujarati are languages of India; Urdu is spoken in Pakistan; French Creole is spoken in Haiti; and Persian is the national language of Iran.

The U.S. also added another 3.1 million individuals who speak primarily Spanish at home between 2010 and 2015, and another 525,000 who speak Chinese.

Many foreign-language speakers, particularly children, are not necessarily foreign-born, CIS noted. Roughly 44 percent of all U.S. residents who speak a foreign language at home were born here; however, about 40 percent of the total group reported that they spoke English “less than very well.”

Broken down by state, California had the highest percentage of foreign language speakers in the nation at 45 percent. In Texas, the state with the second highest foreign language percentage, 35 percent of the population spoke some language other than English.

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