- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2003


Nearly one in five Americans speaks a language other than English at home, the Census Bureau says, mostly speaking Spanish, followed by Chinese, with Russian rising fast.

About 47 million Americans age 5 and older used a language other than English in 2000, the bureau said. That translates into the nearly one in five, compared with roughly one in seven 10 years earlier.

There also were more people considered “linguistically isolated” because of limited English, a situation that some analysts say can prevent people from assimilating fully into American society and hinder activities like grocery shopping or communicating with police or fire officials.

The Spanish-speaking population rose by 62 percent over the period to 28.1 million; slightly more than half also reported speaking English “very well.” The numbers are a further reflection of the surge in immigration since 1990. The influx helped make Hispanics the largest minority group, surpassing blacks.

California, New Mexico and Texas had the highest percentages of residents who did not speak English at home, but the greatest increase during the decade occurred in states that experienced explosive Hispanic immigration: Nevada, Georgia and North Carolina.

For the first time, the Census Bureau printed out questionnaires in 2000 in languages other than English: Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog (the main native language of the Philippines), Vietnamese and Korean.

Chinese is the language spoken most besides Spanish, with 2 million people speaking it at home. It was followed by French (1.6 million), German (1.4 million) and Tagalog (1.2 million).

The number who spoke Russian increased the most during the 1990s, nearly tripling to 706,000. That reflected a rise in Russian immigration over the decade, the first since the fall of the Soviet Union.

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