What is the Official Language of the United States?
The United States does not have an official national language, though American English is its primary language. English is used for legislation, executive orders, treaties, federal court rulings, and other official pronouncements. It is also the language taught in schools across the nation. But it is not the only language spoken in the U.S. — not by a long shot.
About 15 years ago, the United States Census Bureau collected data on the languages other than English that were widely spoken in the U.S. Of the over 262 million people who call the U.S. home, 47 million (or about 18 percent) reported speaking another language at home.
Spanish has always been the most widely spoken language next to English, with about 29.1 million speakers. And over the last 20 years, the number of Spanish speakers has grown by about 60%. But a lot of other languages are represented in the United States as well, including French and Haitian Creoles in the South and Chinese speakers in pockets of communities all over the country.
You’ll find the most French speakers in the northernmost parts of Maine, and in the southern parts of Louisiana. You’ll find a lot of Arabic speakers in the Metro Detroit area of Michigan, in Northern California, and parts of New York.
And Vietnamese is spoken widely in a the southeastern corner of Nevada and the northwestern part of Washington. California has the highest percentage of non-English speakers (at 39 percent), followed by New Mexico, Texas, and New York. The vast majority of people who spoke another language at home reported that they could speak English very well or quite fluently.
In the wonderful cultural melting pot that is the United States, it seems like being a polyglot is becoming more and more common.