The Decline of Yiddish, the Rise of Tagalog (Pew Research, 28 February 2014)
The United States has been a polyglot country since before it was a country. As early as 1646, no fewer than 18 languages were spoken on Manhattan Island. German was common in colonial-era Pennsylvania. New York’s Dutch community held onto their language long after the English takeover of what had been New Amsterdam. And African slaves spoke dozens of native languages and dialects. But the nation’s continuing linguistic diversity is ever evolving and it can still spark controversy, as Coca-Cola discovered with its recent Super Bowl ad.
Language charts, such as this one by the U.S. Census, reflect the nation’s changing demographics. Spanish is overwhelmingly the most common non-English language, as it has been since the Census Bureau began detailed language surveys in the 1970s. According to the 2011 American Community Survey, nearly 13% of the population (37.6 million people) spoke Spanish or a Spanish creole at home. Beyond that, though, the chart illustrates the changing composition of the U.S. population.