NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 18, 2005

A recent study examining linguistic diversity discovered that the United States has a complex mixture of foreign languages, says the U.S. English Foundation (USE).

Analyzing statistics from the 2000 census, USE developed a snapshot of the foreign languages spoken in each U.S. county and state as well as the nation.

  • It found that 322 languages are spoken in the United States, ranging alphabetically from Abnaki to Zuni, and in number of speakers from English (215,423,555) to Kalispel (4).
  • The top 10 most common languages spoken are English, Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Tagalog (one of the languages spoken in the Philippines), Vietnamese, Korean, Italian and Russian.
  • On a state by state basis, 26 states recorded more than 100 languages spoken within their borders, including 22 that exceeded 110 languages and 15 that exceeded 120 languages; however, 16 states recorded 90 or fewer languages, including 11 that recorded fewer than 80 languages.
  • Of the nation's 3,141 counties, 161 (5.1 percent) have 50 or more languages spoken, 529 (16.8 percent) have 20 or more languages spoken and 1,076 (34.3 percent) have 10 or more languages spoken.


  • English is the most common language spoken at home in 3,103 of the 3,141 counties (98.8 percent) and of the remaining 38 counties, Spanish is the most common language in 35 of them.
  • Texas is the home of 26 counties where English is not the most common language spoken at home, instead Spanish is; other states with such counties are New Mexico (6), Arizona (2), Alaska, California, Colorado and Florida.

Source: "Many Languages, One America," U.S. English Foundation, Inc., March 2005.


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