The largest percentage increases since 2010 among languages with more than 400,000 speakers were for Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Chinese, Persian, Haitian, and Gujarati. (Hindi and Gujarati are spoken in India; Urdu is spoken in Pakistan.)

“The English language has always been part of the glue that holds our country together,” said Steven Camarota, co-author of the report and Director of Research at the Center. “But the number of immigrants allowed into the country is now so large that it may be overwhelming the assimilation process, including learning English.”

View the entire report at

Among the findings:

  • Of those who speak a foreign language at home, 26.1 million (39.8 percent) told the Census Bureau that they speak English less than very well. This figure is based entirely on the subjective opinion of the respondents.
  • On an objective test of English literacy, prior CIS research showed that even among immigrants who have lived in the country for more than 15 years, 43 percent score at the “below basic” level, which is sometimes equated to functional illiteracy. []
  • CIS has also estimated in prior research that roughly one out of three immigrants who are naturalized citizens has below basic English literacy. []
  • The new Census Bureau data show that many Americans who speak a foreign language at home are not immigrants. In fact, half of the growth in foreign language speakers since 2010 is among those born in the United States. Overall, 44 percent (29 million) of those who speak a language other than English at home are U.S.-born.
  • Of foreign languages with more than 400,000 speakers, the largest percentage increases since 2010 were among speakers of Arabic (up 42 percent), Hindi (up 33 percent), Urdu (up 22 percent), Chinese (up 20 percent), Persian and Haitian (each up 15 percent), and Gujarati (up 14 percent). Hindi is a national language of India, Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, Persian is the national language of Iran, and Gujarati is spoken in India.
  • States with the largest share of their populations speaking a foreign language at home in 2016 were California (45 percent), Texas (36 percent), New Mexico (34 percent), New Jersey (32 percent), New York and Nevada (each 31 percent), Florida (29 percent), Arizona and Hawaii (each 27 percent).
  • States with the largest percentage increases in the number of foreign-language speakers 2010 to 2016 were: Wyoming (up 25 percent), Utah (up 20 percent), Maryland (up 19 percent), Nevada (up 18 percent), Oklahoma (up 17 percent), Nebraska and North Dakota (each up 16 percent), and Virginia, Florida, and Minnesota (each up 15 percent).
  • Taking the longer view, states with the largest percentage increases in foreign-language speakers 1980 to 2016 were: Nevada (up 1,040 percent), Georgia (up 926 percent), North Carolina (up 744 percent), Virginia (up 475 percent), Tennessee (up 425 percent), Arkansas (up 412 percent), Washington (up 395 percent), Florida (up 361 percent), South Carolina and Utah (each up 349 percent), Oregon (up 346 percent), and Maryland (up 345 percent).

Contact: Bryan Griffith
[email protected], 202-466-8185

SOURCE Center for Immigration Studies

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